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Can You Become a Canadian Citizen with a Criminal Record?

By: Alberta Legal Team

Yes, it is possible to obtain Canadian citizenship even if you have a criminal record. And now, our criminal lawyer Calgary will go into detail about what that means. The Canadian government will observe criminal convictions from anywhere in the world. They first look at any convictions within your home country. Then they look at any criminal convictions outside your country. If you were convicted of what Canada concludes is an indictable offence either from your home country or elsewhere within the four years of your application, you will not be granted citizenship. You will be determined to be inadmissible to Canada. It is important also to understand that if you have had a permanent resident status that any conviction obtained during that status may be considered when deciding whether to grant you citizenship. It is common for applicants to apply for citizenship and to be charged with a criminal offence. This means that if you have a current matter before the court system, your citizenship application will be paused until the court matter has been concluded.

Can You Immigrate to Canada with a Criminal Record?

Yes, but the journey is not easy. You will need to apply for criminal rehabilitation, and this will need to be granted so that you can overcome an inadmissibility finding. What is criminal rehabilitation? This is a determination made by the Canadian government that you are not likely to become involved in any new or further criminal activity. The government, through the minister or their delegate, has the discretion to grant you criminal rehabilitation status. In order to be successful, you should show that five years have passed since the first committed crime and the end of your sentence and that you are rehabilitated. You must also demonstrate, through your application, that you will not be involved in any new criminal activity.

Will a Criminal Record Affect my Visa Application?

Yes. The Canadian government may determine that you are “inadmissible” based on a criminal conviction. The seriousness of the crime ranges from theft to murder. If you have been accused of a crime while you are in Canada on any immigration status, you must discuss this with your criminal defence lawyer and possibly an immigration lawyer. If you are in the process of applying for a visa or extending your status in any way, you must discuss these details with your lawyer.

What if My Criminal Defence Lawyer Got my Charges Dropped? Then What Happens to my Immigration Status?

You will have a “non-conviction” record. A “non-conviction” record is a record of any charges that were withdrawn, dismissed or discharged. A non-conviction record can still impact your immigration application and status. It is important to discuss these details with your immigration lawyer or representative.

What Does a Canadian Background Check Reveal?

There are different types of background checks. These include criminal record checks, vulnerable sector checks and police information checks. Criminal record checks will reveal any criminal convictions. Vulnerable sector checks are more comprehensive and include pending criminal charges and police information checks. Police information checks will reveal any criminal convictions but will also show any pending charges as well as any charges (or criminal allegations) that were withdrawn, dismissed or discharged.

What Should I do if I Have a Criminal Record But I Want to Become a Canadian Citizen?

You should apply for a Record Suspension (also referred to as a Pardon) if your criminal conviction were in Canada. By having your record suspended, you will increase your chances of obtaining citizenship, and you will remove additional and unwanted barriers to better employment and volunteer opportunities. If your criminal conviction was outside of Canada, there is an application you can pursue criminal rehabilitation. If this is granted, it will allow you to overcome an “inadmissibility” label and open your journey to becoming a citizen. If it has been 10 years or more since you completed your sentence for a conviction outside of Canada, the government may determine you have already been rehabilitated. This is called Deemed Rehabilitation. Therefore, it is important to discuss every detail of your criminal case with your immigration lawyer or representative.