Travel is a great way to explore new places, meet new people, and gain new experiences. It can be very refreshing for someone who has spent a long time in prison.
Felons are offenders whose crimes attract a sentence greater than one year. For many, traveling across the border is a good way to spread their wings and shake off the past. Besides leisure, one can also travel for business or education.
A trip north to Canada is a great option. The lively cities, bountiful wilderness, and friendly people are a great lure. But can a felon go to Canada?
This query is notable because this country is known for being quite strait-laced. They adhere to strict guidelines and are highly protective of their society.
As much as the US passport is considered quite powerful, there are still procedures to be followed. Some documents need to be presented to cross the border. And even then, there is no assurance consent will be granted.
To avoid the shame of being turned away at the border, it is best to plan ahead. Especially if you are a felon. Having a felony record may make you criminally inadmissible.
However, before we delve into how to felonies can affect travel, let’s look at the basics.
Requirements for Crossing the Canadian Border
A couple of decades ago it was quite easy to cross the US-Canada border. People just needed a valid driving license. Things have however changed since.
While the rules are not as strict as with other international visitors, US citizens still have standards to meet. They must provide proof of identity and citizenship.
This is easiest to accomplish with a valid passport. A NEXUS card can also be used by those that reside in states that neighbor the border.
If traveling as a tourist for less than 180 days, a US citizen is not required to obtain a visa.
When crossing the border, you will be evaluated by a border services officer. The officer will want to ensure that you are healthy and intend to return to the US. They will also want to ensure you have enough money to fund your stay.
Any criminal past will also be considered. Border services have full access to all US criminal databases and DMV records. They do check and discover any criminal records.
While felonies are of concern, some misdemeanors and traffic offenses may also be a problem. This is because they conduct an equivalency analysis.
They check how the offense you committed in the US would have been treated in Canada. Some crimes, like DUIs, are taken more seriously in Canada. Any offense that would attract a sentence of over 10 years is considered serious.
Many felons have been turned back at the border because they were unprepared. While you can be assessed for entry at the border at the time you are traveling, it is risky. It is advisable to get in touch with the Canadian Consulate to secure permission prior.
This can be done by applying for either a Temporary Resident Permit or Rehabilitation.
Temporary Resident Permit (TRP)
This permit can be applied for at the border or the Canadian Consulate. This document allows visitors with criminal records consent to cross the border for a limited time.
They can be valid for a few months or as much as 3 years. The period is often dependent on the purpose of the visit. They can also be issued for single or multiple entries.
A TRP can be tough to obtain. It requires a felon to prove that they have a valid reason for travel and that they are not a risk.
If secured, they are a reliable way of getting across the border without much fuss. But if you want a more permanent solution then consider this next option.
This request gives a chance to explain the crime, the sentence, and how the felon has been rehabilitated. It is submitted to the Canadian Consulate for consideration. If accepted, it restores your status to travel across the border as with any other non-offender.
The processing of this request can however take a long time. Sometimes, as much as a year. This means that if you intend to use this to cross, you need to apply very early.
A minimum of 5 years should have elapsed since you completed your entire sentence. For more serious offenses, the waiting period may be extended to 10 years. Note that some felonies may be severe enough that no passage of time can make the offender be deemed rehabilitated.
Again, remember that there are no guarantees. Your chances do however improve the longer it has been since completion of your sentence. Without any re-offending.
It also helps if the offense was not serious. If you have a history of re-offending, your chances of rehabilitation are considered lower.
Many countries have restrictions against US felons. So before you spend money booking tickets and accommodation, you should verify that you will be permitted entry.
Canada is a great place to visit, but one that is serious about keeping out bad characters. They have access to criminal databases and use them to check on visitors.
To avoid being turned back, the best approach would be to secure permission early on. Options like rehabilitation are good as they nullify your inadmissibility permanently. TRP can be a good temporary solution for when there is a need.
However, even if you are turned away, it does not mean you may never visit. To make your case for rehabilitation, do keep out of any legal trouble. Even just an arrest can pop up on the database and be a problem.
The longer a history you have of being law-abiding, the better your chances are of rehabilitation.
Make an effort to consult the Canadian Consulate. They can help assess your case. You can also seek help from an immigration lawyer to help prepare your documentation.