Is a cannabis conviction stopping you from coming to Canada?

Published Feb 1, 2023 02:00 p.m. ET
Unsplash / Hermes Rivera

A foreign criminal conviction or charge related to cannabis can make it difficult to enter Canada, even though it’s legal here. To figure out whether or not yours might be a barrier you’ll need to look at Canadian cannabis laws and see if there are equivalent rules that may be acceptable.

For instance, if your conviction is due to possession of fewer than 30 grams of cannabis, then you might not run into any problems gaining admission to the country. While those with the following charges or convictions may be rendered inadmissible:

  • Possession of more than 30 grams

  • Driving under the influence of cannabis (DUI)

  • Illegal distribution or sale of cannabis

How to overcome this barrier

There are currently three primary ways around criminal inadmissibility if you are hoping to visit or move to Canada including:

  • Temporary Resident Permit Application

  • Criminal Rehabilitation Letter

  • Legal Opinion Letter

Obtaining a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP)

A Temporary Resident Permit (TRP) is one way for those who are considered to be criminally inadmissible to gain temporary entry to Canada. This application however should only be utilized by travelers with legitimate reasons for coming to the country, such as for a family emergency or business purposes. As long as the benefit of your entry outweighs the perceived risk to Canadians, this could be a valid solution that may extend for as long as three years, depending on the reason for visiting.


TRP applications may be granted for anywhere from one month to three years, and the convicted individual doesn’t have to be finished their sentence to qualify. These permits may be approved for a single visit, or multiple reentries depending on your reason for visiting, and after arrival individuals with Temporary Resident Permits may apply to extend its duration.

Criminal Rehabilitation Application (CRA)

The Government of Canada offers affected individuals the chance to use a Criminal Rehabilitation Application to erase past cannabis-related criminal activity permanently specifically for those who would like to come to Canada. This application is a one-time life-long lasting option that doesn’t require renewal, unlike TRP. Those who are granted approval for criminal rehabilitation do not require a TRP to enter the country, as they are no longer viewed as inadmissible.

To be eligible for criminal rehabilitation, applicants must meet all of the following criteria:

  • The applicant must have committed a criminal act that would be considered an offence according to the Canadian Criminal Code.

  • The applicant must have either admitted to committing the act or been convicted and five years must have passed since the end date of the criminal sentence.

  • The applicant must have paid all fines and completed any community service or probation related to the charge.

Legal Opinion Letter

This is a legal document prepared by a Canadian immigration lawyer, and it contains intimate details surrounding an individual's cannabis conviction or charge paired with the lawyer's opinion on your current situation. In most cases, it should clearly bring attention to Canadian laws, and  make suggestions in terms of alternative infractions that may no longer render an individual inadmissible to the country.

No matter how dire the situation may be, there is almost always a way to legally access the beautiful country of Canada.

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