Charges and Pardons


This post will deal with situations where you have been charged with a crime, or if you have been granted a pardon, and your ability to enter Canada under immigration rules.

Even if you have not been convicted of a crime, there is a possibility that you may still be inadmissible to Canada.

Canada restricts people who have committed an act outside Canada that is an offense in that place. Some examples of having committed an “act” include:

  • You are subject to a warrant where a charge will be laid against you
  • Charges are pending against you
  • Your trial is underway
  • You are fleeing prosecution in your country

As always, there must also be an equivalent offense in Canada to the act you committed abroad. If there is no equivalent offense in Canada, then you will be able to enter Canada.

It is important to note that CIC will only apply the “committed an act” provisions to acts (or offenses) that are considered to be indictable offenses in Canada punishable by a maximum term or imprisonment of at least 10 years in Canada.

So if you committed an act in a foreign country that would be considered a summary offense in Canada, you may still be able to enter Canada.

If you committed an act in a foreign country that would be considered an indictable offense in Canada punishable by a maximum prison term of at least 10 years, you will likely not be able to enter Canada.

Pardons and acquittals

If you have been granted a pardon in a foreign jurisdiction and that pardon is equivalent to a Canadian pardon, then you are admissible and can enter Canada.

If you have been acquitted of an offense at trial or at an appeal court, you are admissible and can enter Canada.

Different countries have different ways of disposing with a criminal matter that may look like a pardon or acquittal. Here is how CIC deals with these more unusual matters:

Criminal processes that are not typically considered to be convictions by CIC:

  • Acquittal contemplating dismissal
  • Deferral of prosecution
  • Deferral of judgment
  • Deferral of conviction
  • Nolle prosequi
  • Expunged

Criminal processes that are typically considered to be convictions by CIC:

  • Deferral of sentence
  • Suspended sentence
  • Nolo contendre
  • Convicted

There are other ways that foreign courts can deal with criminal matters. In each case, the key is to determine how it would be considered equivalent in Canada.

About the author

Gianpaolo Panusa Gianpaolo Panusa is a Canadian immigration lawyer, writer, and founder of the PanCanadian Immigration Law Group based in Vancouver, Canada. Google+ Profile

  1. August 27, 2011

    Do I understand from this post (with the caveat, of course, that any border official is an independent operator) that an official expungement of a DUI misdemeanor in California would equate to a Canadian “pardon” or “aquittal?” A (very young) Canadian consular official in Seattle told us that the expungement needed to read EXACTLY as the relevant pardon would in Canada- and we’re not sure what that equivalency might be.

    • August 31, 2011

      No it need “read” exactly like a pardon would in Canada. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find legisation of any country worded exactly alike.

      The test is that the effect of the expungement must be the same as a pardon in Canada. I believe it is but I haven’t looked at one recently – you would have to confirm.

  2. January 9, 2012

    So if you have deferred adjudication in Texas and complete it and the judge dismisses the charges that would be considered a conviction? Also is an order of nondisclosure similar to a expungement?

  3. March 28, 2012

    I have a misdemeanor 10 years ago never been in jail just 16 hours community service, I have a certificate of relief after the crime since that I have a Bachelor in a good Job, can this stop me from a permanent residence in Canada? Do I have to yes I was detained or in Jail since this is the only question I have issue in the application for Canada. I have a certificate from Quecbec to enter in Canada as a Skill Worker. But before I have to apply the The canada Permanent residence?

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