Criminal & Medical Inadmissibility Rules

Canadian Inadmissibility Rules

If you hope to emigrate to Canada, a criminal record or serious medical issue could stop you dead in your tracks.

However, not all criminal records result in refusal, and many serious medical issues do not warrant any concern for visa purposes.

Here we summarise the rules regarding criminal and medical inadmissibility.

If you have concerns, seek professional assistance before filing any application. Use our free assessment form below to get direct feedback from one of our UK-based Canadian immigration experts.


Criminal Inadmissibility to Canada

If you have a criminal record, it could prohibit you from obtaining a Canadian visa. This is called criminal inadmissibility.

Whether you are criminally inadmissible depends on several factors:

  • What crime you committed,
  • When you were convicted,
  • How you have behaved in the time since.

If you have a conviction on your record, determining whether you might be criminally inadmissible should be your first priority.

Rehabilitation as Canadian Policy

Canada has long maintained a criminal code that provides offenders with opportunities for rehabilitation, and supports their efforts to re-enter society. A similar approach is applied to foreign nationals seeking Canadian visas, whether their offences were perpetrated in Canada or abroad.

This does not mean Canada ignores foreign convictions – far from it -- but it does mean that immigration officers apply a set of rules to help them distinguish those who have made mistakes, from those who might constitute a potential or ongoing danger to Canada’s citizens.

Youthful indiscretion

So, for example, Canada allows a margin for youthful indiscretion. A conviction for common assault for, say, brawling outside the local pub, which dates from before your 18th birthday, is unlikely to cause a problem. You will need to make a full account of the circumstances, but by itself it would be unlikely put a visa application in jeopardy.

Serious crime

By contrast, if the pub brawl resulted in a conviction for Grievous Bodily Harm (GBH), the serious nature of the crime is far more likely to result in the applicant being criminally inadmissible.

As a rule of thumb, serious crimes are any which, if perpetrated in Canada, would carry a potential sentence of 10 years or more. Even if an applicant’s sentence for the crime was less than 10 years, the potential sentence is about the gravity of the crime, not any particular sentence.

For example, GBH can result in a sentence of more than 10 years, whereas even with aggravating factors the maximum tariff for assault with bodily harm (in the UK, Actual Bodily Harm or ABH) is no more than 10 years. As a result, a GBH conviction with a minimum sentence could result in a ban, whereas ABH with the maximum 10 year sentence might not. Bear in mind, this merely illustrates how the rule could work: clients with these issues must be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

Absolute bans

Some crimes result in absolute, no-questions bans from entering Canada:

  • War crimes and human or international rights violations,
  • Ties to organised crime,
  • Crimes that demonstrate you are a security risk.

From our experience, we add drug trafficking and crimes involving children to that list.

If there is a risk that any of these categories would be mis-applied to your case, you are likely to require professional assistance to argue how these categories do not apply to your application. 

Criminal Inadmissibility Immigration Procedure

If you have a criminal record of any sort, you will need to be forthright about your history, and make a full declaration regarding the facts.

If you are invited to apply for admission to Canada, you will need to provide police records for every country you have been resident for six months or more, so there is no sense trying to evade this requirement.

Immigration officers have wide discretion in handling applications in general, and in how they deal with criminal inadmissibility in particular.

For many applicants, avoiding criminal inadmissibility will be down to the effectiveness of the argument that you meet the legal terms to be deemed rehabilitated.

For other applicants, whether due to the serious nature of the crime or other factors, rehabilitation will only be offered on the basis of a specific application.

Application for Rehabilitation

Even if you have a serious criminal conviction, it is possible to claim rehabilitation, which removes the grounds of criminal inadmissibility for visa purposes. Rehabilitation means that you have satisfied the legal criteria to show you lead a stable lifestyle and are unlikely to be involved in any further criminal activity.

10 years or less: For crimes where the maximum sentence is 10 years or less, you are automatically deemed rehabilitated if it has been at least 10 years since the completion of the sentence imposed (including any probationary period). However, you are eligible to apply for rehabilitation just 5 years after completion of your sentence, whether that is the end of your imprisonment, or the end of your probation.

10 years or more: By contrast, for crimes where the maximum sentence is 10 years or more, there is no automatic rehabilitation after 10 years. However, you are still eligible to apply for rehabilitation after 5 years have elapsed from either the completion of your sentence, or the commission of the offence.

Importantly, rehabilitation is only available on the basis there have not been any more recent convictions. Put another way, your 5 or 10 year wait to be eligible for rehabilitation starts with your most recent conviction. Also bear in mind that all convictions will be taken into account: it should go without saying that career criminals are rather severely frowned upon.

If you have questions about your record, and whether you would be considered criminally inadmissible, sorting this out should be your top priority.

Submit our free assessement form above to have our emigration experts review your case today.

Medical Inadmissibility to Canada

Applicants for admission to Canada may be denied on medical grounds if:

  • The health or safety of the Canadian population at large might be endangered; or
  • The applicant might create excessive demand on government social or health services.

For family sponsorship visas, the "excessive demand" component is waived for the sponsor's spouse or partner and their dependent children.

UPDATE - January 2018

For years, the medical inadmissibility issue has been viewed by many as a black mark on Canada's otherwise sterling reputation. That's because the screenings are not just for highly transmissible diseases and public health threats like tuberculosis.

The Trudeau government (reelected to govern as of October 2019) has indicated its concern that the frankly antiquated medical screening system may no longer be compatible with modern conventions on human rights, Canada's domestic laws that have striven for inclusivity and equal rights for all, and which have stood despite the protests of Canada's domestic disabled community. 

A key part of the legal criteria applied to the screenings is that the applicant not suffer from any condition that could place a disproportionate burden on the public purse. That's a very broad test indeed, and what counts as a disproportionate burden is just one aspect of this political football. 

The screenings have been used, and as of this writing continue to be used, to reject applicants who may suffer from a range of disabilities, which in other legal contexts would be recognised as a vulnerability that warrants increased legal protection. A particularly cruel example are the many families whose emigration applications have been rejected because they have a child with Autism. 

There are also plenty of examples where the economic calculus is not being applied in a legally defensible way. One recent example brought to the attention of a government subcommittee was of a company executive whose value to local industry would have been very high, but who was rejected because he was HIV+. This was irrespective of the fact that, like so many others now, his symptoms are well controlled by medication he was able to fund privately. 

The Trudeau government to date has not entirely rolled-back these requirements, but they have made modifications to enforcement and the rules' parameters that have arguably mitigated the most egregious misuse of the law. And the cost thresholds on the "excessive demand" criteria have been raised so that the number of applicants these rules apply to has been reduced substantially.

So watch this space: further change may be on its way in this area. 

Mandatory screenings

Barring a change in the law, medical screenings continue to be a mandatory element of the application process, and all applicants must submit screening results produced by a Canadian government approved medical examiner. Screenings are generally limited to standard physical exams, chest x-rays, and blood & urine tests, but prior medical records and the applicant's mental health are also reviewed.

When determining whether an applicant is medically inadmissible, the medical examiner must bear in mind the nature, severity, and likely duration of whatever condition the person is suffering, in addition to:

  1. Danger of contagion;
  2. Symptomatic behaviour that may endanger public safety; and
  3. Whether Canadian nationals might be deprived of social or health services as a result of foreseeably increased demands caused by admission of such applicants.

Note that the valid reasons for denial of a visa are broad and elastic, and are not limited to a set list of particular ailments or conditions. Medical screenings are considered on a case-by-case basis. This means that anecdotal evidence about other applicants with similar conditions is unlikely to be helpful in determining the likely outcome of your own circumstances.

Nonetheless, our expert emigration advisors may be able to provide some guidance if you believe these issues are germane to your case. The quickest way to get answers is to submit our short form for a free consultation.

Concerned about a medical issue?

Complete our free online assessment above you'll receive immediate feedback, and a case review by one of our expert Canadian emigration advisors.
Canada's stringent criminal & medical inadmissibility rules
Canadian inadmissibility rules

Name: Criminal & Medical Inadmissibility Rules

Description: Canadians are among the harshest critics of the medical inadmissibility rules, saying Canada should treat newcomers on the same terms as citizens. The Trudeau gov't has taken note, and some reforms have already taken effect. By contrast, rules barring migrants with criminal records are considered firm but fair, as Canadians have long supported rehabilitation as a goal, and this is reflected in the immigration rules.

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