Can I become a Canadian citizen if I have criminal charges or get a criminal record?

By Last Updated: July 22, 2022

Can I become a Canadian citizen if i have criminal charges or get a criminal recordHaving a criminal record can negatively affect your chances of obtaining Canadian citizenship. However, criminal charges and criminal records may not necessarily impede your ability to obtain citizenship.

For convictions and offences outside of Canada, you may be able to overcome criminal inadmissibility by either applying for rehabilitation or by being deemed rehabilitated if a minimum of 10 years have passed since you completed the sentence or committed a crime that would be considered an indictable offence punishable by a term of 10 years or less.  For offences that, in Canada, would be considered summary offences and if you have been convicted of two or more of these offences then the rehabilitation period is at least 5 years after the sentence was served.

For convictions and offences that were convicted inside of Canada, you will need to apply for a record suspension. It is important to note that you must have been granted your record suspension before you can obtain your Canadian Citizenship.

If you fall into a situation where you have both convictions and offences outside of Canada, then you will need an approval of rehabilitation and a record suspension to overcome any issues of criminal inadmissibility.

Additionally, you may apply for a temporary resident permit. A temporary resident permit allows you to stay in Canada if it has been less than five years since your sentence ended or if there is a valid reason for you to be in Canada.

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What situations can prevent you from becoming a Canadian Citizen?

Criminal charges, or a criminal record, may impact your ability to become a Canadian citizen. Specifically, you may not be eligible for Canadian citizenship if you have been convicted of a “serious crime.”

Under s.36(1) of the IRPA, a permanent resident or a foreign national is inadmissible for a “serious crime” which is a crime that:

a) carries a maximum punishment of 10 years imprisonment, or if the actual sentence is greater than six months in prison;
b) carries a maximum punishment of 10 years imprisonment for an offence that was convicted outside of Canada; or
c) carries a maximum punishment of 10 years imprisonment for an offence that was committed outside of Canada.

There are specific immigration consequences that a criminal conviction can have on an individual depending on whether your immigration status is that of a foreign national or a permanent resident.

Those individuals who are foreign nationals are also inadmissible on the following grounds of criminality:

  • Having been convicted of an indictable offence in Canada or of two offences not arising out of a single occurrence;
  • Having been convicted of an offence outside of Canada that, if committed in Canada, would be an indictable offence or two offences not arising out of a single occurrence.
  • Committing an act outside of Canada that would constitute an indictable offence if committed in Canada; or
  • Committing, on entering Canada, an offence.

For more information regarding situations that may prevent you from becoming a Canadian Citizen please visit:

Who is a Foreign National?

The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) defines a foreign national as a “person who is not a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident and includes a stateless person.”

Who is a Permanent Resident?

The IRPA defines a permanent resident as a “person who has acquired permanent resident status and has not subsequently lost that status under s.46 of the IRPA.”

What is Criminal Rehabilitation?

Criminal rehabilitation means that you are not likely to become involved in any new criminal activity.

The minister, or their delegate, has the discretion to grant you criminal rehabilitation.

You must show that five years have passed since first committed the crime and since the end of your criminal sentence, you are rehabilitated, and it is highly likely you will not be involved in any new criminal activity.

For more information on the eligibility criteria and calculating the five-year period visit:

What is deemed rehabilitation?

Deemed rehabilitation will be granted when you are able to show that enough time has passed since you were last convicted of your offence and that the crime you have committed no longer deems you inadmissible to Canada.

You are only deemed rehabilitated if the crime committed outside of Canada has a maximum imprisonment term of fewer than 10 years if that crime was to be committed in Canada.

What if five years have not passed since the end of your sentence or you are ineligible for a record suspension?

If five years have not passed since the end of the sentence or you are ineligible for a record suspension, you may complete the Application for Criminal Rehabilitation form to request special permission to enter or remain in Canada.

For more information on how to apply visit:

About The Author

Michael Oykhman

Managing Partner

Michael Oykhman is a senior lawyer and founder of Strategic Criminal Defence, a full-service criminal law firm with central law offices across Western Canada and Ontario.

My professional experience consists of countless court appearances and thousands of successful defences and satisfied clients. Over the last 10 years, I have worked to build a law office where all the lawyers share our collective experience, resources, and passion to help people. Our team approach to legal representation is client–rather than only law–centred. We look for opportunities to add value to our clients through strategic thinking and creative solutions.

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