Clearit.ca's Blog on Customs Brokerage and News Updates
For most U.S. citizens and permanent residents, Canada is the easiest foreign country to travel to. But that changes drastically for people who meet one of Canada’s criteria for inadmissibility. Those include involvement in espionage, terrorism or human rights violations, as well as having a medical condition likely to endanger public health. Although that last category may become more important if the current Ebola crisis continues to worsen, it’s criminal inadmissibility that trips up by far the most would-be travelers.
Many people assume that only a conviction for a serious felony would render them unable to cross the border. In fact, even a relatively minor crime can bar an individual from entering Canada, including theft, assault, drug possession, driving under the influence, and even reckless driving. It doesn’t always happen, but if a Border Services Officer (BSO) decides to run a criminal record check, such a traveler is automatically denied entry, without exception. George Bush the Younger, for example, had a 1976 DUI conviction and was therefore ineligible for admission without special permission.
He got it, of course, and for the past couple of years a Canadian program known as the Tourism Facilitation Action Plan has allowed ordinary people in a similar situation to sidestep their criminal inadmissibility by applying for a Temporary Resident Permit. It’s nowhere near as easy – or cheap – as showing an ID at the border, but for Americans with a shady past and a pressing reason to be in Canada, it’s the best option available.
An applicant for the permit must demonstrate that he has a “reason to travel to Canada that is justified in the circumstances” and show that his need to enter the country outweighs the “safety risks to Canadian society”. He must also pay a nonrefundable application fee of 200 Canadian dollars, submit a slew of documentation, and be prepared to attend an in-person interview if requested. Processing time is upwards of three months, so advance planning is a definite necessity.