Can I Get Canadian Citizenship if I Have a Criminal Record in Another Country?

Can I Get Canadian Citizenship if I Have a Criminal Record in Another Country?

1. Importance of a Clean Criminal Record

Having a clean criminal record is essential when applying for Canadian citizenship. A criminal record in another country can significantly impact the citizenship application process, potentially leading to delays, refusals, or even deportation. In this article, we will explore the eligibility criteria for Canadian citizenship and the effects of having a criminal record on this process.

2. Eligibility Criteria for Canadian Citizenship

Residency Requirements

To become a Canadian citizen, applicants must meet specific residency requirements. According to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), applicants must have lived in Canada as a permanent resident for at least 1,095 days within the five years preceding the application date. This equates to roughly three years of physical presence in Canada.

Language Proficiency

Applicants must also demonstrate language proficiency in either English or French, Canada’s two official languages. Proficiency is measured using the Canadian Language Benchmarks (CLB) or the Niveaux de compétence linguistique canadiens (NCLC). Adult applicants (between the ages of 18 and 54) must achieve a minimum of CLB/NCLC 4 in speaking and listening skills.

Knowledge of Canada

To become a Canadian citizen, applicants must possess a basic knowledge of Canada, including its history, geography, government, and rights and responsibilities of citizens. This knowledge is tested through a multiple-choice citizenship test, which covers information found in the official study guide, “Discover Canada: The Rights and Responsibilities of Citizenship”.

Citizenship Test and Interview

All applicants between the ages of 18 and 54 must pass the citizenship test, which consists of 20 multiple-choice questions. A passing score is 15 correct answers or more. The test may be followed by an interview with a citizenship officer, during which the officer assesses the applicant’s language skills and verifies the submitted documents.


  1. IRCC - Citizenship: Who Can Apply
  2. IRCC - Language Testing in Canadian Citizenship Applications
  3. IRCC - Discover Canada
  4. IRCC - Prepare for the Citizenship Test

3. Impact of Criminal Records on Citizenship Application

Types of Criminal Records

Criminal records can include various offenses, ranging from minor to severe. These may involve driving under the influence (DUI), theft, assault, drug offenses, or more serious crimes like homicide. Depending on the nature and severity of the crime, a criminal record can have different implications for a Canadian citizenship application.

How Criminal Records Affect Eligibility

A criminal record can negatively impact an applicant’s eligibility for Canadian citizenship. In general, applicants must demonstrate that they have not been convicted of a crime under the Citizenship Act within three years before submitting their application. More severe crimes, especially those considered indictable offenses in Canada, can lead to permanent inadmissibility and disqualification from obtaining citizenship.

Admissibility to Canada

When assessing an applicant’s admissibility, Canadian immigration authorities consider factors such as the nature of the offense, the time elapsed since the conviction, and the applicant’s behavior since the incident. A person may be deemed inadmissible to Canada if they have been convicted of a crime that would be punishable under Canadian law. In some cases, inadmissibility can be overcome through rehabilitation, obtaining a temporary resident permit, or a criminal record suspension.

4. Overcoming Criminal Inadmissibility

Applying for Rehabilitation

  • Criteria for Rehabilitation

Rehabilitation is a process that allows individuals with a criminal record to demonstrate that they have been rehabilitated and no longer pose a risk to Canadian society. To be eligible for rehabilitation, at least five years must have passed since the completion of the sentence, including probation, fines, and restitution.

  • Application Process and Timeline

Applying for rehabilitation involves submitting an application form, providing documentation about the criminal offense, and paying a processing fee. The application is then reviewed by immigration officers, who consider factors such as the applicant’s behavior since the conviction and the seriousness of the offense. The processing time for rehabilitation applications can take up to 12 months or longer, depending on the complexity of the case.

Temporary Resident Permit (TRP)

  • Eligibility for TRP

A Temporary Resident Permit (TRP) allows individuals who are inadmissible to enter Canada for a specific purpose and a limited time. To be eligible for a TRP, the applicant must demonstrate that their need to enter Canada outweighs the risk they pose to Canadian society.

  • Application Process and Limitations

To apply for a TRP, applicants must submit an application form, provide supporting documents, and pay a processing fee. TRPs are issued at the discretion of immigration officers and can be granted for a single entry or multiple entries. It is important to note that a TRP does not guarantee admissibility for future visits to Canada and does not lead to permanent resident status or citizenship.

Criminal Record Suspension (Pardon)

  • Eligibility for a Record Suspension

A criminal record suspension, also known as a pardon, is a process that sets aside a person’s criminal record, allowing them to reintegrate into society. To be eligible for a record suspension, individuals must have completed their sentence, demonstrated good conduct, and met the required waiting period, which varies depending on the severity of the offense.

  • Application Process and Impact on Citizenship

Applying for a record suspension involves submitting an application to the Parole Board of Canada, along with supporting documents and a processing fee. The Parole Board will assess the application, considering factors such as the applicant’s conduct since the conviction and the nature of the offense. Obtaining a record suspension can improve an individual’s chances of being deemed admissible to Canada, and thus, positively impact their citizenship application. However, it is essential to note that a record suspension does not erase the criminal record, and the suspended record may still be considered during the citizenship application process.


  1. IRCC - Overcoming Criminal Inadmissibility
  2. IRCC - Processing Times for Criminal Rehabilitation Applications
  3. IRCC - Applying for a Temporary Resident Permit
  4. IRCC - Temporary Resident Permit: About the Process

5. Disclosing Criminal Records during Citizenship Application

Importance of Disclosure

Honesty and transparency are crucial when applying for Canadian citizenship. Applicants must disclose their criminal records, even if they have been pardoned or the record has been suspended. Failing to disclose a criminal record may lead to severe consequences, including the refusal of the application or the revocation of citizenship if it has already been granted.

Potential Consequences of Non-Disclosure

If an applicant fails to disclose their criminal record during the citizenship application process, they may face several consequences. These can include application refusal, denial of entry to Canada, or, in more severe cases, deportation. Additionally, if an individual has already been granted citizenship and it is later discovered that they did not disclose their criminal record, their citizenship can be revoked, and they may be subject to removal from Canada.

6. Successful Citizenship Applications with a Criminal Record

Case Studies and Examples

There have been cases where individuals with a criminal record have successfully obtained Canadian citizenship. These cases often involve applicants who have demonstrated rehabilitation, good conduct since their conviction, and a strong commitment to Canadian values. Each case is unique, and the outcome depends on factors such as the nature of the crime, the time elapsed since the conviction, and the applicant’s overall eligibility for citizenship.

Key Factors for Success

Successful citizenship applications with a criminal record often share several common factors. These can include:

  1. Demonstrating rehabilitation and remorse for past offenses.
  2. Meeting all other eligibility requirements for Canadian citizenship, such as residency, language proficiency, and knowledge of Canada.
  3. Providing strong evidence of good character and a commitment to Canadian values.
  4. Seeking professional assistance from immigration lawyers or consultants to help navigate the complex application process.

By addressing these factors and ensuring full disclosure of their criminal record, applicants with a criminal history can increase their chances of obtaining Canadian citizenship.

Immigration Lawyers and Consultants

Navigating the citizenship application process can be challenging, especially for individuals with a criminal record. Immigration lawyers and consultants can provide valuable assistance in understanding the requirements, overcoming inadmissibility, and preparing a strong application. These professionals have extensive knowledge of Canadian immigration law and can help applicants make informed decisions about their case.

It is essential to choose a reputable and experienced lawyer or consultant. The Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council (ICCRC) and the Canadian Bar Association (CBA) offer directories to help applicants find registered and licensed professionals.

Government Resources and Websites

The Government of Canada provides numerous resources and tools to help individuals navigate the citizenship application process. Key resources include:

  1. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC): The IRCC website offers comprehensive information on citizenship requirements, application procedures, and overcoming criminal inadmissibility.

  2. Parole Board of Canada: The Parole Board of Canada website provides information on criminal record suspensions (pardons) and the application process.

  3. The Canadian government’s official website provides resources on various immigration topics, including temporary resident permits, rehabilitation, and the consequences of non-disclosure.

By leveraging the expertise of immigration professionals and utilizing available resources, individuals with a criminal record can navigate the citizenship application process more effectively and increase their chances of success.


  1. ICCRC - Find an Immigration Professional
  2. Canadian Bar Association - Find a Lawyer
  3. IRCC - Citizenship
  4. Parole Board of Canada - Record Suspension
  5. - Immigration and Citizenship

8. Summary of Key Points

In this article, we covered the following topics related to obtaining Canadian citizenship with a criminal record:

  1. Overview of Canadian citizenship and the importance of a clean criminal record.
  2. Eligibility criteria for Canadian citizenship, including residency, language proficiency, and knowledge of Canada.
  3. The impact of criminal records on citizenship applications, including types of criminal records and admissibility to Canada.
  4. Overcoming criminal inadmissibility through rehabilitation, temporary resident permits, and criminal record suspensions (pardons).
  5. The importance of disclosing criminal records during the citizenship application process and the potential consequences of non-disclosure.
  6. Successful citizenship applications with a criminal record, including case studies, examples, and key factors for success.
  7. Legal assistance and resources, such as immigration lawyers, consultants, and government websites.

Final Thoughts on Obtaining Canadian Citizenship with a Criminal Record

While having a criminal record can complicate the process of obtaining Canadian citizenship, it does not make it impossible. By demonstrating rehabilitation, meeting all other eligibility requirements, and seeking professional assistance, applicants with a criminal record can increase their chances of success. It is essential to be honest and transparent throughout the application process and to utilize the available resources to navigate the complex world of Canadian immigration law.