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Canada’s Express Entry system and criminal inadmissibility: What you need to know

A police record can stop your Canadian dream in its tracks, but criminal rehabilitation may be an option



Express Entry is the system that manages applications for Canada’s three main economic immigration classes – the Federal Skilled Worker Class, the Federal Skilled Trades Class and the Canadian Experience Class.


Candidates are ranked on the basis of points awarded for their so-called human capital and other factors and only individuals who score above a certain points threshold are invited to apply for Canadian permanent residence in draws held roughly every two weeks.


If you are young, well-educated, proficient in English or French, and have skilled work experience, you may stand an excellent chance of being invited through Express Entry.


That said, even the most qualified Express Entry candidates can have their dreams of Canadian permanent residence dashed if they are determined to be criminally inadmissible to Canada.


Criminal inadmissibility does not take into account academic accolades or professional achievement or your potential economic benefit to Canada. If you have something on your record that renders you inadmissible you will need to take the appropriate steps to remedy the situation.


How to resolve inadmissibility


Criminal inadmissibility often only rears its head once an individual submits an application for permanent residence, which requires police certificates for any country in which they and, if applicable, their family members (spouse or common-law partner, dependent children, and their dependent children) lived for six consecutive months within the last 10 years since the age of 18.


A police certificate is an official copy of your criminal record or an official declaration that you do not have a criminal record.


If one has a record, the appropriate steps in this scenario are those required for criminal rehabilitation, the process for resolving inadmissibility permanently.


In order to be eligible for rehabilitation, at least five years must have elapsed from the date on which the sentence for an offence was completed, whether the sentence was incarceration, probation, fines, or any combination of these and other possible sentencing measures.


When to apply for criminal rehabilitation


An application for criminal rehabilitation must be submitted either before, or at the same time as the application for permanent residence. It is not necessary that the criminal rehabilitation be approved prior to the submission of your permanent residence application – it only needs to be submitted and in processing. In this way, both the application for permanent residence and the criminal rehabilitation application will be processed simultaneously and in consideration of one another.


The application for permanent residence will only be approved if the application for criminal rehabilitation is successful, so it is absolutely essential that the latter be compelling.


The rehabilitation application, however, does not need to be approved prior to submission, as the processing time for criminal rehabilitation is about six months to one year. Considering that it takes five years to be eligible for rehabilitation, and age is an important factor in the Express Entry program, in certain cases avoiding a potential extra year before applying can be the difference-maker in terms of acquiring Canadian PR.


What if your spouse/common law partner is inadmissible?


When applying for Canadian permanent residence through Express Entry, only one application is submitted whether the primary applicant is single or married / in a common law relationship. In this way the fates of the couple are intertwined –  if one of them acquires permanent residence, then both of them will acquire it. The advantage is you can choose to go with the partner who scores the most points under Express Entry’s Comprehensive Ranking System in order to better your chances of getting permanent residence.


Likewise, a couple’s fate is also intertwined when it comes to criminal admissibility. If one partner is determined to be inadmissible to Canada, this will mean the other partner is also deemed to be so as well for the purposes of Canadian permanent residence.


Listing the inadmissible individual as non-accompanying does not resolve the situation, either, because it does not alter the fact they have been deemed inadmissible. In such a scenario, the only option for both the primary and secondary applicant is for the inadmissible individual to apply for criminal rehabilitation.




Eligibility for Canadian permanent residence is the result of intensive schooling, training, and professional accomplishment that have taken significant effort and expense to achieve and a determination of inadmissibility can be devastating.  An individual who aspires to Canadian permanent residence and is concerned about inadmissibility – whether it’s their own inadmissibility or that of a spouse or partner – should consider consulting an immigration attorney to determine if they have an issue, and what can be done to help them realize their Canadian dream.



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