Thu | Mar 22, 2018

Immigration Corner | Will my bar fight come back to haunt me?

Published:Tuesday | December 20, 2016 | 12:00 AM

Dear Ms Powell,

I was involved in a bar fight about 15 years ago. A friend said that if someone was charged or convicted of a crime it doesn't make sense thinking about going back to Canada. Is this true? Am I banned for life from applying for a visa?

- RG

Dear RG,

If you were charged or convicted of a crime you are not automatically barred from applying for a Canadian visitor's visa, nor will your visa application be automatically denied. It is your duty to provide all the appropriate information and supporting documents to the Visa Application Centre nearest you to reassure the Canadian authorities that you are not a threat to other Canadians and to the security of those in Canada.

It is your duty to provide a visa officer with complete details of all charges, convictions, court dispositions, pardons, photocopies of applicable law(s), and court proceedings. This will allow the officer to determine whether you are admissible to Canada and whether to grant you a visa.

It is possible to be deemed rehabilitated after a criminal charge and conviction and the Canadian authorities may grant you a temporary resident / visitor visa depending on the nature of the crime and the period of time that has passed since serving the time.

An individual is generally deemed rehabilitated or reformed and unlikely to commit new crimes when sufficient years have passed since the conviction and the person has not committed any new crimes. Because more than 10 years have passed since your conviction, you may now be absolved of your crime.

There are also other issues that will be examined by the visa officer. These may include the reasons that you want to be in Canada, your current lifestyle, employment, financial situation, family ties and responsibilities, contributions to your community and country. You should include a well-worded letter of explanation as to why you should be allowed back into Canada.

You will need to complete an Authorisation to Return to Canada (ARC) application, all the supporting documents based on the document checklist and the required fee. The fee is CDN$200. If you are seeking the minister's approval, you will be advised of the additional fee to pay. This could be approximately CDN$1,000.

You did not indicate the country where you had the bar fight. You should note that if the offence occurred in Canada and the charges were withdrawn or dismissed, you are not inadmissible. For an absolute or conditional discharge of an offence committed in Canada you are not inadmissible. However, you should submit the requisite documents with your temporary resident application to avoid delays.

If there was a conviction for a crime in Canada, and you have not had any subsequent convictions in any other country, you should make an application to the National Parole Board of Canada to have your rehabilitation approved or for a record suspension.

You can apply for rehabilitation if at least five years have passed since you finished your criminal sentence. The application can be made at a port of entry or outside of Canada. In Jamaica, your application should be submitted to one of the visa application centres. You should ensure that all the necessary documents are submitted in order to avoid delay or rejection.

This application may require a more detailed analysis of the law in Jamaica and Canada so you should consult with an immigration lawyer directly.

- Deidre S. Powell is an immigration lawyer, mediator, notary public and a member of the Jamaican and Ontario, Canada Bars. Submit your questions via Email: Subject line: Immigration or Tel: 613.695.8777/ 876.922.4092