Dear Miss Powell,
If I were imprisoned for a period of six months, 11 years ago, would this bar me from getting a visitor's visa?
Past imprisonment does not automatically bar someone from applying for or even being granted a visitor's visa to Canada. The general perception is that someone who has been incarcerated as a result of a criminal conviction is deemed criminally inadmissible and not usually granted a temporary resident/visitor's visa to Canada. However, it is possible for him or her to be deemed rehabilitated after a conviction and be granted a visa, depending on the nature of the crime and the period of time that has passed since serving.
Rehabilitation means that the person is considered 'reformed' and unlikely to commit new crimes. Usually rehabilitation is considered when sufficient number of years has passed since the conviction and the person has not committed any new crimes. There are also other issues which are taken into account, such as the kind of social activities that the person is now involved in, lifestyle choices, stable employment and contribution to society. It will also be necessary to present reference letters from people who can attest to the individual's good behaviour.
You should also note that you may apply to the attorney general in Jamaica to have your record expunged, or you may apply to the Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) Office (Canadian Embassy) and provide proof that you meet the requirements to be deemed rehabilitated.
In your particular case, you may show that more than 10 years have passed since your conviction.
If you choose to submit an application to the CIC office in Kingston, you should note that applications usually take about 12 months to be processed. The fee is CAD$200, or if you are seeking the minister's approval, it will be CAD$800.
If the conviction was in Canada, you will need to make an application to the National Parole Board in Canada to have your rehabilitation approved or to apply for a record suspension or pardon. This will allow you to demonstrate that although you were convicted of a criminal offence you can now show that you have completed your sentence, are now law-abiding and therefore request that your records be expunged. The application fee is now CAD$631.
When dealing with these types of cases, it is best to hire a lawyer to assist you with the application to CIC. You will need to submit documents to show the type of criminal offence, court records, judge's comments and the fact that the sentence was completed. You must include all the supporting documents in order to prevent your application being delayed or rejected.
Best of luck!
Deidre S. Powell is an international lawyer, mediator and notary public who is a member of the Jamaican and Ontario, Canada bars. Her main office is located in Ottawa, Ontario. Her areas of practice are in immigration, Commercial, real estate, personal injury, family and administration of estates. Submit your questions via Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Subject line: Immigration or Tel: 613.695.8777