In a recent trip to Canada, Justin Bieber and his entourage reportedly offered a Canadian Border Services Agent a bribe worth $10,000 in exchange for her agreeing to exempt two American members of his entourage from Canada’s immigration laws on criminal inadmissibility. This raises the question: What does it mean to be criminally inadmissible to Canada?
If a non-Canadian citizen has been convicted of a criminal offence, he or she may be criminally inadmissible to Canada, which means that they can neither temporarily nor permanently enter Canada. The primary factors that are considered when determining a person’s criminal inadmissibility include:
(a) The seriousness of the offence;
(b) The number of offences for which a person has been charged or convicted;
(c) The amount of time which has passed since the sentence was completed; and
(d) The person’s reason for coming into Canada.
If someone has been convicted of a crime that is an offence under Canadian federal legislation or its equivalent, this may render someone criminally inadmissible to Canada. A person who is criminally inadmissible under “serious criminality” is someone who has been convicted of a crime which, if committed in Canada, would be punishable by a prison sentence of ten years or more, such as an indictable or hybrid offence. Serious criminals can never be deemed rehabilitated, which means that they cannot overcome their criminal inadmissibility with the mere passage of time. Non-serious criminality, which applies to people who are criminally inadmissible to Canada for having been convicted of a summary or hybrid offence or its equivalent, can be overcome more easily. If over ten years have passed since the end of the sentence for a single non-serious crime, a person may apply for deemed rehabilitation and will no longer be criminally inadmissible to Canada. If less than ten years have passed since the sentence ended or if a person has been convicted of more than one offence, then they must apply for special authorization to waive their inadmissibility on either a temporary or permanent basis by filing an application for Criminal Rehabilitation or a Temporary Resident Permit.
Criminal Rehabilitation is an application process which offers a permanent clean slate by absolving otherwise criminally inadmissible people for their existing convictions and enabling them to enter Canada over a long-term period (provided they do not have any subsequent offences!). However, a person is only eligible for Criminal Rehabilitation if over five years have passed since the sentence for their most recent conviction was completed. As Criminal Rehabilitation provides a long-term solution, it is also a long-term process that is bound to impact your travel plans.
If less than five years have passed since the end of a person’s sentence, the other option is applying for a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP). A TRP offers a temporary solution for someone to enter Canada in spite of their criminal inadmissibility for a specific reason and for a specific period of time—acquiring a TRP can cost as little as $200.00 in processing fees.
In most cases, compelling reasons must exist to warrant granting an individual with a prior criminal record entry into Canada. While we cannot comment on the specific circumstances of Mr. Bieber’s entourage, one thing is clear—had they applied for a TRP or Criminal Rehabilitation, they may have been able to overcome their criminal inadmissibility and enter Canada legally. Moreover, taking the legal approach would have likely cost Mr. Bieber and his entourage a lot less than his (alleged) $10,000 bribe.
 Brian Trinh, The Huffington Post Canada, “Justin Bieber Bribe Incident Leads To Firing Of Canadian Border Guard: Report”, August 21, 2014, online: http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2014/08/21/canadian-border-fired-justin-bieber-bribe_n_5698070.html?utm_hp_ref=tw