Can a Felon Drive Through Canada to Alaska?

People with a felony conviction have the right to travel after they have completed probation. Traveling within the United States is not a problem. However, what if you want to drive through Canada to Alaska? The only way to get to Alaska by driving is through Canada. Since Canada is a different country, there are different rules.

Can a person with a felony conviction drive through Canada to Alaska?

Yes, with some exceptions. If your felony was related to treason or international drug-trafficking, then no. (This is because you can’t get a passport with these offenses. See below for more information on getting a passport. ) Also, you can’t owe more than $2500 of child support. You cannot be on probation.

Canada is very strict about all felony records. In fact, even misdemeanors can cause problems. If the misdemeanor would have been a felony in Canada, the Canadian authorities may treat it like a felony.  Violent crimes will be difficult. Any felony related to alcohol and driving will be especially tough. It doesn’t matter if the felony conviction was many years ago. All felonies – no matter how long ago – will be scrutinized. Canada law specifically states that any U.S. citizen or resident may be denied entry for any felony.

If you have a felony conviction on your record, you will need to plan carefully in advance to enter Canada. You need to get special permission from the Canadian government to enter Canada.  Even if you are just entering Canada to drive to Alaska, you will need to plan.

How do I get special permission from the Canadian government?

If your felony conviction was less than five years ago, you can only enter Canada by getting a TRP. TRP stands for Temporary Residence Permit. To get a TRP, you need a “valid reason” to visit Canada. Sightseeing will probably not be considered valid. Traveling for work or for a family gathering is usually okay. Needing to drive to Alaska will probably be considered valid. You will have to fill out an application to apply for a TRP. On the application you will have to convince the Canadian authorities that you are rehabilitated.

The Canadian government wants to make sure you will not commit a crime  in Canada. The Canadian authorities will decide whether to give you a one-time entry or a time-period TRP. A time- period TRP allows you to come and go freely for a set time.  Each time you enter you will have to provide a valid reason. The longest period of time a TRP can cover is three years. It costs at least $200 for a TRP. It might cost more depending on your felony.

There are three ways to receive a TRP. All three ways have  advantages and disadvantages. Ideally, you will have plenty of time to plan your travel to Canada. Your best chance is to fill out an application and send it to the Canadian consulate in California.  It will take at least three months. It might take as long as six months to receive the TRP. However, this is the most likely way to get a TRP. The officers reviewing your paperwork have a lot of experience granting TRP’s. This is the way that Canada prefers to grant TRP’s.

The second way to get a TRP is to drive to the border. Bring the TRP paperwork and the money. Make sure the paperwork is completely filled out. If granted, it will take less than an hour. But, if your entry is denied, you will have to turn back. It will completely depend on the Canadian who is working at the border. A person who doesn’t have much experience with TRP’s might just say no. Also, a supervisor is the only official who can approve a TRP. Sometimes there is no supervisor present at a port of entry. You would have to wait until a supervisor arrives.

A TRP at the border adds a sense of time-pressure. That  can work in your favor or to your detriment. A border authority may wave you through because there is a long line of cars behind you. Or, the border authority may say there isn’t time for a TRP because of the long line of cars. You are much more likely to get a TRP if you can prove that you have an emergency. Bring any proof you can: a copy of an obituary, a wedding invitation, a work contract, etc.

The third option is to try to receive a TRP at the airport. There is also a time-pressure in this situation. Once again, this can be good or bad. If you go to the airport, show the official an already-purchased return ticket. This will prove that you plan to return to the U.S.

If your felony conviction was less than five years (and some sources say ten) the TRP is the only way you can enter Canada. If your felony conviction was over five years ago, you have another option. You can apply for Criminal Rehabilitation. You can travel to Canada freely for your lifetime if your application for a CR is accepted.  It takes 12-18 months to receive a CR certificate. The cost of the Criminal Rehabilitation depends on the nature of your felony.

You do not need to have a “valid reason” to visit Canada with a CR status. When you arrive at a port of entry with a Criminal Rehabilitation status, bring a copy of your CR and your passport. To be safe, also bring your birth certificate and a photo i.d.

Can I get a passport?

You need a passport to go to Canada. You can’t get a passport if your felony involved treason or international drug trafficking. Also, you cannot owe more than $2500 in child support. But, a passport alone will not get you into Canada. Don’t try just showing up at the border. You will not get through  unnoticed.

The authorities will scan your passport, and will automatically check for any felony records. The U.S. and Canadian crime data-base is synced. Any crime that is on record in the U.S. will show up on Canadian records.  If you are caught trying to “sneak” into Canada, you may hurt your future chances of getting a TRP or a CR.

What’s the best order to do this?

If you can’t get a passport, you can’t enter Canada. You also can’t apply for a TRP or a CR status. If you are eligible for a passport, apply. It will take six to eight weeks to receive a passport. The cost is $145. If you have 18 months of lead time, apply for Criminal Rehabilitation (CR) if your felony conviction was over five years ago.

Some people also apply for a TRP at the same time, even if your goal is a CR. That way if the CR doesn’t work out, you still have a chance of a TRP. If you have six months, try for a TRP. If you don’t have six months to wait, then make a decision to try to either get a TRP at the border or the airport. There isn’t a difference between a TRP or an Emergency TRP. It’s just that the Canadian authorities may treat an emergency differently.

Other ideas

If your goal is to go to Canada, then you’ll have to try for a TRP or a CR. However, if you just want to get to Alaska, you may have some options. One idea is to fly from a U.S. city directly to Alaska. You won’t even need a passport. The other idea is to take a ferry from from Washington to Alaska. You don’t need a passport for that, either. These two plans allow you to avoid Canada.

In summary:

It is possible to enter Canada.  The nature of your felony will play a large role in determining your success. It may help to remember that Canada’s main concern is the safety of the Canadian citizens. Try to fill out the paperwork in a way that shows that you are rehabilitated. You need to assure the Canadian government that it’s safe to let you enter. Hopefully you can plan ahead by six months. You’ll have the best chance with more time.

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