Rehabilitation vs Record Suspension in immigration to Canada

Rehabilitation paves the way to resolve criminal inadmissibility to Canada. Record suspension clears your name from the police records. However, you need to know what your options are. This article compares rehabilitation and record suspension in immigration to Canada. Consequently, read this article before any efforts on resolving your issues.

What is criminal inadmissibility?

Before discussing rehabilitation and record suspension, we need to explore criminal inadmissibility. The Immigration Act categorizes criminal inadmissibility into two major groups: (1) criminality; (2) serious criminality.


A foreign national becomes inadmissible under any of the following circumstances (practitioners see A36(2)):

  1. An indictable criminal conviction in Canada: Nonetheless, two summary convictions also lead to criminal inadmissibility.
  2. A criminal conviction outside Canada: However, Canadian laws must recognize the offence as an indictable crime. Alternatively, two summary-equivalent convictions could result in criminal inadmissibility.
  3. Criminal charges outside Canada
  4. Certain criminal activities at a time of entering Canada (e.g. smuggling illicit drugs)

Serious criminality

Both foreign nationals and permanent residents could become inadmissible under the following circumstances (practitioners see A36(1)):

  1. In Canada:
    1. A criminal conviction in Canada where the maximum penalty is at least ten years; or
    2. a sentence that imprisons the person for more than six months
  2. Outside Canada, convictions where the maximum penalty in Canadian law is at least ten years.
  3. Outside Canada, charges where the maximum penalty in Canadian law is at least ten years.

As you can see, criminality affects foreign nationals only. However, serious criminality could also affect permanent residents. Of course, the process of rehabilitation or record suspension is more challenging to achieve for serious criminality cases.

Rehabilitation vs record suspension

Record suspension means the authorities (e.g. the PBC) remove your name from the country’s criminal records. However, it does not mean that they have forgiven you. Therefore, they may cancel the record suspension if you break your promises or commit another offence. Of course, if you receive an acquittal or exoneration, then they have cleared your name for good.

Rehabilitation means you have shown you have learned your lesson and won’t commit another offence in the future. Consequently, we could assume rehabilitation is the process that results in receiving a record suspension. However, under the Immigration Act, rehabilitation focuses on outside Canada offences and charges only.

In Canada offences

When the conviction is inside Canada, then rehabilitation is not an option. However, you may apply for a record suspension. Read the following article for more information:

Outside Canada offences

For outside Canada, record suspension, also known as a pardon, is not an option. Of course, you may use a pardon to assist you in convincing the officer to consider rehabilitation. There are two rehabilitation options for outside Canada offences:

Of course, when you apply for rehabilitation, it is up to the officer whether to accept your request or not. If you have both inside Canada and outside Canada convictions, then apply for rehabilitation only when you have received a record suspension or acquittal in Canada.

Where neither a record suspension nor rehabilitation could help

These two options are only for criminal inadmissibility. Rehabilitation or record suspension are not options for the following inadmissibility cases:

I have another article that explores options if you face inadmissibility because of any of the above reasons. Of course, if you are dealing with a removal order, you may also need to apply for an Authorization to Return to Canada.

Let us help!

If you are facing immigration issues, fill out the following form. We could assist you with rehabilitation applications. However, we will most likely ask you to book an appointment with me due to the complexities.

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    Al Parsai, MA, DTM, RCIC
    Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant
    Ashton College Instructor – Immigration Consulting
    Author – 88 Tips on Immigration to Canada

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    Al Parsai

    This article has been expertly crafted by Al Parsai, a distinguished Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant (L3 RCIC-IRB – Unrestricted Practice) hailing from vibrant Toronto, Canada. Al's academic achievements include an esteemed role as an adjunct professor at prestigious Queen's University Law School and Ashton College, as well as a Master of Laws (LLM) degree from York University. A respected member of CICC and CAPIC organizations, Al's insights are further enriched by his experience as the dynamic CEO of Parsai Immigration Services. Guiding thousands of applicants from over 55 countries through the immigration process since 2011, Al's articles offer a wealth of invaluable knowledge for readers.