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Canada has a generous immigration policy which includes reasonably-open borders and an equitable system of justice and appeals. However, some people, such as document forgers and other criminals, attempt to avoid this immigration process. For the protection of society and to uphold the established legislation, people who enter or attempt to enter Canada using false or misleading information are not wanted in the country. Stopping illegal migrants and undesirables overseas at ports of entry before they arrive in Canada is the first step in this process.


Who is admissible?

Canadian citizens and persons registered as Indians pursuant to the Indian Act have the right to enter or remain in Canada. Permanent residents can enter the country and remain unless they have given up or lost their permanent resident status or have taken part in activities that make them subject to removal. Other persons wanting to come to Canada as immigrants and visitors may be granted admission if they possess a valid visa (if required), pose no risk to Canada, and are not inadmissible for some other reason.

Who is inadmissible?

Persons may be denied a visa, refused admission, or removed from Canada if, for example:

         the immigration officer believes them to be non-genuine visitors (persons whose real intent is to remain indefinitely);

         two Medical Officers believe that they are likely to be a danger to public health or to cause excessive demands on health or social services;

         they are unable or unwilling to support themselves and their dependants;

         they have been convicted of criminal offences or reasonable grounds exist to believe that they have committed a crime;

         they have engaged in acts of espionage, subversion or terrorism, or reasonable grounds exist to believe that they will engage in such activities;

         they are, or were, members of criminal, violent, terrorist or subversive organizations, or

         reasonable grounds exist to believe that they will take part in acts of violence, subversion or terrorism while in Canada;

         they constitute a danger to the security of Canada;

         there are reasonable grounds to believe that they have committed a war crime or crime against humanity;

         they are, or were, senior members or senior officials in the service of a government that is or was engaged in terrorism, systematic or gross human rights violations, war crimes or crimes against humanity;

         they have remained in Canada longer than authorized;

         they have previously been deported and are seeking to enter Canada without the consent of the Minister;

         they have taken a job or attended an educational institution without authorization; or

         they have violated any terms or conditions of their admission or have violated other provisions of the Immigration Act or Regulations.

Depending on the circumstances, prospective visitors who are found to be inadmissible for minor offences may be granted discretionary entry for up to 30 days (non-extendible). Appropriate terms and conditions may be imposed in these cases and a processing fee will be collected. (Refer to the Fee Schedule, for details on processing fees.)


A background check is a normal part of immigrant visa processing. The procedure is intended to bar the entry into Canada of those who may disrupt law and order, threaten the country's security, or otherwise be detrimental to national interests.

Background checks are done for everyone aged 18 to 65 before they receive an immigrant visa. Documents used in these checks include:

         the immigration application form;

         security, intelligence and criminal conviction records; and

         immigration records for persons who have violated provisions of the Immigration Act.

Background checks may also be done before a visa is issued to a visitor if there is reason to believe that the visitor may be undesirable or prohibited by immigration law. In some countries, a waiting period is required for background checks.


According to the Immigration Act and Regulations, transportation companies must ensure that passengers are presented for examination at ports of entry with valid travel documents and visas if required. Canadian officials provide airlines with training and technology to help identify improperly documented passengers before they embark for Canada. If passengers are improperly documented and are allowed passage to Canada, the company may be charged an administration fee of $3,200 to help pay the cost of processing the inadmissible person.

As a general rule, transportation companies are required to pay the costs of return transportation and medical costs of passengers refused admission to Canada, but are not required to pay the removal costs if passengers arrive with a valid visa.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada also requires security deposits from carriers to cover liabilities incurred under the Act. If the carrier refuses, the vehicle can be detained for up to 48 hours or seized and sold to recover monies owed.

Transportation companies also have responsibilities related to crew members. These include the presentation of crew lists and the reporting of crew changes and deserters. Carriers must also report stowaways and guard them safely before transferring them into the custody of an immigration officer.


Canadian control initiatives have resulted in declining numbers of improperly documented passengers arriving in Canada. However, "people smuggling" is an ongoing concern. Immigration officers have the authority to search travellers when documentation relating to identity and nationality is missing or inadequate. Travel documents may also be held by immigration officials to ensure that they are available for possible removal action taken under the Immigration Act.


Other measures may also be taken against those who abuse or take advantage of Canada's immigration laws. They include:

         Increased penalties for smuggling migrants. The penalties now range from fines of $10,000 to $500,000, imprisonment for up to 10 years, or both.

         Stronger measures against those who make multiple refugee claims. Although the number of people involved in duplicate refugee claims is small, the problem is serious. Once duplicate refugee claims are processed, multiple applications for welfare can also be made. Fingerprinting and photographing of refugee claimants is carried out to deal with this problem. Fingerprinting can also help to detect criminals attempting to enter Canada as refugees. Fingerprints of successful refugee applicants are destroyed once they receive Canadian citizenship.

         Preventing social assistance abuse by visitors. Visitors to Canada who would cause or be reasonably expected to cause excessive demand on health or social services can be removed.



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