Can Canada Access Expunged Records? Understanding Entry Restrictions

Canadian Immigration Entry Graphic

Canada is very strict regarding allowing foreign citizens through its borders, and this is especially true for those with a criminal record. This is because the entry process for all visitors includes a security screening, which grants Canada access to previous convictions that may deem them inadmissible to enter the country. That being said, it’s not impossible to visit Canada if you’ve been convicted of a crime in the past, as there are many ways to fix your inadmissibility.

In this article, we’ll talk about expunged and sealed records and how they differ, and answer whether Canada can see expunged records. We’ll also go over the types of pardons and expungements available, what you can do if Canada denies your entry application, and how to make the process more manageable if you find yourself in this situation.

Join us as we explore traveling with an expunged record, particularly concerning DUI entry into Canada. Let’s start by defining some terms we’ll use throughout this article.

What is an Expunged Record?

To expunge something means to destroy or delete it permanently.

In the context of criminal records, specific convictions under the Criminal Code and National Defense Act can be eligible for erasure from a criminal record. Presently, the legislation allows for the permanent removal of convictions stemming from currently considered legal acts. These expunged convictions are eradicated from federal databases of judicial records, effectively treating the convicted individual as if they were never convicted of the offense.

What is a Sealed Record?

When a record is sealed, it signifies that an individual’s criminal history is no longer accessible to the general public. This legal measure grants them the right to deny or simply not acknowledge anything pertaining to the arrest or subsequent legal proceedings stemming from the case.

Sealing a record can be particularly beneficial for individuals seeking employment requiring a background check. However, it’s important to note that a sealed record does not erase a conviction; instead, it makes it more challenging to access. Therefore, it is important for American visitors with a sealed record to understand that even if they were convicted of a crime in the United States, Canadian border authorities are still likely to have access to that information.

Expunged vs. Sealed Records

Expungement permanently clears a person’s record of a conviction or arrest, leaving no trace of the past offense. On the other hand, sealed records create an appearance of cleared convictions or arrests but may still be accessible under specific circumstances, typically with a court order.

The process and criteria for sealing records and the conditions for unsealing them vary depending on the jurisdiction’s laws. It is important to note that while having an expunged record may facilitate entry into Canada, a sealed record can potentially create complications at the border. Therefore, we strongly recommend being transparent and forthcoming when questioned about any past criminal activity by a border agent to improve the likelihood of a smooth entry process.

Types of Pardons and Expungements: Exploring Canadian and Foreign Options

Canadian Pardon (Record Suspension)

If you have been convicted of a serious offense in Canada, you can apply for a Canadian pardon, now referred to as a Record Suspension, through the Parole Board of Canada. A Record Suspension may grant you permission to enter Canada despite your past convictions.

To be eligible for a Canadian record suspension, you must complete the sentence for your conviction and settle all fines associated with it. After meeting these requirements, a waiting period of five or ten years, depending on the nature of the offense, must be observed before you can apply for the Record Suspension. Summary offenses, akin to misdemeanors, generally require less time to be resolved than indictable offenses, which are considered felonies under Canadian laws.

Foreign Pardon

Suppose you have been convicted and subsequently pardoned in a foreign country. In that case, that pardon may result in the complete expungement of your criminal record, potentially making you eligible to enter Canada.

In countries like the United Kingdom, records can be routinely deleted after a specific timeframe, although not all pardons lead to the complete removal of the record. Similarly, some jurisdictions in the United States have distinct regulations, and their procedures may not necessarily remove your information from the national database, which can create complications when attempting to enter Canada.

If you have received a pardon outside of Canada, you should consult with your local visa office or seek guidance from immigration law experts before making travel plans. Both options may help you determine whether you are still considered inadmissible.

Can Canada see my Expunged Record?

Yes, Canada has the ability to access expunged records. This is due to the continuous sharing of information between Canadian law enforcement agencies and authorities worldwide. As a result, Canadian authorities have access to a wide range of data, including criminal databases and records. This enables them to obtain detailed information about past offenses committed by individuals seeking entry into the country, including arrests, warrants, pending charges, convictions, and even offenses that may be considered misdemeanors in their home country.

It’s important to note that Canadian law generally treats crimes that involve driving when they were committed as serious offenses. This includes offenses such as Driving Under the Influence (DUI), Operating While Intoxicated (OWI), or Driving While Impaired (DWI). Additionally, it’s worth mentioning that these offenses are not limited to land-based transportation but may also encompass marine or aerial vehicles.

In short, even if your record has been expunged in your home country, Canadian authorities may still have access to the information. Hence, it is essential to be aware of this before traveling to Canada.

What to Do if Canada Denies Your Entry

Temporary Residence Permits (TRPs)

A Temporary Residence Permit (TRP) can serve as a viable option for individuals deemed inadmissible to Canada. A TRP is a document that grants permission for a person to enter and stay in Canada for a specific duration determined by the government. The validity of a TRP can last up to three years, depending on the circumstances, and it must be renewed before its expiration to comply with local laws. It’s important to note that a TRP does not provide the right to work or study in Canada.

Criminal Rehabilitation

In certain situations, you may be eligible to apply for Criminal Rehabilitation even if you have a DUI or other conviction on your record. To qualify for Criminal Rehabilitation, a minimum of five years must have passed since the completion of your imposed sentence, and no new offenses should have been committed during that time. Additionally, you must provide validated legal documentation confirming your sentence has been fully served, demonstrating your rehabilitation. All documentation must be issued and validated by the relevant authorities in your home country to ensure its legitimacy. It’s important to be open and honest throughout the entire process, as Canadian border authorities will thoroughly examine and verify all submitted documents.

How Dogen Law Can Assist

At Dogen Law, we have dedicated years to helping our clients navigate various legal pathways for entering and staying in Canada. Whether you need guidance on the required documents for your Temporary Residence Permit application or advice on the most suitable program for your situation, our team of experienced professionals is ready to assist you.

If you have already applied to enter Canada and received a negative decision in your immigration case, we can also support you in appealing the decision before the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) or the Federal Court, thereby increasing the chances of a favorable outcome.

If you are ready to visit or immigrate to Canada but require assistance to streamline your application process due to a past criminal conviction, please contact us for advice.

Further Reading

Gain deeper insights into criminal rehabilitation, temporary resident permits, and overcoming criminal inadmissibility to Canada by reading our articles below:

Assault Charges

Border Checks, Criminal Inadmissibility, and Expunged Records

Criminal Rehabilitation & Temporary Resident Permits

DUI Resources

Felony Resources