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Canadian law does not prohibit felons from getting a passport, what is problematic is traveling outside the country with a criminal record.

For convicts:

  • You will need a Form I-192 to enter the United States or a waiver from the country you intend to travel to.
  • Record suspension removes your criminal record from police database (CPIC) and customs background checks.
  • Over 140 countries offer visa free travel for Canadians for up to 90 days.
  • To get a visa, most countries run a background check.
  • You can only travel outside Canada after you have completed your sentence, including parole and probation.

Travelling with a criminal record

Throughout the planet, a passport is your gateway out of the country. Because of that, not having one means that you cannot leave the country legally, or through official exit points such as airports or border crossings.

As mentioned, Canadian law does not restrict former prisoners or convicts from acquiring a passport and leaving the country. However, if the terms of your release or judgment restrict you from leaving the country, you may not be able to acquire a passport. Note: Convictions for misdemeanors or petty crimes will not result in travel restrictions.

Have you completed your sentence, or do you have a pending case?

If you have completed your sentence in Canada, you are free to apply for a passport and exit the country. However, if there is a pending court trial or if you are on parole or probation, immigration may deny your passport application.

On the other hand, if you have completed your sentence and are worried that your criminal record may affect the places you can and cannot go. You have the option to apply for a record suspension.

What is record suspension, and why should you get it?

According to Canada’s parole board, a record suspension, as the name suggests, is an application that allows convicts who have completed their sentence and demonstrated that they are law-abiding citizens to have their criminal record removed from the criminal registry.

If successful, your record will be removed from CPIC (Canadian Police Information Center), meaning your criminal information will not show up in the police database. This will make it easier to secure a passport or travel VISA because your name will not show up in police records if officials in the country you are traveling to conduct a background check. It will also open educational and employment opportunities.

Who qualifies for record suspension in Canada?

Note; persons who received an absolute conditional discharge or juveniles convicted in youth court need not apply because, under the Young Offenders Act, your record will be archived or destroyed after you complete your sentence.

What to remember:

  • A record suspension does not have any effect on prohibition orders.
  • To apply for a record suspension, you must have completed your sentence, including probation orders, statutory release, conditional sentences, and imprisonment.
  • The waiting period is between three to five years.
  • If the crime resulted in serious personal injury, the waiting period is ten years.
  • Record suspension makes your criminal record inaccessible to customs officials, law enforcement, and anyone who does not have written permission from the public safety minister of Canada or you.
  • Sex offenders are ineligible for a record suspension.

Traveling without a record suspension

As noted, if you have a criminal record and have not applied for record suspension, officials in the country you are traveling to will have access to your records. This can limit places you can and cannot go.

Travelling with a criminal record: Can Canadian felons get a passport?

Yes, but your criminal record may cause officials in the other country to deny you entry. Consequently, a passport is not enough.

Can a Canadian enter the US with a criminal record?

A pardon or record suspension is not enough to enter the US, especially if you were convicted of a felony. Therefore, to enter the US you will need an I-192 US Entry Waiver. According to US Customs and Border Protection Form I-192, quote,

 “Allows inadmissible nonimmigrant aliens to apply for advance permission to temporarily enter the United States.”

Download the form here.

What to remember:

  • You need a copy of your criminal record or a letter from the court stating the reason the record is unavailable.
  • you may obtain your criminal record via this link.
  • You must pay an application fee.
  • A valid US waiver allows you to enter and exit the US several times (as specified).

Why apply for an entry waiver if your record has been suspended?

The US and Canada share criminal databases. Consequently, if officials in the states run a background check, they may access your criminal record. And that might prompt them to deny you entry. A waiver allows entry even if you have a criminal record, that is why it is vital to apply for one if you are planning to travel to the states.

Travelling with a criminal record: What countries can felons travel to?

If you are from Canada, you may need special permission to enter some countries if you have a criminal record. Record suspension opens your travel options. So, we recommend applying for one.

That said.

Countries that require a visa to enter

To enter some countries, you will need a visa. The issue is before they grant you an entry VISA most countries check the applicant’s criminal record. If the record is not suspended, it will show up prompting officials to deny you a visa.

However, not all countries require you to apply for a visa if you do not intend to stay for long periods. For example, if you are planning a trip to the European Union, you only need to apply for a visa if you intend to stay more than 90 days.

Because of Brexit, UK entry requirements are still unclear.

How do you know if a country requires an entry visa?

Country immigration laws change almost daily, because of that, the best thing to do before you make travel arrangements is to visit or call the embassy of the country you intend to visit and ask for their requirements.

We have an article detailing countries that require entry with a visa, so if you want to see the options available, you should give that post a quick read.

That said.

There are some rules or best practices you should follow when traveling with a criminal record. We recommend:

  • Obtain a record suspension: once your criminal record is removed from CPIC, it will no longer show up in background checks.
  • Do not falsify information or lie in a foreign land: lying in the application or to foreign immigration officials may land you in a foreign prison.
  • If the country offers waivers for felons or inadmissible individuals, you should apply for one to avoid problems with local officials.

Travelling with a criminal record: Countries that do not require a visa to enter

Countries that do not require a visa to enter are less restrictive, meaning, all you need is a passport to enter.

In 2021, there are over 140 countries that offer visa-free travel for Canadians for up to 90 days. These countries include most of Europe, Africa, South America, Asia, and the middle east. That means if you are planning to stay longer than 90 days, it is in your best interest to get a waiver or consult with the embassy to better understand the terms and conditions of your stay.

What to remember:

  • To travel to the EU, you will need an ETIAS (European Travel Information and Authorization System).
  • Financial evidence to shows that you have enough funds to cover your stay.
  • Proof of accommodation.
  • Travel insurance.