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 Is a Canadian criminal record suspension recognized by the USA?



No. A record suspension granted in Canada is not recognized by American authorities and does not erase information in American government data banks.


A record suspension does not erase the fact that a person was found guilty of a criminal offence in Canada, and therefore does not guarantee that entry to another country will be given, or that a visa will be granted.

Yes. A criminal record is not considered to be illegal discrimination when it comes to housing. There is no recourse. Even if not illegal, landlords could easily find some other excuse not to rent to you. You will not get much sympathy from anyone for this.

What Is a Criminal Record?

Your record is created when you have been found guilty of committing any criminal offence under laws such as the Criminal Code and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

A criminal record is a permanent entry in a register administered by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).

Your criminal record lists your identity, charges against you, convictions, fingerprints, DNA,  and more. It is accessible by police, border guards and others.

Click here to see the actual Criminal Records Act which is the governing law concerning your record, a pardon or record suspension. Know the rules in the game before you play.

Your criminal record is kept till you would be 150 years old, regardless of whether you are dead or alive.

You must apply for a record suspension (formerly a pardon) if you want the RCMP to keep your record separate from other criminal records so that the information is not accessible.


Having your criminal record suspended does not erase being found guilty of a criminal offence, or being “convicted”.


This means you must answer “yes” if asked if you ever been convicted of a criminal offence. You then can explain that you received a record suspension.


The criminal record of a person under 18 years old when she committed an offence cannot be disclosed, unless tried and sentenced as an adult.

How Long Does a Criminal Record Last?

Your criminal record is permanent.


It does not expire, get  erased or removed or disappear. Not ever.

What Is a Pardon or Record Suspension?

A record suspension allows people who were convicted of a criminal offence, but have completed their sentence and demonstrated they are law-abiding citizens for a prescribed number of years, to have their criminal record kept separate and apart from other criminal records.

This basically means you can say you have no criminal record, although you cannot say you were never convicted.

A Record Suspension or Pardon can be rescinded if you are convicted in the future of some other offence.

Under the Criminal Records Act (CRA), the Parole Board of Canada (PBC) may order, refuse to order, or revoke record suspensions for convictions under federal acts or regulations of Canada. [more]


Here is a quote from the Criminal Records Act

2.3 A record suspension

(a) is evidence of the fact that

(i) the Board, after making inquiries, was satisfied that the applicant was of good conduct, and

(ii) the conviction in respect of which the record suspension is ordered should no longer reflect adversely on the applicant’s character; and

(b) unless the record suspension is subsequently revoked or ceases to have effect,

requires that the judicial record of the conviction be kept separate and apart from other criminal records and

removes any disqualification or obligation to which the applicant is, by reason of the conviction, subject under any Act of Parliament

other than section 109, 110, 161, 259, 490.012, 490.019 or 490.02901 of the Criminal Code, subsection 147.1(1) or section 227.01 or 227.06 of the National Defence Act or section 36.1 of the International Transfer of Offenders Act.

Effect of Record Suspension

What Is the Effect of a Criminal Record?

In general, someone who already has a criminal record and commits another offence will be sentenced more severely than someone who has never been convicted.

Also, a criminal record can cause problems for you if you

  • Want to join a professional order or obtain a professional licence
  • Want to work in certain fields
  • Want to get insurance, rent an apartment, get credit or a mortgage
  • Want to travel
  • Your local police will know and tread you differently if you have a dispute or are the victim of a crime. Your credibility will be suspect.
  • In many little ways, your record will affect your life, your self esteem and your relationship with other people.
  • Also, you might be refused a licence to practice certain professions governed by the Professional Code if you were found guilty of a criminal offence and have not gotten a record suspension. These professions include for example nurses, acupuncturists, geologists, lawyers, doctors, dentists, pharmacists, engineers and architects and police.

 Can an Employer Refuse to Hire Me Because I Have a Criminal Record?

Employers may refuse to hire you if you have a criminal record, but they will find some other excuse for not hiring you.

If your criminal record has been suspended, or you have been found guilty of an offence that is not connected to the job, nobody can fire you, refuse to hire you or put you at a disadvantage because of your criminal record.

Can a Landlord Refuse to Rent to Me if I Have a Criminal Record?

Yes and No There is a record of your discharge but it is supposed to be erased once the time limit has expired. However you should probably check with the RCMP to ensure it has been erased as required by law.

Discharges may be given for certain less serious offences or a first offence, when it is in the best interests of the guilty person and the discharge doesn’t harm society.

If you are given a discharge, you are considered not to have been “convicted”.

In the case of an absolute discharge, the RCMP automatically removes the criminal record from its files after one year.

For conditional discharges, the RCMP automatically removes the criminal record from its files three years after the probation order. (A conditional discharge could include, for example, a condition that the discharged person not disturb the peace).

In both situations, after the time limits are up, a criminal record can only be disclosed in rare cases.

 If I Got a Discharge, Will I Have a Criminal Record?

What it all means. What to expect and your rights. How to deal with the police


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Your criminal record will prevent US travel How a criminal record affects your travel to the US or other countries.



If you are banned from entering the USA, that will even prevent you from overflying the US on the way to some other country.

American immigration laws are very strict regarding people found guilty of crimes.

Furthermore, American immigration agents have a lot of discretion on these matters.

You cannot enter the United States if:

You have been found guilty of a moral turpitude offence, or an offence related to drugs, terrorism, prostitution, national security, etc.

You have been found guilty of more than one offence and the total of your sentences comes to five years or more of detention, whether or not they were moral turpitude offences.

These rules apply even if you have been given a discharge in Canada. A Canadian discharge does not automatically give you the right to enter the United States.

Are There Exceptions to the Entry Rules for the United States?


Among other things, if only 1 moral turpitude offence was committed more than 5 years before trying to enter the United States, and the person was less than 18 years old, the conviction cannot be a reason to refuse entry to the United States.

Also, a person may be able to enter the United States if the only conviction on record is for a relatively minor offence ("petty offence": punishable by a maximum of 1 year imprisonment) and the person was not sentenced to more than 6 months detention. However, this does not apply to drug-related offences.

In both cases, the American authorities cannot in theory refuse entry to the United States on the basis of a criminal record. Nonetheless, immigration officers have very broad discretion when deciding if a person can or cannot enter the United States. Entering a country is a privilege, not a right!


 If I Am Questioned at the American Border, Should I Tell the Truth?

Yes. If you lie or try to mislead the border officer, you risk being declared inadmissible and automatically prohibited from entering the country.

Depending on the circumstances, you could be questioned, detained to be removed from the country, or accused of various offences.

So if you are asked, for example, if you have ever been arrested by the police, or if you have a criminal record or any previous convictions, and this is true, you must answer “Yes”.

Explain to the border officer that you got an absolute discharge, a record suspension, or another sentence. It is recommended that you have with you any original documents that can prove what you tell the border officer.

Those companies charge hundreds of dollars to fill in the forms. You still have to run around, get finger prints, collect copies of court documents and other records. By the time you do all that you may as well fill in the forms yourself and mail them in.

What if the Criminal Record is for a Drug Offence?

US Immigration authorities have a “zero tolerance” attitude toward drug-related offences.

People found guilty of a drug-related offence cannot enter the United States. When a United States attorney general or consular official has reason to believe a drug trafficker, or someone with links to the trafficking world, wants to cross the border, that person cannot enter the United States.

The person’s spouse and children are also prevented from entering if, during the preceding 5 years, they received financial support they knew came from drug trafficking.

The material on this page is a compilation of information from several sources, most notably the John Howard Society.







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