Obtaining A Passport With A Criminal Record

Pardon Applications of Canada explores answers to common questions regarding obtaining a passport with a criminal record.

Can you get a passport with a criminal record? It’s a common assumption among the majority of Canadians that having a criminal record automatically disqualifies them from obtaining a passport.  While a criminal record can certainly pose an obstacle in many ways, this is not entirely true. In Canada, individuals with criminal records can still apply for and obtain a passport, but the approval process might involve additional scrutiny.

Do I Need to Disclose My Criminal Record When Applying for a Passport?

The Canadian passport application process does not include questions about the applicant’s criminal history or a criminal record check.  Most individuals with a criminal record can still apply to obtain a passport as long as the terms of sentencing do not prohibit it.

Can My Criminal Record Affect My Passport Application Approval?

You certainly could have an issue obtaining a Passport if you’re currently serving a sentence or actively being charged with a criminal offence — especially if that charge is indictable. If you are being charged with a crime for which you could receive a sentence of two years or more, while waiting for trial, you may be denied a passport. Even if you are completely innocent, you will more than likely be denied a passport until you have been proven innocent by a judge. The denial of a passport in such cases is a preventive measure to ensure that legal proceedings can take place effectively and that individuals remain within the jurisdiction until their innocence or guilt is established. It’s important to note that these restrictions are in place to safeguard the legal process and not necessarily a judgement on an individual’s guilt or innocence.

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Can I Appeal a Denied Passport Application?

If your passport application has been denied due to your criminal record, you have the right to appeal the decision and request reconsideration. When a passport application is denied due to a criminal record, you will typically receive a letter explaining the reason for the denial and outlining the options available for appeal. The specific appeal process may vary depending on the circumstances and the nature of the criminal record. You will need to provide additional documentation and information that could potentially address the concerns raised by the authorities. This might involve demonstrating that you have rehabilitated or showing that the criminal offense is not relevant to the safety and security of passport issuance. Appealing a denied passport application due to a criminal record can be a complex process, and you may benefit from seeking legal advice or assistance to navigate the process effectively.

Does a Valid Canadian Passport Grant You Unlimited Access to Travel?

If you have a criminal record, have no upcoming legal matters, have completed all sentencing, and are a Canadian citizen, you are probably eligible for a passport.  However, having a passport does not mean you can travel freely with a criminal record.  It is always best to use caution when making travel plans as you may be permitted to leave Canada but may have trouble entering your destination country.  When traveling internationally “aliens” or “foreigners” may be required to obtain a visa before attempting to enter. If the destination country runs a background check as part of their visa issuing process, then your criminal record could prevent you from being granted entry.  In general, you should clear your criminal record with a Pardon (record suspension) before travelling outside the country.  And, it’s important to do some research in advance of your selected destination country’s visa program before booking a trip.

Can I Cross the Border into the U.S. With a Criminal Record?

The United States Customs & Border Control is known to be very strict regarding entry to their country and does share a criminal database system with Canada. If you are looking to travel to the United States with a criminal record, it is highly recommended that you obtain a U.S. Entry Waiver in addition to your passport. Even if you are transferring flights in the United States or merely traveling over U.S. airspace, it is important to have a U.S. Entry Waiver to avoid any issues when you arrive at your destination.

Navigating the process of obtaining a passport with a criminal record can be complex and varies by jurisdiction. While challenges may exist, organizations like Pardon Applications of Canada can provide invaluable guidance and assistance. So, if you’ve been wondering, “Can you get a passport with a criminal record?” remember that with the right information and support, there are pathways to explore.


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Pardon Applications of Canada is a nationwide A+ Accredited processing firm for Canadian Pardon (Record Suspension) & U.S. Entry Waiver applications.  For more information on Pardon Applications of Canada, call 866-383-9744 or [email protected].


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