FAQs – Pardons / Record Suspensions in Canada
Here you will find an extensive list of questions and answers relating to the Canadian pardon process.
If you are unclear on whether or not you need a Canadian Pardon, a Purge and File Destruction or a US Entry Waiver, call to speak with one of our counsellors. If you don’t feel like chatting, here is how it works:
- If you have been convicted of an offence and you wish to remove your criminal record, you require a pardon. Convictions are never automatically purged from your record.
- If you have been charged with a crime but not convicted you need a Purge and File Destruction.
- If you have been deemed inadmissible at the US border you will need a waiver. Pardons are not recognized by the American government. See Waiver FAQ
If you feel like reading below is an extensive list of question and answers that we feel covers just about any question you might have. But if your question isn’t in here just give us a call or send us an email. If it’s one we haven’t heard before we will add it to the list.
FAQ- introduction to pardons / record suspensions in Canada
What is the difference between a pardon and a record suspension?
In March 2012 the Conservative government passed legislation that changed the name of the pardon program to record suspension. There are some procedural differences as well as some new eligibility rules. However, the result is the same thing. If you obtain a record suspension, you will have obtained the same thing as a pardon.
Who is responsible for granting pardons in Canada?
The government of Canada is responsible for granting pardons. The agency responsible is the Parole Board of Canada.
For more information:
What happened to Pardons?
You may have heard that pardons are being eliminated or that pardons have already been eliminated. Don’t worry. This isn’t true and you can still get a pardon.
The only difference is that it is now called a record suspension. The name of the program, as well as some of the rules surrounding it were changed following the passing of the Conservative government’s omnibus crime bill.
Fore more information:
Learn About Bill C23B
Request for pardons drop in wake of omnibus crime bill
Can I still call it a pardon?
Yes. In general we tend to use the term pardons over record suspensions simply because it more commonly understood. You should feel free to do the same.
FAQ – Applying for a pardon / record suspension
Do I need to use a lawyer or private services agency like the National Pardon Centre?
How do I apply for a pardon on my own?
The Parole Board of Canada offers a step by step guide on their website.
For more information:
Yes it’s true, you can apply for a pardon yourself
How is a pardon submitted to the Parole Board of Canada?
A pardon application is submitted to the Parole Board by regular, slow as can be, old time snail mail. It can be submitted by you or the agency preparing your application.
Once it has been received and reviewed, the final decision will be sent by mail to the applicant or agency.
How long does it take to get a pardon / record suspension?
Once your application for a pardon / record suspension has been submitted to the Parole Board of Canada it can take anywhere from 6 – 24 months for a decision to be made on your case.
The time frames are supposedly guaranteed by the Parole Board as a result of the Increase to the Pardon Application User Fee for which a public consultation was held.
Despite overwhelming opposition the proposal was accepted and the result was guaranteed processing times, which are as follows:
- Applications seeking a record suspension for an offence or offences tried summarily will be processed within 6 months of application acceptance.
- Applications seeking a record suspension for an offence or offences tried by indictment will be processed within 12 months of application acceptance.
- Applications in which the Board is proposing to refuse to order a record suspension will require up to 24 months after application acceptance to complete.
You must meet your eligibility which is either 5 or 10 years from the completion of your sentence.
In addition gathering the required documents that must be submitted with your application can take anywhere from 2 – 12 months, depending on the details of your case.
I have a charge pending that I have not gone to court for. Can I have my old records pardoned in the meantime?
No. A pardon / record suspension is all or nothing. You must finish everything in court and then wait for your eligibility. In addition, the current eligibility rules under the record suspension program make any interaction with the law a problem. Even if your charges were withdrawn in court it can affect your eligibility.
Why should I trust the National Pardon Centre to handle my application?
This is a very important question because at the moment the pardon and waiver services industry is unregulated which means a lot of companies out there are not trustworthy. At the National Pardon Centre we make every effort possible to put our clients at ease throughout the process. The National Pardon Centre is RCMP accredited, one of the only companies with its own server connected directly to the RCMP civil fingerprinting division in Ottawa. We have an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.
Why should I pay a company to handle my application?
Preparing government paperwork that you are not familiar with is no fun. You should also consider what an important matter your pardon application is. A pardon is the removal of a label that says you are a criminal. But if you are reading this site you are probably not a criminal. You are just someone who made a mistake and wants to restore his/her reputation. Having a professional handle your application means that it will get done properly and in a timely manner. There are some things in life worth saving some money on. A pardon is worth saving your reputation on.
Is the National Pardon Centre a government agency?
No! There is no government agency responsible for preparing pardon (record suspension) application. The Parole Board of Canada is the government agency responsible for granting your pardon. But it does not prepare paperwork. Hiring the National Pardon Centre is similar to hiring an accountant prepare your tax return. You can do your taxes yourself, but for good reason, most people prefer not to.
What is the cost of a pardon / record suspension?
The cost of a pardon is largely determined by the government fees required to collect and file the application paperwork. Fingerprinting, for example can cost anywhere from $50 – $100. This price would normally include the RCMP certification fee. Court documents can vary to a large degree. Fees are also paid to local police stations in order to verify the absence of any recent criminal activity needed. Depending on where you have lived in the past 5 years these fees can add up to several hundred dollars in an extreme case.
We offer a flat fee of $695 for pardon preparation services. This price includes fingerprinting and court document requests as well as other disbursement fees. It does not include local police check fees or the Parole Board of Canada filing fee which is $631.
We advise that you should plan a budget of approximately $1400 start to finish when applying for a pardon with us. We want you to understand what you’re getting into so that you can prepare accordingly.
FAQ – Pardon eligibility
When am I eligible for a pardon?
You are eligible for a pardon only after you have been convicted in court and your ordered sentence has been completed.
Common sentences include:
- community service
- time served
- restitution payments
You must then have waited the required 5 or 10 years (for summary or indictable offences) from the date that your sentence was completed to become eligible.
Keep in mind that we advise beginning the paperwork on your pardon application at least 1 year in advance of becoming eligible.
What are common summary Offences?
- Possession of a controlled substance
- Theft and Mischief Under $5000
- Obstruct Peace Officer
- Fail to Comply with Probation Order/Recognizance
- Fail to Appear/Fail to Attend Court
What are common indictable Offences?
- Possession of controlled substance for the purpose of trafficking
- Production/cultivation of a controlled substance
- Fraud, theft, and mischief over $5000
What are common Hybrid Offences? (can be Summary OR Indictable)
- Fraud under $5000
- Assault with a weapon
- Assault causing bodily harm
- Possession of property obtained by crime under $5000
- Possession / use of credit card obtained by crime
For more information:
What affects my eligibility?
The type and severity of the offence determines whether a charge is summary or indictable, which dictates the required waiting period.
- Summary offences carry a 5 year waiting period,
- Indictable offences carry a 10 year waiting period.
Waiting periods begin only once the entire sentence has been completed.
Weapons and driving prohibitions as well as community service are not considered a part of your sentence for purposes of applying for a Canadian pardon.
If you have not finished your sentence you are not eligible for your pardon. The Parole Board also takes into account any police contact (even if non-criminal) within the past 5 years.
Any contact with the police can cause the Parole Board to question your “good conduct” and consider you ineligible to receive a pardon.
For more information:
What happens if the court cannot confirm my fine or restitution payment?
You must try to obtain proof of payment from the victim involved (for restitution), and for both fines and restitution if you are unable to provide proof of payment you must submit a legally binding affidavit stating that all monies have been paid in full with your application.
What if I was given an extended period of time to pay my fines?
You are not eligible for the pardon until all monies owed have been paid in full and you have completed your waiting period. Waiting periods do not begin under any circumstance until fines have been paid and all other sentences complete.
The Parole Board is now being so particular about paid fines that we have seen people with unpaid surcharges of only a few dollars being refused their pardon. This is even in cases where the applicant was unaware of the surcharge and the offence dates back several decades.
What if I served time in jail instead of paying my fine?
This is sufficient for the Parole Board, but an affidavit must be submitted if no official documentation from the court can be provided.
Does a driver’s licence suspension / interlock device affect my eligibility?
Is there any way around my date of eligibility?
Are there any crimes that cannot be pardoned?
Yes there are many situations where a pardon will not be a possibility, for example:
- sexual offences involving a minor
- more than 3 indictable offences where the sentence was more than 2 years in jail each time
- any crime in which the sentence can never be completed (in some very serious cases the offender will receive lifetime in jail or lifetime probation)
Does a pardon eliminate a prohibition order?
No. A prohibition order does NOT affect your eligibility, but it is also not removed by obtaining a pardon. There is no way to remove a prohibition order.
Can I apply to remove only certain offences from my criminal record?
No. You must be eligible for, and pardoned for ALL offences on your criminal record at the same time. The application for a pardon cannot be done piece by piece.
Who decides if I am eligible for a pardon or not?
Canadian law dictates whether or not you are eligible for a pardon. This cannot be challenged by anyone.
The Parole Board of Canada however has the final say and even those who are eligible under the law can be denied their pardon. This is something we strongly disagree with at the National Pardon Centre and our hope is that this aspect of the pardon legislation will eventually be challenged in federal court.
Our position is that the application for a pardon should not be subjective and that all Canadians should benefit from the guaranteed right of being innocent until proven guilty.
However, just the suspicion of guilt is now being used to refuse pardon applications. Since the Parole Board of Canada does not believe it must be held to that standard, we feel this is a violation of your rights and freedoms. We hope that this will one day be challenged in Federal Court.
Please bear in mind that we are not lawyers and our opinion on this matter is only that, an informed opinion.
What does it mean to bring the administration of justice into disrepute?
The Parole Board needs to make sure that applicants that would embarrass a Conservative minded government are not being granted.
This relates to the eligibility. It is our belief that the application for a pardon should be objective. Instead the Parole Board now uses a subjective selection criteria and reserves the right to refuse a pardon for any reason whatsoever.
As far as we can tell this measure is designed to keep the pardon system out of the media spotlight.
I am not eligible yet. When should I start the process?
Start your application as early as possible. It will save you money and time. We suggest a minimum of 12 months in advance but there is no harm starting even earlier.
FAQ – The effects of a pardon
What happens to my criminal record after I receive a pardon or a record suspension?
Once the Parole Board of Canada grants your pardon the criminal record will be seal at the RCMP level. Therefore, when you do a national criminal record check the result will be the same as it would be if you had never had any trouble with the law. In addition almost all local police and court jurisdictions in the country comply with the federal pardon program and destroy or seal their records as well.
What happens to my pardon if I am arrested again?
If you are arrested again assume that your pardon will be revoked and cease to have effect.
Do I need a waiver if I have already a pardon?
Legally, yes (if you want to travel to the US). The Americans do NOT recognize a Canadian pardon and the only way to guarantee entry to the United States is with a waiver. However, if the Americans had no prior knowledge of your criminal record before you were pardoned, there is a legal loophole that you can take advantage of.
Once you have been pardoned, you may choose not to tell the Americans about your previous criminal record. If you don’t say anything they have no way of retrieving the criminal record information.
When they search your name, no criminal record information will appear.
However, if you have previously been stopped at the border/questioned/refused entry/revealed information on your offences, then the United States border guards will have this information in their system.
FAQ – Finding work with a criminal record
Will a pardon help me find a good job?
The answer to this, like many things in life, depends on how you look at it. A clear criminal record will not necessarily help you find a good job. On the other hand not having a pardon (in other words having a criminal record attached to your name) will almost certainly hold you back when looking for stable employment. Essentially we believe the answer to this question is yes.
Should I disclose my pardon if an employer asks if I have one?
There is no clear answer to this question so it will ultimately be a decision you have to make for yourself. Some officials will say you are absolutely required to disclose your pardon. Others will say you are not.
Since no one has access to a pardoned criminal record except in very unusual circumstance (ex. you are arrested again) there is no realistic way for anyone to find out about it unless you tell them.
Furthermore employers are not supposed to ask if you have a pardon. They can only ask if “you have ever been convicted of a crime for which you have not received a pardon?”
If the employer is following the rules then the answer is “no” whether or not you have a pardon.
What can employers see on my criminal record if I do not have a pardon?
An employer can see any arrest that resulted in a conviction. Employers cannot see non-convictions. Be advised that absolute and conditional discharges will be visible until they are purged from your record.
What can employers see on my criminal record if I do have a pardon?
If you have received a pardon, you do not have a criminal record. Any criminal record check by employers will come back clear.
What jobs are not available to someone with a criminal record?
Most jobs will be difficult to obtain if you have a criminal record. Getting hired in a position that involves working with anyone in the vulnerable sector (elderly, youth, disabled individuals) will likely not be possible.
Is a record suspension as good as a pardon?
Yes. The end result (a sealed criminal record) is the same whether you get a pardon or a record suspension. The government simply changed the name when they passed the new legislation (Bill C-10).
Can an employer fire me if I have received a pardon?
No. If the company is federally incorporated your employment cannot legally be terminated based on your previous criminal record.
However, it would be very difficult to prove that an employer had fired you for an illegitimate reason. Therefore we advise getting your pardon and not allowing an employer to know of the criminal record in the first place.
Can an employer fire me if I have a criminal record?
Yes, an employer can fire you for having a criminal record.
However, each province is different, with some provinces (BC, QC, YK, PEI) offering better protection against dismissals than others.
If you are not forthcoming about your criminal record, or it affects your job requirements, you can be terminated.
FAQ – Immigrating to Canada with a criminal record
I am not a Canadian citizen. Can I still get a pardon in Canada?
Yes. You do not need to be a Canadian citizen to obtain a pardon. However, if you currently reside in Canada, you must be able to prove your current immigration status here. Criminal convictions in other countries will also present a challenge to immigration procedures.
For more information:
How to overcome criminal convictions
I am applying to become a Canadian citizen, will my criminal record be a problem?
Your criminal record is taken into consideration when the decision is made regarding whether or not to grant you citizenship. It is always best to have a pardon before applying for citizenship, although it is not a requirement. We recommend speaking with an immigration lawyer about your eligibility. You cannot get citizenship in Canada if any of the following apply:
- have been convicted of an indictable (criminal) offence or an offence under the Citizenship Act in the three years before you apply
- are currently charged with an offence under the Citizenship Act
- are in prison, on parole or on probation
- are under a removal order (Canadian officials have ordered you to leave Canada)
I’m not a Canadian citizen but have a criminal record in Canada. Can I enter Canada?
You will need to apply for a pardon before being allowed to enter Canada. If you are not yet eligible for your pardon you may be required to apply for a Temporary Resident’s Permit.
I have a criminal record from another country, am I permitted to enter Canada?
In certain circumstances you may still be allowed to enter Canada. Different factors are taken into account when deciding whether or not to allow you entry. For example:
- the nature of the crime
- the amount of time that has passed since you finished your sentence
- if you have committed multiple crimes
- your likelihood of re-offending
At least five years must have passed since the end of your sentence, and you must be deemed rehabilitated (not at risk for reoffending).
You are NOT admissible to Canada if the crime committed outside of Canada carries a maximum prison term of over 10 years if the same crime had been committed within Canada.
*For more information visit Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s website or consult an immigration lawyer.
FAQ – Travelling with a criminal record
Can I get a passport if I have a criminal record?
Yes. Having a criminal record does NOT prevent you from getting a passport. There have been rumours circulating for several years claiming that a clear record will be a passport requirement but to date nothing along these lines has materialized.
Where can I travel with a criminal record?
You can travel anywhere in the world with a criminal record, except for the United States of America since the Americans are the only country with access to our criminal database (CPIC).
Some countries may require a Visa for travel. In this case a criminal background check may be part of the application process. Please confirm travel procedures ahead of time.
Each country has different policies in place regarding travel with a criminal record. Please confirm travel procedures ahead of time.
Be advised that no countries have access to your criminal record information except for the United States of America. Therefore, if the question of a criminal record comes up when arriving at foreign destinations it will be your choice what information to disclose.
Where am I NOT permitted to travel with a criminal record?
Legally you are required to obtain a waiver for travel to United States if you have a criminal record, although there are some crimes that the American government would consider an admissible offence.
What is considered an admissible offence?
Shoplifting and driving drunk are the only two charges that would say are consistently considered admissible offences. Keep in mind there can only be a single offence.
You should also be aware that a border guard will be within his rights to refuse you entry based on these charges.
Can I be arrested in a foreign country if I have a criminal record in Canada?
You can be detained by the United States government if you frequently try to enter the country with a criminal record, after previously having been denied entry and told you require a United States entry waiver.
You can be refused entry to a country based on your criminal record, or arrested if you try to enter a country fraudulently.
Having previously been arrested for something is not grounds for arrest in any country that we are aware of.
FAQ – Pardon services at the National Pardon Centre
How long has the National Pardon Centre been in business?
We’ve been operating since September of 2002.
Is the National Pardon Centre a law firm?
No, we are not a law firm. The National Pardon Centre is a non-profit organization founded by Michael Ashby and Nicole Levesque ito provide a cost-effective pardon and waiver service for Canadians.
Who runs the National Pardon Centre?
- Nicole Levesque and Michael Ashby are the principles behind the organization.Nicole:
514.842.2411 x 221Michael
514.842.2411 x 227Give us a call any time.
What sets you apart from other pardon and waiver companies?
- A+ BBB rating
- Multiple walk in centres
- RCMP dedicated fingerprinting technology
- Straight forward competitive pricing
- The best customer service in the business
In truth what really sets the National Pardon Centre apart is our team. Everyone is happy coming to work and we love what we do. You will not find someone here pushing a hard sell or giving you false and misleading information. It just isn’t what we do here because we like to help make lives better.
When you lead an industry it’s okay to run your business openly and honestly. We aren’t here to trick anyone. We aren’t pretending to be the government. We’re not promising things we can’t deliver. We’re just offering great service at a competitive price.
On the other hand, we aren’t saving lives either so we try not to take ourselves too seriously.
At the National Pardon Centre we believe in the service we provide and when you speak to a counsellor here you will sense that right away.
FAQ – DUI charge in Canada
Is a DUI a Criminal Offence in Canada?
Yes. If you are caught operating a vehicle in Canada you will be arrested and charged. This is likely to result in a summary conviction if there was no accident and no one was injured. However, if the circumstances of your arrest involved these things you can be charged with an indictable offence which could result on jail time.
Will a DUI show up on a background check?
Yes. Even if you were not found guilty a record of the arrest may turn up on a police or RCMP background check.
If you were found guilty and convicted the criminal record will appear on any background check until you complete – and are granted – your Canadian pardon application.
How long does a DUI stay on my criminal record?
As mentioned above the DUI charge will remain on your record until you take the necessary steps to have it removed. For a summary conviction the waiting period before you can apply for a pardon is 5 years. For an indictable conviction the waiting period is currently 10 years. Once the waiting period is passed you must apply to the Parole Board of Canada and receive a pardon in order to have the DUI charge removed from public file.
Can I still get a job with a DUI on my record?
Yes. However having a criminal record obviously makes it much more difficult to pursue a meaningful career. If you have a DUI on your record many employees will not consider you for the position unless you receive a pardon.
How long does it take to get a pardon after a DUI?
Once the 5 or 10 year waiting period is up you must go through the pardon application process which can take anywhere from 6 months to a year. We advise our clients to begin the pardon application prior to the ineligibility period expiring. We suggest getting your pardon application started at least 1 year in advance of your eligibility.
After I receive a pardon will employers see my DUI charge?
No. Employers cannot see the criminal record. When you do a criminal record check after receiving a pardon the results will be the same as if you had never been arrested in the first place.
What will appear on my driving record after a DUI charge?
This is dependent on the driving code in the province where you live.
Can I get insurance after a criminal record?
Yes. You can usually get insurance even if you have a criminal record. However, your premiums are likely to be much higher than if you had a clean driving abstract.
Can I enter the United States with a DUI on my record?
Normally yes. A single DUI offence on your record is considered an admissible offence in the United States. You should not need to process a US entry waiver if you have only the DUI charge showing.
Can I enter Canada if I have a DUI on my record?
Americans are not permitted to enter Canada with a DUI charge. You will be required to process special paperwork in order to be permitted to travel in Canada.
What other terms are used to describe a DUI charge in Canada?
A DUI can also commonly be referred to as a DWI, drinking and driving, driving under the influence, driving while intoxicated and many others.
Is a DUI charge a common charge in Canada?
Yes. Currently a DUI is the most common charge we handle at the National Pardon Centre.
What is a typical punishment for a DUI charge?
Most typically for a DUI you will be given a license suspension of 1 year in addition to a fine for a first time offence. For subsequent offences the sentence will normally be increased.