Canada Security Clearances

Last updated: 1 July 2021

canadian security clearances for immigration police certificate

Each applicant for a Canada Immigration (Permanent Resident) Visa, aged 18 or over, will undergo a Security Clearance to prove that he or she is not criminally inadmissible.

Police Clearance Certificates or certificates of non-criminal activity, as they are sometimes referred to, must be obtained from the country of current residence and from each country in which the applicant has resided for more than six months since his or her 18th birthday.

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Overview

Police Clearance Certificates can usually can be obtained through law enforcement offices or other government agencies. In extenuating circumstances, Canadian Immigration Visa Offices will waive the requirement to submit Police Clearance Certificates.

In general, applicants and, if applicable, all family members who are 18 years of age or older need to get a police certificate. These certificates must be obtained from each country or territory where the individuals has lived for six or more months in a row since the age of 18.

For the country the individual currently lives in, the police certificate must be issued no more than six months before you apply.

For countries where the individual has lived for six months or more, the police certificate must be issued after the last time you lived in that country.

If your certificate is in a language other than English or French, it must be sent along with the original copy of a translation done by a certified translator.

All applicants for Canada immigration must also undergo a background clearance to weed out those who have been, or are involved in, espionage, subversion, or terrorism. This is to ensure that the safety and order of Canadian society are maintained and protected. Such security screening decisions are made based on information from every available source, which is then carefully weighed to determine whether an applicant is likely to threaten the internal security of Canada. When there is an indication of security concerns, an interview will be scheduled to discuss these findings with the applicant. Anyone who poses such a threat must necessarily be prevented from entering Canada.

Please note that there is a clear distinction between the Police Clearance Certificate, which the applicant is required to obtain, and the background clearance, in which the applicant for the most part is not actively involved.

Frequently Asked Questions

All applicants for Canada Immigration (Permanent Resident) Visas, 18 years of age and older, may need to submit a Police Certificate from each country in which they have resided as part of the security clearance process. Police Certificates may go by different names in different countries. They are official documents that indicate any prior criminal activity. If officials in a particular country refuse to issue a Police Certificate, it would be helpful if you could obtain a written statement from them confirming that they refused to issue the certificate.

This depends on the category of Canada immigration under which you are applying and the Canadian Immigration Visa Office to which your application is being submitted. Police Certificates are only valid for a limited period of time. For more detailed information, you should seek expert advice or get instructions from the Canadian Immigration Visa Office where you will submit your application.

It depends upon the country from which you require a Police Clearance Certificate. View detailed instructions on how to obtain a Police Clearance Certificate from each country.

If a Police Certificate is not forthcoming from a particular country, a written statement from the police officials of the country confirming their refusal to issue the certificate may be required. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) may even waive this requirement altogether if a clear obstacle can be demonstrated. Applicants should assume that certificates must be obtained.

A background clearance detects applicants who "are, or have been, involved in espionage, subversion, or terrorism." It is separate from and in addition to a Police Certificate. The background clearance is conducted by the Canadian government without the participation of the applicant.

Individuals wishing to enter Canada, either permanently or temporarily as visitors, foreign workers or international students, may be denied entry if they or their dependents are deemed criminally inadmissible.

A person may be considered inadmissible on the grounds of either:

Criminality is:

Within Canada:

  • A conviction of an indictable offence punishable by a sentence of less than ten years; or
  • A conviction of two or more summary offences

Outside Canada:

  • A conviction of an act that, if committed in Canada, would be equivalent to an indictable offence punishable by a sentence of less than ten years; or
  • A conviction of two or more acts that, if committed in Canada, would be equivalent to summary offences;
  • A conviction of an act that, if committed in Canada, would be equivalent to a hybrid offence punishable by a sentence of less than ten years; or
  • The commission of an act that, if committed in Canada, would be equivalent to an indictable offence punishable by a sentence of less than ten years.

Serious criminality is:

Within Canada:

  • A conviction of an act punishable by a maximum sentence of at least ten years; or
  • A conviction that has led to a prison term of at least six months.

Outside Canada:

  • A conviction of an act that, if committed in Canada, would be equivalent to an indictable offence punishable by a maximum sentence of at least ten years; or
  • A conviction of an act that, if committed in Canada, would be equivalent to a hybrid offence punishable by a maximum sentence of at least ten years; or
  • The commission of an act that, if committed in Canada, would be equivalent to an indictable offence punishable by a maximum sentence of at least ten years.

A hybrid offence is an offence that may be prosecuted in Canada either by way of indictment or summary conviction. A conviction for an act outside Canada that is equivalent to a hybrid offence in Canada will be considered an indictable offence for Canada immigration purposes. Even if the conviction was a summary conviction in the location where it occurred, it will still be considered an indictable offence by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) as long as the offence is equivalent to a hybrid offence in Canada.

If you are otherwise qualified but are criminally inadmissible, you may be allowed to enter Canada if IRCC considers you criminally rehabilitated under either:

Persons who are inadmissible on grounds of criminality may still be permitted to enter Canada if they qualify for deemed rehabilitation.

Persons qualify for deemed rehabilitation if they have:

  • Been convicted outside Canada of an act that, if committed in Canada, would be equivalent to an indictable offence punishable by a sentence of less than ten years, and they meet the following requirements:
    • Ten years have elapsed since the completion of their sentence;
    • They have not been convicted of any indictable offence or summary offence in Canada in the last ten years, or more than one summary conviction in the ten years before that; and
    • They have not been convicted outside Canada of an offence in the last ten years that, if committed in Canada, would constitute an indictable offence, or of more than one summary conviction in the ten years before that.

OR

  • Been convicted outside Canada of two or more acts that, if committed in Canada, would be equivalent to summary offences, and they meet the following requirements:
    • Five years have elapsed since the completion of their sentences;
    • They have not been convicted of any indictable offence or summary offence in Canada in the last five years, or more than one summary conviction in the five years before that; and
    • They have not been convicted outside Canada of an offence in the last five years that, if committed in Canada, would constitute an indictable offence, or of more than one summary conviction in the five years before that.

OR

  • Committed an act outside Canada that, if committed in Canada, would be equivalent to an indictable offence punishable by a sentence of less than ten years, and they meet the following requirements:
    • Ten years have elapsed since the completion of their sentence;
    • They have not been convicted of any indictable offence or summary offence in Canada in the last ten years, or more than one summary conviction in the ten years before that; and
    • They have not been convicted outside Canada of an offence in the last ten years that, if committed in Canada, would constitute an indictable offence, or of more than one summary conviction in the ten years before that.

Persons who are inadmissible on grounds of serious criminality cannot qualify for deemed rehabilitation; that is, simple passage of time after the completion of their sentence does not alone qualify them for rehabilitated status.

However, persons who fall under the serious criminality classification, as well as others who do not qualify for deemed rehabilitation, may still qualify under the individual rehabilitation category.

To qualify for individual rehabilitation, the person must:

  • Wait five years after the completion of their sentence before applying; and
  • Demonstrate that they have been rehabilitated and are no longer a risk for criminal activity. This may require demonstrating:
    • A stable lifestyle
    • Community ties
    • Social and vocational skills
    • That the criminal offence was an isolated event

Yes. If the applicable rehabilitation requirements have not been met, but an otherwise criminally inadmissible person has a pressing need to enter Canada, a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP) may be granted. A TRP will only be granted if the danger to the Canadian public is outweighed by the criminally inadmissible person's need to be in Canada. Therefore, both the seriousness of the person's prior offence(s) and the legitimate urgency of their need to enter Canada (such as visiting a dying relative) will factor into the decision.

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