Foreign record suspensions and Canadian admissibility

foreign record suspension and inadmissibility to Canada

Fiona, an Irish citizen, has always dreamed of living in Canada. She’s particularly excited about a job opportunity in Vancouver and is gathering all the required documents for her Canadian work permit application. However, one concern keeps nagging at her: her “Spent Convictions” from Ireland, a form of foreign record suspension. Irish law has cleared Fiona’s convictions. Still, she’s unsure about Canadian immigration rules. She wonders if her foreign record suspension will affect her Canadian admissibility. She also considers steps to tackle potential issues.

Understanding Record Suspensions in Canada

A record suspension in Canada means despite a criminal record, it won’t appear on a person’s police certificate. Of course, a record suspension is not the same as an acquittal. In other words, the person still has a record, but the authorities seal that record to reflect their rehabilitation. If you are not familiar with this concept, please consider reading my other article on this subject:

Foreign record suspensions

Other countries offer similar remedies to those who believe they are rehabilitated. Here are some examples. However, remember that this list is not a legal guideline. I have prepared it for information only. Moreover, I show the common current phrases and past phrases used in each jurisdiction.

United States

  • Current: They widely use Expungement and Certificates of Rehabilitation. However, you may also encounter these terms at the State level.
    • Certificate of Relief from Disabilities
    • Certificate of Good Conduct
    • Expunction
    • Order of Non-Disclosure
    • Sealing of Record
    • Limited Access Order
    • Set-aside
    • Record Restriction
    • Certificate of Relief
    • Criminal Record Sealing
  • Past: They used other terms like “setting aside a conviction” or “annulment of conviction.” Some states continue to use these older terms depending on the legal process.

United Kingdom

  • Current: Spent Convictions and Sealing of Records are common.
  • Past: King’s/Queen’s Pardon


  • Current: Spent Convictions is the prevalent term.
  • Past: Good Behaviour Bond and Discharge

New Zealand

  • Current: Clean Slate is the standard term since the Clean Slate Act 2004.
  • Past: Before the Act, individual expungement requests were the norm.


  • Current: Spent Convictions are governed by the Spent Convictions Act.
  • Past: The Presidential Pardon was a rare but long-standing procedure.

South Africa

  • Current: Expungement of a Criminal Record is the current term.
  • Past: They used various terms during the Apartheid era, such as Indemnity.


  • Current: Expungement is the standard term.
  • Past: No widely recognized past terms.


  • Current: Criminal Rehabilitation (刑事痊愈) is the common term.
  • Past: No commonly known past terms.

The Philippines

  • Current: Expungement and Judicial Clemency are common.
  • Past: No commonly known past terms.


  • Current: Cancellation of Criminal Records (Cancelación de Antecedentes Penales) is the formal term.
  • Past: No widely recognized past terms.


  • Current: Removal of Disqualification is the common term.
  • Past: No commonly known past terms.


  • Current: Removal of Convictions (حذف سوابق)
  • Past: Judicial Pardon (عفو قضایی)


  • Current: Expungement is the standard term.
  • Past: No widely recognized past terms.


  • Current: Rehabilitation of Criminal Record (تأهيل السجل الجنائي) is the term used.
  • Past: No commonly known past terms.


  • Current: Criminal Rehabilitation (تصحیح جرم)
  • Past: No commonly known past terms.

Criminal inadmissibility in Canada

A criminal history in other countries could affect a person’s admissibility to Canada. However, you sometimes can resolve the inadmissibility issue because you are deemed rehabilitated. Alternatively, you could apply for rehabilitation in certain circumstances. The following articles explain these concepts in detail.

Rehabilitation means you are not inadmissible to Canada despite a previous conviction or charges elsewhere.

Is a foreign record suspension the same as rehabilitation?

The simple answer to this question is no. A foreign criminal offence could make a person inadmissible to Canada even if they receive a record suspension or its equivalent in their jurisdiction. However, clearing your record could help your rehabilitation or TRP applications. Especially, receiving a record suspension from a jurisdiction with a similar legal system and values to Canada is very helpful. You must understand that resolving inadmissibility is complicated and you cannot see it in black or white. However, any indication of rehabilitation could assist.

Note to practitioners

The immigration officers heavily rely on Saini v. Canada for foreign pardons and record suspensions. Consequently, they consider the following in assessing the effectiveness of those pardons:

  • How similar their legal system is to Canada
  • The specific law is similar in aim, content, and effect to its equivalent in Canada.
  • There are no valid reasons not to consider the foreign law.

Again, there is no guarantee officers respect the foreign record suspensions.

A foreign record suspension means my police certificate is clean. Do I still need to report my criminal history?

A criminal history is a material fact for every immigration decision-maker. Hiding it is perceived as misrepresentation. Therefore, you should refrain from not disclosing your history. You act in good faith if you disclose the criminal history despite a suspension of foreign records. Consequently, the officers will likely look at your application favourably. However, if you hide the information and they find out, you could face a five-year ban from Canada. In extreme cases, you may even face criminal charges in Canada because of misrepresentation.

Let us help!

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    Al Parsai

    This article has been expertly crafted by Al Parsai, a distinguished Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant (L3 RCIC-IRB – Unrestricted Practice) hailing from vibrant Toronto, Canada. Al's academic achievements include an esteemed role as an adjunct professor at prestigious Queen's University Law School and Ashton College, as well as a Master of Laws (LLM) degree from York University. A respected member of CICC and CAPIC organizations, Al's insights are further enriched by his experience as the dynamic CEO of Parsai Immigration Services. Guiding thousands of applicants from over 55 countries through the immigration process since 2011, Al's articles offer a wealth of invaluable knowledge for readers.