Passports are travel documents, but they aren't only used for travel in Canada. Many people use their passport as a form of picture ID for purchasing liquor, opening bank accounts or getting on a domestic flight. Not being able to qualify for a passport could make life very difficult, especially for those without a driver’s licence.
These days the majority of Canadians need passports to get into the United States. Most people with criminal records will not have any problem with that.
There are a few exceptions that might prevent a Canadian with a criminal record from getting a passport:
- You have been charged with an indictable offence and are waiting for trial either in Canada or abroad
- You are in custody or have been released from custody under provisions that prevent you from travelling
- You have an offence relating to forged passports or illegally procuring passports under Section 57 of the Criminal Code.
Otherwise, if you have completed your sentence or the charges were dropped or withdrawn, you are eligible for a passport.
However, once you obtain your passport, you must ensure that you are eligible to travel to the countries that you are interested in visiting.
Going to the United States with a criminal record
The United States does not bar all Canadians with criminal records. For example, you can enter if you have a DUI. However, they will bar people with drug convictions and “crimes of moral turpitude.” A crime of moral turpitude is a difficult concept to define, but it generally is related to intent. If you are not sure if you have a crime of moral turpitude on your record, contact us for a free consultation.
The United States does not recognize Canadian pardons or Record Suspensions. In order to travel to the United States with a criminal record, you need a US Entry Waiver.
Other countries have different rules about who they will let into the country. Sometimes these rules relate to the seriousness of the crime. Sometimes they will take into consideration how long it has been since the crime took place. Some will take into consideration a Canadian pardon or Record Suspension, while some will not.
If you want to reduce the risk of being turned away at the airport, you should consult with the consulate of the country you wish to visit.