Do I Need a Criminal Record Check to Work in Canada?

April 9, 2024


  • Sinethemba Phongolo

While looking for an opportunity to work in Canada, prospective job seekers often wonder about the necessity of a criminal record check. This vital aspect of the hiring process can vary depending on the nature of the job and the industry.

For instance, positions involving vulnerable populations, such as healthcare or childcare, or those with access to sensitive information, like finance or law enforcement, may require a thorough criminal record check in Canada. On the other hand, jobs in retail or hospitality may be available to most workers with limited or no background checks, depending on the Canadian employer. Understanding the requirements and implications of a criminal record check in Canada is essential if you want to work in the country.

Uncover the vital details regarding the necessity of a criminal record check in Canada for employment and its role in various industries and job applications.

Do I Need a Criminal Record Check to Work in Canada?

Yes and no. Yes, because having a criminal record in Canada can impact your ability to find employment in certain industries. Criminal record checks are commonplace for most jobs, and some employers may not consider applicants with one. This is especially applicable for positions that involve working with vulnerable populations or handling sensitive information.

Industries that require a criminal record check for employment include:

These industries often work with vulnerable populations or handle sensitive information, making a criminal record check essential for ensuring the safety of employees, customers, and the public. If you have a criminal record, finding employment in industries that require a criminal record check may be more challenging.

No, because even if most Canadian employers request a criminal background check as part of their application process for prospective immigrant workers, some employers may consider applicants with a criminal record if they provide additional information on their record before making a decision. It is also worth noting that some offenses may not be eligible for a pardon or record suspension, meaning they will still appear on law enforcement queries.

To summarize, having a criminal record can impact your ability to find employment in Canada, particularly in industries that work with vulnerable populations or handle sensitive information. Criminal record checks are a key part of ensuring the safety of employees, customers, and the public, and employers in certain industries are more likely to request them than others.

If you have a criminal record, it is essential to be aware of the potential impact on your job prospects and to consider seeking legal advice, if necessary. Here are ways you can be deemed criminally admissible to Canada if you have a criminal record.

Criminal Inadmissibility to Canada

Criminal inadmissibility to Canada is a system that can prevent individuals with certain criminal backgrounds from entering or remaining in Canada. Criminal inadmissibility to Canada means you are not allowed to gain entry into Canada. A Canadian immigration officer will decide if you can enter Canada when you apply for a Canadian visa or an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) or arrive at one of Canada’s ports of entry.

There are different reasons immigration Refugees & Citizenship (IRCC) may not let you into Canada, and having a criminal record is among them. This system of criminal inadmissibility applies to both foreign nationals and Canadian citizens who have committed crimes in Canada or abroad and includes the following reasons for inadmissibility.

State Security Reasons

The Canadian government prioritizes national security. If an individual's presence in Canada is deemed a national security or public safety risk, they may be found inadmissible under this category. Examples include:


Spying on behalf of a foreign power or engaging in activities that threaten sensitive Canadian information can lead to inadmissibility.


Individuals associated with or suspected of involvement in terrorist activities can be denied entry or removed from Canada.

Other Threats

Activities deemed detrimental to Canada's national security, such as weapons proliferation or foreign interference in elections, can also be grounds for inadmissibility.

Human or International Rights Violations

Canada strongly advocates human rights and international peace. Individuals who have committed serious violations of these principles can be deemed inadmissible. Here is a closer look at the types of offenses that can fall under this category:

  • Genocide, Crimes Against Humanity, and War Crimes: Participation in acts of genocide, crimes against humanity, or war crimes will lead to inadmissibility,
  • Serious Human Rights Violations: Gross violations of human rights, such as torture, slavery, or extrajudicial killings, can also result in inadmissibility, and
  • Breaches of International Peace and Security: Activities that threaten international peace and security, such as terrorism or piracy, can make an individual inadmissible.

Committing a Crime

Canada considers individuals convicted of serious crimes to be inadmissible. The definition of "serious criminality" hinges on the severity of the offense and the potential threat it poses to Canadian society. Here is a breakdown of the critical aspects.

Maximum Sentence Threshold

Generally, crimes punishable by a maximum sentence of ten years or more in Canada are considered severe. This includes offenses like:

  • Murder,
  • Manslaughter,
  • Aggravated assault,
  • Sexual assault, and
  • Large-scale drug trafficking.

Foreign Offenses

Being convicted of a serious crime outside Canada can also lead to inadmissibility. The Canadian immigration authorities will assess the seriousness of the foreign offense based on the punishment equivalent to that in Canada.

Multiple Offenses

Even if individual offenses are considered minor, a pattern of convictions can lead to inadmissibility if the cumulative effect is deemed a threat to public safety.

Learn everything you need to know about the crime rate in Canada.

Organized Crime

Canada has zero tolerance for organized crime and its detrimental societal impact. Involvement with organized criminal organizations can render an individual inadmissible, regardless of their specific role or level of participation. This includes:

  • Membership: Being a member of a known or suspected organized crime group can lead to inadmissibility,
  • Financing: Providing financial support or resources to organized crime activities can also be grounds for inadmissibility, and
  • Activities: Any activity that supports or benefits organized crime, even indirectly, can trigger inadmissibility concerns.

How Can I Overcome a Criminal Record Check to Work in Canada?

There are e various ways to pass a Canadian criminal record check, overcome criminal inadmissibility, and increase your chances of securing a job in Canada.

Deemed Rehabilitation

Over time, you may be considered "deemed rehabilitated" by Canadian immigration authorities, automatically removing the inadmissibility barrier. The waiting period for deemed rehabilitation varies depending on the severity of the offense. Generally, it's ten years for serious crimes, punishable by a maximum sentence of ten years or more in Canada, and five years for lesser offenses.

Individual Rehabilitation

Individual rehabilitation means that you are not likely to commit new crimes. This formal process allows you to apply to have your criminal record sealed. A successful application removes limitations associated with your record, potentially improving your chances of passing a criminal record check. To apply for individual rehabilitation, you must:

  • Have been rehabilitated,
  • Be unlikely to commit further crimes, and
  • Five years must have passed since the end of your criminal sentence and the day you committed the act that made you inadmissible(including probation).

The Minister or the delegate assigned to your case will decide whether or not to grant you individual rehabilitation.

Record Suspension or Discharge

If you were convicted in Canada and plan to apply for a record suspension, check with the Parole Board of Canada. If you get a Canadian record suspension, you will no longer be deemed inadmissible to Canada.

Temporary Resident Permit

In specific situations, you can apply for a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP), which allows temporary entry and work authorization in Canada - even with a criminal record. This option might be suitable for individuals with compelling reasons to enter Canada, such as a job offer with significant economic benefit to the country or reuniting with close family members. Temporary Resident Permits are temporary and require justification for each renewal. They are not a guaranteed pathway to permanent residence.

Learn which Canadian Temporary Resident Visa is suitable for you.

What Are the Criminal Record Checks to Work in Canada?

In Canada, securing employment often involves undergoing a criminal record check. This process verifies your criminal history and helps employers assess potential risks. Understanding the different types of checks and how to prepare for them can empower you to navigate this process smoothly. Canada maintains two main categories of criminal records.

Summary Conviction Offenses

These are considered less serious offenses punishable by a maximum sentence of less than two years in prison.

Indictable Offenses

These are more serious crimes punishable by a sentence of two years or more in prison, according to the Canadian government's Criminal Records Act.

The nature of your criminal record, including the type of offense, sentence imposed, and time elapsed, can influence the outcome of a criminal record check. The three most common types of criminal record checks in Canada:

Police Certificate (Clearance Certificate)

A police certificate is the most basic type of check and summarizes your criminal record, including indictable and summary offenses. It is typically requested for jobs with minimal risk, such as administrative or retail positions.

You can request a Police Certificate from the local police force where you have resided for the past six months or from the Canadian consulate/embassy if you have yet to live in Canada recently. Processing times vary, so plan.

Enhanced Police Information Check

An Enhanced Police Information Check has a more detailed investigation of your criminal history. It includes information from the Police Certificate and additional details like non-conviction information and judicial orders.

This check is typically required for positions involving positions of trust or vulnerability, such as working with children or financial institutions. An Enhanced Police Information Check requires fingerprints, which can be requested through a local police agency or a designated accredited agency. Processing times can take several months, so factor this into your job application timeline.

Vulnerable Sector Checks

This is the most comprehensive check and is reserved for high-risk positions involving vulnerable populations, such as childcare workers, healthcare professionals, and those working with seniors. Employers in these sectors are legally mandated to request a VSC.

Similar to an ECRC, a VSC requires fingerprints and can be requested through a local police agency or a designated accredited agency. Processing times can be lengthy, so plan accordingly.

How Can I Work in Canada?

You must have a Canadian work permit to work in Canada. There are several pathways to working in Canada, and the most suitable option depends on your qualifications, experience, and immigration goals. Here's a breakdown of how you can work in Canada, highlighted in the video below:


Do Criminal Record Checks Expire?

Criminal record checks are typically considered valid for a certain period, after which they may need to be renewed. The validity period can vary depending on factors such as the type of check and the requirements of the organization requesting it.

Are There Any Limitations on Conducting Criminal Record Checks in Canada?

While having a criminal record may not necessarily disqualify you from getting a job in Canada, it can potentially impact your employment prospects, mainly if the conviction is relevant to the position's duties or raises concerns about trustworthiness.

Can I Challenge the Results of a Criminal Record Check if They Are Incorrect?

Yes, there are limitations on conducting criminal record checks in Canada, governed by laws and regulations such as privacy legislation and human rights laws. Employers must ensure compliance with these regulations to protect the rights and privacy of job applicants.