Crimes and Tickets

Impact of a Criminal Record


You have a criminal record and are wondering what impact it’ll have on your life? This article explains how a criminal record can affect these areas of your life:

  • work
  • insurance
  • rental housing
  • immigration to Canada
  • travel, especially to the United States

Work: possible negative effects

Usually, an employer can’t fire you, refuse to hire you or put you at a disadvantage because of your criminal record if

For example, a history of fraud or theft could prevent you from working as an attendant in a seniors’ residence. But a history of spousal abuse has no relation with working in a large store. It’s the relationship between the job and the crime that matters, even if the crime is serious.

It can be risky to lie to an employer about your criminal past. It’s best to be honest, and if an employer discriminates against you for being honest, you can file a complaint. You can also file a complaint if you think an employer doesn’t have a good reason to question you about your criminal past.

If you received a discharge, you can honestly say you were not convicted. But you can’t say you were not found guilty. They are two different things.

An employer can ask you for a certificate of good conduct before hiring you. Your criminal past should not appear on this document if you got a

Important! Stricter rules apply for work with vulnerable people or children. An employer can ask you for permission to do a criminal background check. Criminal records that were suspended could show up on the background check. This could happen for some sexual offences. To learn more, consult a lawyer or the RCMP website.

Landlords can refuse to rent to people with criminal records.

The law doesn’t protect against discrimination based on having a criminal record when it comes to rental housing. So, a landlord can refuse to rent you an apartment if you have a criminal record.
Insurers can refuse to insure people with criminal records.

An insurer can refuse to insure you if you have a criminal record.

An insurer can even consider your criminal record when evaluating the risk of insuring you. It might charge more for the insurance or give you less coverage if it considers that your criminal record is an important factor.

It’s a good idea to tell your insurer about your criminal record. If not, the insurer can cancel your insurance and even refuse to pay if you make a claim. Even after you get insurance, you must still tell your insurer about your criminal record while the policy lasts.

If you have trouble getting insurance, the information centre of the Insurance Bureau of Canada can help you: 1-877-288-4321.

A criminal record can prevent you from immigrating to Canada.

A criminal record can prevent you from getting Canadian citizenship or permanent resident status. In some situations, it can even prevent you from sponsoring someone.

Getting a suspension of your criminal record can help. Consult a lawyer to learn more.

A criminal record could prevent you from entering another country.

Every country has its own rules about who it will allow to enter. Some countries prevent people with a criminal record from entering. To find out whether you can enter a country you’d like to visit, see the Travel Advice and Advisories page of the Canadian government website. You can also contact the Canadian government office in the country you want to visit.

Travelling to the United States

American immigration laws are strict for people found guilty of a crime. U.S. border agents are free to decide whether to let in someone with a criminal record.

Some crimes can prevent you from entering the United States, even for a stopover at an airport. It’s especially difficult to enter the United States with a history of drug-related offences. The rules and exceptions are complex, so it’s a good idea to consult a lawyer if you have a criminal record and want to travel to or through the United States.

Getting a discharge doesn’t automatically let you enter the United States. Before crossing the border, you must wait some time before your record is sealed.

A suspension of a criminal record (pardon) in Canada is not recognized in the United States and doesn’t erase information in American databases. So entry to the United States is not guaranteed.

In some situations, you can get a special document called a waiver to enter the United States with a criminal record. There are fees to pay and the process takes time.

A lawyer can help you get a waiver, or you can contact Alter Justice, an organization that can answers general questions about waivers and criminal records free of charge. Service in English may vary.

Important! A waiver is not a pass or general permission to enter the United States. It does not guarantee you will be allowed into the United States. Border agents can refuse you entry based on other rules or the discretion US law gives them.