Last updated on March 27th, 2021

Last Updated on March 27, 2021 by Steven Meurrens

A question that often gets asked is whether a United States pardon or expungement results in a person no longer being inadmissible to Canada. 


The following is an e-mail exchange between an immigration representative and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada regarding the immigration consequences of foreign expungements for individuals who otherwise may be inadmissible to Canada.

Please note that what I have reproduced below should not be viewed as legal advice.  The adaptation of the question and answer has not occurred with the affiliation of the Government of Canada, nor with the endorsement of the Government of Canada.

Question – May 7, 2013


My name is __________ and I am a Canadian Immigration Lawyer based in ______.

When Burke Thornton was the Program Manager in Buffalo he had confirmed with headquarters that the state of California expungment (under s. 1203.4) is equivalent to a full expungement in Canada. Could you kindly confirm that California’s expungement procedure (1203.4) which allows you to state to any private individual/institution that you were never convicted of an offence for which you received an expungement is equivalent to a Canadian pardon?

Thank you very much.

Answer – May 27, 2013

Good day and thank you for your question.

CIC assesses inadmissibility on a case by case basis.

In cases of a foreign expungement, a criminal equivalency is usually done to establish whether the foreign country’s legal system is based on similar foundations and values as Canada’s and to look at the circumstances under which the expungement was granted and if it can be accepted as mitigating circumstances in Canada.

An expungement in the State of California is not automatically an equivalent to a record suspension (formerly called “pardon”) in Canada. Getting a foreign pardon or expungement, is not an automatic equivalency to Canada’s system nor is it a “green light” to enter Canada. A proper assessment needs to take place. I hope that this answers your question and please do not hesitate to communicate with us should you have further questions.

It is also important that people understand the distinction between “sealed records” and “expungements.”  While IRCC generally deems expungements to not be a conviction, the sealing of an arrest record does not resolve an inadmissibility.  


IRCC’s Enforcement Manual 2 provides that a conviction does not exist if the person is granted a pardon in a foreign jurisdiction and the pardon is recognized as equivalent to a Canadian pardon.

Here is an internal IRCC e-mail about whether IRCC recognizes an Arizona pardon.

Arizona Pardon

Here is another IRCC internal manual about how it assesses foreign pardons.

IRCC Pardons