Expungements, Pardons and Inadmissibility

Meurrens LawInadmissibility

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


As noted in IRCC’s 2021 United States Criminality Assessment Guide (the “IRCC NY Guide“), in reviewing a rehabilitation application that includes an expungement or other permanent relief mechanism, it is recommended that a thorough review be conducted to determine whether the relief issued by the individual state equates to the conditions of a record suspension in Canada.

Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration) v. Saini, [2001] F.C.J. No. 1577 is the leading case in relation to the recognition of foreign pardons. There, the Federal Court of Canada created a three pronged test to establish whether Canadian law will recognize a foreign pardon or expungement. The test is:

  1. The foreign legal system as a whole must be similar to the Canadian one; 
  2. The content, aim and effect of the foreign law in question must be similar to the Canadian law; and
  3. No other valid reason exists that would compel Canadian authorities not to recognize the effects of the foreign law.  

According to the IRCC NY Guide, IRCC has determined that the United States possesses legal traditions that reflect Canada’s system.

The Guide also contains the following specific opinions about whether IRCC recognizes expungements from California, Florida, Illinois, Michican, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin. The Guide also notes that a Presidential pardon has no effect on Canadian inadmissibility, and that charges and convictions on record are to be assessed and equated to offences under an Act of Parliament as per usual.



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