Updated October 13, 2021


Having a Criminal Record can hold you back as both a passenger on an airline and as an employee of an airline. As a passenger, a Criminal Record may deem you inadmissible to enter Canada or America. As an airline employee a Criminal Record may not only deem you inadmissible to enter Canada or America but also ineligible for the job. However, there are steps you can take in order to not let your Criminal Record hold you back.


Do airline passengers get background checks?

The passing of Bill C-42 in 2011 changed Canada’s Aeronautics Act. The passing of this Bill means that the US now has access to Canadian data which allows them to view passenger information regarding who is flying over American airspace, even if the flight does not intend to land in America. This information includes the names, gender and date of birth of all passengers onboard the flight. This information must be given to the Department of Homeland Security 72 hours before the flight leaves Canada. This is most likely to affect people that are flagged on the no fly list, however the decision about who will be allowed to fly into US’s airspace is at the discretion of the Department of Homeland Security. As a result of this a passenger may not even be allowed to board the flight in Canada. If you are allowed to board but the plane announces it must make an emergency stop in the US a whole new set of problems may arise.

Airlines are not required to conduct criminal background checks on all passengers. Airlines lack police authority. If a screening is conducted, it is done at the direction of the TSA. It will rely on the Transportation Security Administration’s identity identification and risk assessment (TSA). The TSA conducts pre-boarding screenings of passengers utilizing government and private databases that contain personal information. The TSA utilities the information to determine a passenger’s risk level.

Two government agencies are subject to airport background checks: the Transportation Security Administration and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
When an airline performs a background check on a passenger, the results must comply with TSA and FAA regulations.

There are several reasons that a flight may need to land in the US, even if it is not the final holiday destination. A long-haul flight may need to refuel or transfer passengers to a different flight. A flight may also need an emergency repair or to change flight crew. If this happens you may be detained and sent back to Canada. In order to avoid this happening and to be able to enjoy your holiday with peace of mind it is important to apply for a US Entry Waiver prior to your vacation.


Do airline employees have to get background checks?

Getting hired by a major commercial airline is very competitive. You will be up against people with clean records who have the same or better qualifications as you. Even if your record is unrelated to the job, it could still prevent you from getting hired. Some types of records, such as drug trafficking, DUI and dangerous driving may be considered particularly relevant to your application.

An airline job application is typically lengthy and involved. It requests information in a variety of areas, including:

  • Personal information;
  • Employment information;
  • Education;
  • Previous employment;
  • Military background or criminal convictions;
  • Three professional references.

Most background checks at an airline involve the preceding 10 years of employment. The check will include, but not be limited to:

  • FBI fingerprints;
  • Background on work history;
  • Driving record;
  • Drug usage;
  • Credit check.

Before securing employment with an airline a background check will be carried out on potential employees. An airline employee is in a position of authority and is responsible for the safety of others, therefore the employer will want to ensure the potential candidate is a good fit for the job. In addition to this, airline employees will have unaccompanied access to certain areas of the airport that are off-limits to other people. Both onboard the flight and in these areas safety is critical and a Criminal Record check will allow airlines to see if potential employees have any convictions which will deem them a security risk.

Airplane on tarmac

In Canada the Transportation Security Clearance Program is in place to ensure clearance is not granted to an individual that is a security risk. A background check is carried out and information held by the RCMP, Immigration, Refugees and Citizen Canadian and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service will be accessed. As part of this check you will be required to give your fingerprints so the airline can carry out a certified criminal record check. A certified criminal record is a copy of your criminal record stored in the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) database. This will show all criminal charges and includes youth charges, withdrawn charges and dismissed charges. If you are based in Canada and want to become an airline employee you should apply for a Record Suspension. This will seal the criminal record stored in the CPIC and make it easier for you to pass the background check and secure employment. However, to enter the US or to pass security clearance at US airports a Record Suspension will not suffice. The reasoning for this is that the US does not recognize Canadian Record Suspensions. Therefore it is important to ensure you also apply for a US Entry Waiver. Once granted by the Department of Homeland Security this will guarantee your entry into the US.

In America in 2015 the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) updated its background check requirements following a security breach. The new policies made fingerprint based criminal record checks mandatory for airline workers. To increase your chances of securing employment it is a good idea to apply for an expungement in the US, this will also seal your criminal record. However, it is important to note that even with an expungement some charges will deem you eligible to work with an airline in the US and are known as “disqualifying crimes.” These crimes include murder, destruction of an aircraft and armed robbery. However, other crimes that may appear on your record may not disqualify you from securing the job. Similarly to the US not recognizing Record Suspensions, Canada does not recognize expungements and therefore to guarantee entry to Canada you should apply for a Canadian Entry Waiver. There are two different types of Entry Waivers for Canada, a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP) or Criminal Rehabilitation. A TRP can be issued for up to three years with multiple entries allowed. If you’ll need repeat visits to Canada a more permanent option is Criminal Rehabilitation. This application can be made five years from the completion of your sentence and the waiver, once granted, allows lifetime entry to Canada.

Due to airline and federal requirements, job applicants ordinarily go through a unique federal 10-year background investigation. During this investigation, they will look at a job applicant’s criminal background including felonies, misdemeanours, and DUI convictions. Making false representations on an airline employment background investigation will result in a denial of employment and prosecution under the law. Anyone caught making misrepresentations on an airline employment background investigation is generally banned from any further employment opportunities with any airline.

To get started with your Record Suspension, Canadian Entry Waiver or US Entry Waiver application today contact us for a free consultation on +1 866 972 7366 and allow us to help you travel with confidence.