There’s a special relationship in the US and Canada film industry. Cast and crew travel frequently between Toronto, Vancouver, New York and Los Angeles. Many popular US films and TV shows like Deadpool and Supergirl are shot in Canada and co-productions are frequent.

However, actors, producers, directors and crew aren’t immune to criminal records. Some famous actors with convictions are Tim Allen, Kiefer Sutherland, Matthew McConaughey, Christian Slater and Michelle Rodriguez.

Whether they want to travel to Canada or the United States to work on a film or just promote a completed film, cast and crew are often stopped at the border. The two countries don’t just share an enthusiasm for film; they also share criminal record databases.

Fortunately for many, both countries have procedures by which a person coming for short-term work can overcome their inadmissibility, at least temporarily.

These applications are requirements over and above the normal work permit process that every foreign worker on the production needs to complete.

Working in the US film industry with a criminal record

The biggest problem a Canadian wanting to work in the US with a criminal record will face is the lengthy application process. If you are working in the film industry in any capacity, you should apply for a US Entry Waiver before you get a request to travel south. The process of applying for a US Entry Waiver takes about a year.

Once you have a US Entry Waiver, you can start the renewal process before it expires. However, your first waiver will be challenging. You will need to collect many documents and submit them to the Department of Homeland Security, which will take about four to six months to process your request.

It often happens that a production will begin filming in Toronto or Vancouver and then return to Los Angeles. Due to time constraints or problems discovered later, it may become apparent that they need to reshoot a few scenes. They may ask Canadian cast and crew to fly to Los Angeles as soon as possible. As a film industry professional, you need to be prepared ahead of time for incidents like this.

Once the film production is over, you may be asked to promote it. There are many small and large film festivals all over the United States. A film doesn’t need a famous cast or huge budget to get screened. You could be invited to speak on panels or at workshops, or introduce the film at an event. Get a Waiver and keep it updated so that you can be ready for opportunities.

Working in Canada with a criminal record

Many Canadian provinces offer incentives to US productions to film in Canada. These incentives are very enticing to American companies. In fact, the Greater Vancouver Area surpassed $2 billion in industry production in 2015. Toronto and Montreal are also popular locations.

More and more production facilities are being built up north to encourage US productions to keep coming. If you are working in film or TV, chances are you will be offered a temporary position in Canada at some point.

There are three different options for US residents with criminal records who want to come to Canada to work, including in the film industry.

Temporary Resident Permit (TRP): This is a temporary permit that allows a person with a record to come to Canada for a specific purpose. A film production would qualify, but you would also need a work permit. Get started as soon as you are offered, because submitting at the Canadian Consulate will offer you a better chance of success than trying to submit your application at the border.

Criminal Rehabilitation: A Criminal Rehabilitation option is a permanent solution. You may be eligible to apply five years after completing your sentence. If you are eligible and plan to work on a lot of productions, it is worth it to apply. You will be able to cross the border without going through the hassle of the TRP application as long as you meet the other permit requirements to work in Canada.

Deemed Rehabilitation: If it has been more than 10 years since your sentence, you may be deemed rehabilitated. However, you may need to have your documents, such as court records, to prove it.

Canada also has a number of internationally known festivals where you may be asked to promote the film, such as Toronto, Vancouver, Banff and Whistler.

Most crimes will make you inadmissible to Canada with the exception of possession of small amounts of marijuana, disturbing the peace or anything that does not actually appear in the Canadian Criminal Code.

Getting started

Production companies will usually help their workers apply for a work permit, but unless you are a huge star, don’t expect them to know about your criminal record or want to help you overcome your inadmissibility. It’s better to take care of your inadmissibility by getting a waiver if possible. The exception is the Temporary Resident Permit. You may have to wait for a job offer before you apply because this will make your application more compelling.

If you want to clear your inadmissibility so that you can take advantage of all the opportunities that come your way, contact us today for a free consultation at 1-866-972-7366.