Pilot careers: Can you fly with a criminal record?

If you want to become a pilot with a criminal record, there are ways your past could hold you back:

  1. Getting a clearance to work in secure areas of the airport and aircraft.
  2. Getting a job offer.
  3. Travelling to other countries.

Security clearance

Generally, a person working unaccompanied in certain areas of an airport will need to be able to pass a background screening. This will generally involve a fingerprint-based search of the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) database, and could also include local police checks.

The US will also prevent people with certain types of serious crimes from working in secure areas. These could include crimes of moral turpitude and any conviction related to air safety, such as interference or unlawful entry of an aircraft.

Getting a job offer

Plane in snowy areaGetting 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.

However, there are areas of Canada where finding pilots isn’t easy. Working in the north could be an option for a person with a criminal record. If you still have dreams of flying for a major airline, working in the north will help you build experience, put time between yourself and the conviction and obtain a Record Suspension. Many northern airlines struggle with finding qualified pilots and are more likely to overlook an unrelated criminal record. You may still have problems with security screening depending on the airport.

You may also be able to offer chartered flights in your own aircraft while you wait for the opportunity to seal your record.

Travelling to other countries

Major airlines fly to numerous destinations. A pilot who can only fly domestically will be limited in his or her career and may not be hired in the first place.

There are many different types of charges that can stop you from crossing the border. Canada is notoriously strict with most convictions considered inadmissible. However, after 10 years you can become admissible for most minor offences.

The US has no time limit on barring people with criminal offences, but will let in people with more types of convictions. For instance, a DUI won’t make you inadmissible to the United States, but it will bar you from Canada.

Other countries have their own requirements.

How can you become a pilot with a criminal record?

Man studyingIf you are in Canada, you should apply for a pardon (Record Suspension). This will seal your record and make it easier for you to pass security clearance and get a job. It’s not a guarantee; however, as non-conviction information, provincial driving offences and driver’s abstracts may also be taken into consideration.

As well, a pardon will not allow you to enter the US or pass the security clearance required at US airports. To enter the US, you should apply for a US Entry Waiver. This is a temporary permit that is valid up to five years and can be renewed.

If you are in the United States, you may be able to expunge a misdemeanor. However, getting past security clearance with certain types of felonies may be difficult.

To enter Canada, you can apply for a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP), which will allow you to enter for a specific purpose. After five years, you are usually eligible for a permanent solution, which is called Criminal Rehabilitation. You may also need to present a police certificate to work out of Canadian international airports.

If you want to become a pilot, taking all possible steps to seal your record is recommended. Contact us for a free consultation on your particular situation at 1-866-972-7366.

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