The term used by Canada Immigration for this document is the Police Certificate. But it goes by different names in the immigration sector – a police clearance, a police clearance certificate or PCC, a police check, a police report – they all mean the same thing.
The PCC will show any criminal charges you’ve had in the country. Or, even better, the report will confirm you have no criminal record in that country.
A PCC is needed for all Permanent Resident applications, and for citizenship. For applicants doing their own files, it is very easy to make a mistake with these, such as getting the wrong document. A mistake with a PCC means the file is not complete, meaning most likely it will be refused. This can cause many problems – especially if you are not eligible to re-apply. It’s critically important that every PCC you need is exactly as the IRCC website states.
What police certificates are needed?
You must provide a PCC from any country where you lived for 6 months or more in the past ten years, or since age 18 – whichever period is shorter. In addition, officers may request a PCC from any country where you lived for 6 months or more since turning 18. For example, your time in post-secondary education is listed on your forms, so officers may request a PCC from that country.
When applying for Canadian Citizenship, you need to submit a PCC from any country where you lived for 6 months or more in the 4 years before your Citizenship application.
Even though your PCC is valid, officers always have discretion to ask for a fresh police verification, and may do this when the case goes on for a long time.
Do I need a Canadian police clearance?
No. Canada Immigration will check with the RCMP directly about your history in Canada. In rare cases, you may be requested to provide a fingerprint-based RCMP certificate during the process, but a Canadian PCC is not submitted with your initial immigration package.
How old can my police certificate be when I submit my application for a Canada visa?
The acceptable age for your PCC depends on your own location when you submit your application.
If you are living in the country that issued the PCC, then the PCC must be less than 6 months old when you file it.
If you are living outside of the country that issued the PCC, as long as the PCC was issued after you last lived in the country, it will not expire. You can use the PCC regardless, since your address details will show you have not lived in that country since.
You should check the processing time for any PCC applications you need, and use that as a guide to order one that will not arrive too early or too late.
How do I know that I have the right certificate?
Canada Immigration gives precise instructions for the PCC needed from every country. Check their website for any PCC you need to obtain. Carefully review the exact name of the PCC document needed and other details for that country. Some countries, like Italy, have more than one PCC required.
What format do I use to submit my police certificate?
For an application online, the applicant must upload a colour scan of their PCC with their documents.
For a paper application, the original PCC is sent with the package. If the PCC was issued electronically, you can print a color copy, front and back, of the PCC to include.
Does my police certificate need translation?
Yes, if the original PCC is not in English or French, you need a certified translation. (Note: Canada Immigration has other detailed rules for acceptable translations).
What happens if I cannot obtain the police certificate?
In rare cases, an applicant is unable to get the necessary PCC. Perhaps the country will not issue one to the applicant, or the process to obtain the PCC is so onerous and expensive (such as needing to apply in person in a faraway country).
There are a few options to get the PCC, such as contacting the Embassy or Consulate of that country in Canada for help. Or you can try hiring a lawyer in the country to get it.
All reasonable attempts should be made to obtain the PCC. If you can prove the steps taken and show why the PCC is virtually impossible to get, you can request an exemption. If the officer is satisfied you’ve exhausted all avenues, they may waive the requirement for that PCC so your application can continue. Or, they may simply give you more time to get the PCC, which means your case will exceed normal processing time.
A Note about Errors on Police Certificates
It sometimes happens that the PCC will contain an error. The PCC may contain information that is incorrect. Or, it may omit a criminal charge you know you have in that country. These issues need to be addressed, because you must still answer all questions on your forms truthfully, including whether you had any criminal charges in any country. If there is a discrepancy with the PCC, it is best to get professional advice to deal with it.