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June 13th, 2023 | Sterling
International criminal record checks are a complex topic. Canadian employers who are used to getting straightforward, quick and cost-effective criminal record checks may be reluctant to extend the scope of their screening to other countries. Costs, turnaround time and processes can vary significantly from one region to another, which makes it important for employers to understand the nuances of background screening in the countries and territories in which they are hiring. However, employers with a global workforce should also be aware of the benefits that international checks can bring to their screening program.
Companies like Sterling Backcheck invest significant time and energy understanding local laws and best practice to ensure our clients’ programs are compliant and as efficient as possible. Let’s delve into how criminal record checks in other countries differ to those within Canada, and cover some common misconceptions to avoid, to help you build an optimized, global screening program.
What types of criminal checks are available in each country?
Generally speaking, there are three ways employers can obtain criminal record checks around the globe.
1. Primary source criminal record check
The best practice in Canada is a national criminal record search available through the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) as maintained by the RCMP. While many countries have a similarly thorough national search, others may use local databases. Ultimately, most regions have an accessible database that contains a robust list of criminal offences, similar to the information that would be provided on a Canadian criminal record check.
2. Police clearance authentication
Some countries (such as France) possess comprehensive criminal record information, but various human rights or privacy laws impose limitations on the access and disclosure of that information. In these scenarios, candidates may be required to obtain this check themselves, without the assistance of a potential employer or background screening company. In these cases, an applicant-obtained background check can be shared with the employer, and companies like Sterling can verify the authenticity of the document with local authorities.
3. Global sanctions
Global sanctions checks search a variety of international databases focusing on publicly available information ranging from traditional media, terrorist watchlists, and other sources. This search often serves as a complementary piece to an in-depth search or as an alternative when local laws may prohibit access to an in-depth search. It can also be used when the geo-political climate, cost, or turnaround time imposes limitations.
While the low cost and quick turnaround time of a global sanctions check can be enticing, it’s important to note that these checks do not adequately replace a thorough criminal record check, and should only substitute for it as a last resort.
There are a handful of other misconceptions that also warrant addressing:
Canadian criminal record checks report all existing data on a Canadian.
False – Canadian criminal record checks only include offences committed in Canada. Any crimes committed in other countries would only be accessible to employers who complete a criminal record check in that region. The adage ‘What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas’ applies. Employers looking to hire workers in other countries, recent immigrants or people who have extensively lived and travelled abroad may want to consider adding the relevant international checks to their screening program. Many organizations will implement a policy that ensures background checks are conducted in any region a candidate has resided in for more than 6 months. This ensures adequate coverage internationally, without having to run an international check in any country a person may have visited for only a few days.
While it’s certainly an option to scan any country the individual may have visited, a process of that nature could be very expensive and time consuming.
Canadians who recently emigrated from another country have been adequately screened by the government upon entry.
Misleading – It is true that immigrants who go through the normal process undergo a thorough screening, and that any discovered criminality may prevent entry. However, criminality is not necessarily a barrier to asylum and eventual citizenship. The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act sets out the grounds for inadmissibility for immigrants and foreign nationals. Where criminality is concerned, a conviction for a crime carrying a sentence of 10 years imprisonment or greater (for the Canadian equivalent offence) is grounds for inadmissibility. A conviction for a crime that has a lesser punishment would not prevent admissibility, unless it was determined the individual did not honestly disclose their past criminality.
The 10-year bar is fairly high and may not align with your background screening policy. For example, a conviction for fraud in Canada carries a maximum sentence of two (2) years of imprisonment, which means that a fraud conviction in a person’s country of origin would not preclude them from immigrating to Canada. Similarly, assault and uttering threats carry maximum sentences of five (5) years. However, these convictions could be relevant for your screening program.
The process for obtaining US and Canadian criminal record checks is the same.
False – While Canadian criminal record checks are thorough and national in scope, other countries may not be the same. South of the 49th parallel, the process differs quite a bit. In the US, it is best practice to run a social security number (SSN) trace to determine a candidate’s address history. Searches are then completed at the county level to discover convictions held in court records. The US does have a national search, sometimes called National Criminal Database Search, but it is no longer considered best practice, as many regions do not report into the national database, and it is not appropriately curated to remove records once they are no longer relevant.
Using our neighbors to the south as an example, Canadian organizations should appreciate the differences between best practices in both countries. While you can feel confident that a Canadian search from a local police service searched all relevant records in the country, a US search from a particular state or county would only report on crimes committed in that small region.
Using our neighbours to the south as an example, Canadian organizations should appreciate the differences between best practices in both countries. While you can feel confident that a Canadian search from a local police service searched all relevant records in the country, a US search from a particular state or county would only report on crimes committed in that small region.
Staying on top of criminal record screening policy in one country is difficult enough, let alone every country in the world. Sterling has in-house experts in global screening who are actively involved in industry associations and who stay engaged and up-to-date on local trends and privacy regulations. Our team maintains fact sheets on over 200 regions worldwide to ensure we provide your organization with the best information available to maintain compliance.
If you have any questions about screening at home or abroad, Sterling’s team of subject matter experts would be happy to help you. Contact us today for more information.
This publication is for informational purposes only and nothing contained in it should be construed as legal advice. We expressly disclaim any warranty or responsibility for damages arising out this information. We encourage you to consult with legal counsel regarding your specific needs. We do not undertake any duty to update previously posted materials.