How to unseal criminal files if a sealed criminal record prevents you from travelling

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Law
18/10/2016

If you are convicted of a crime when you are 18 or older, that information will be recorded in a permanent criminal record. If you later apply and receive a pardon or record suspension, your criminal record may be sealed so it cannot be accessed. Your record may also be sealed after a period of time if you are sentenced to an absolute or conditional discharge for an offence.

However, you may find it necessary to unseal your criminal record in order to apply to enter the United States. This eNews explains how to have your record of BC Provincial Court convictions or discharges unsealed in order to make a Waiver Application to enter the US.

Two ways to apply

1. Appear in person with government-issued photo identification at the Registry (the records office) of a courthouse where you received your sentence and request copies of your sealed Court documents. Find the location of all Provincial courthouses in BC here.

2. If you can’t get to that Court Registry, you may apply to the Office of the Chief Judge of the Provincial Court by mailing these documents:

a. A certified true copy of government issued ID (such as a current Driver’s License or Passport) signed by a Notary Public or lawyer.

b. A signed Application to a Judge form. Fill out the “APPLICANT” and “An application is made to the court for the following order” sections. (You can tick “Other” and then write something like “To obtain a copy of my pardoned file”. Under “The Reasons on which the application is based are as follows” write something like “To obtain a waiver to travel to the US” or “For the purpose of applying for a US Entry Waiver”.)

c. A list of your criminal convictions showing the date and location of each conviction. (List your convictions on a separate page or provide a copy of the “Schedule of Offence(s) Respecting a Pardon Under the Criminal Records Act” from the Parole Board of Canada”.)

If an organization is acting on your behalf, they must provide authorization signed by you and stating that you have consented to their making an application for you.

All documents must be received by mail (not by email or fax) at this address:

Office of the Chief Judge
Attn: Legal Department
Suite 337 - 800 Hornby Street
Vancouver, BC V6Z 2C5

Note: this process applies only to convictions in the British Columbia Provincial Court.

When an Application is made to the Office of the Chief Judge, what happens next?

If the application and supporting documents are complete, they will be put before a judge and the unsealing order will be signed. The order and supporting documents will then be sent to the Court Registry where the court file is held, and Registry staff will unseal and mail the records to you or the organization representing you.

If the application and supporting documents are not complete, or if there is a reason that the application cannot be granted, the applicant will receive a letter explaining this and the application and supporting documents will be returned.

How do I access other court records?

See the Court’s policy on how to access other Provincial Court of British Columbia records.

How do I get access to files at the Supreme Court of British Columbia?

The Provincial Court is separate from the Supreme Court of British Columbia. If you are seeking access to a Supreme Court file, or to unseal your record of sentences in that court, see the BC Supreme Court’s “Court Record Access Policy”.