Canada: Changes With Respect To Police Certificates And Express Entry Completeness Checks

Last Updated: March 1 2016
Article by Richard Leuce

Background: Express Entry application document requirements and police certificates

Under the current Express Entry system, foreign nationals must submit their electronic application for permanent residence (e-APR) within 60 days of receiving an invitation to apply (ITA). As part of the e-APR, applicants are required to upload and submit several pieces of personal information, including police certificates.

Clarifications provided on February 11, 2016

On February 11, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) released a program delivery update (PDU) informing Express Entry Permanent residency applicants of a procedural change with respect to police certificates. This update is both a change in the standard operating procedure for the requirement of police certificate, as well as a clarification with respect to Exceptional circumstances documentation.

The new procedural change now requires that police certificates are mandatory and that they be provided upfront, for each country where the applicant has lived for at least six (6) months in total. The previous instructions had only requested police certificates for countries where an applicant had lived for six (6) months in a row. This change is likely to impact those individuals with extensive travel histories, especially business people whom have had a history of business travel with a specific country. However, this is likely to impact other travelers as illustrated by the examples below:


Police Certificate Requirement pre-Feb 11, 2016

Police Certificate Requirement post-Feb 11, 2016

A senior executive makes monthly trips, lasting on average 5-6 days, to the same foreign country for 3 years. His employer always provided the same temporary lodging accommodation. He decides to immigrate to Canada afterwards, and receives an Invitation to Apply under Express Entry.

No police certificate required from the foreign country visited for business purposes. The applicant did not live in the country visited for 6 continuous months.

Police certificate is required. Taking into account the yearly business trips, these would amount to 198 days which is more than 6 months in total.

A German citizen purchases a summer house in Denmark. Every year she spends 2 months at the summer house with her family. She then decides to immigrate to Canada, and receives an Invitation to Apply under Express Entry.

No police certificate required from Denmark. Even though the German citizen resides for 2 months every single year, she did not live in Denmark for 6 continuous months.

Police certificate is required. Taking into account the yearly vacations, these would amount to 6 months in total after spending 3 summers in Denmark.

A Dutch citizen studies in the United States of America for a semester abroad totalling 5 months in 2008. In 2010 and 2013 he returns to the USA for tourism purposes, both trips taking 20 days each.  In 2016, he is Invited to Apply for Canadian Permanent Residency under Express Entry.

No police certificate required from the United States of America. Even though the Dutch citizen resided for 5 months at most in the USA, this did not meet the 6 month continuous threshold.

Police certificate is required. Taking into account the period spent as a student, and the following 2 trips for tourism, an FBI police clearance certificate will be required. Time spent in total exceeds six months, despite not being continous.

These examples are not exhaustive, however they are presented in order to illustrate that time spent outside one's country of citizenship, can indeed add up, resulting in additional documentation required in the form of foreign police certificates. This change is potentially worrisome depending on the country visited. For example, United States FBI police certificates are taking on average 12-14 weeks to process for non-US citizens. At the same time, IRCC only provides applicants with a 60-day window to submit their complete e-APR following the ITA. Should applicants not be able to do, they must apply for an exemption under Exceptional circumstances.

This ties in with the second clarification of the February 11 notification. Specifically, applicants whom cannot provide police certificates within the 60-day deadline are now required to submit both proof of actually having requested a police certificate and an explanation letter detailing the best efforts to produce a police certificate before the 60-day deadline.


The February 11, 2016 a PDU was issued clarifying the language of the Exception circumstances exemption for police certificates, as well as a procedural change in the requirement of such certificates based on total time spent in a foreign country. This change will be detrimental for those applicants with extensive travel histories, as well as for those with travel histories in countries where police certificates may be lengthy or difficult to obtain. Consequently, this change is likely to result in additional processing time, whether it is at the document gathering stage in preparing the e-APR, or during processing of the application by IRCC.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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Richard Leuce
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