Flying Smoothly: A Canadian Guide for International Airline Staff

Michael Schwartz, Matt Hendler
Published: July 4, 2021

With vaccination campaigns ramping up, and pent-up travellers seeking an outlet, the international airline industry is poised to return to life.

Stock in Air Canada, for example, posted a 10.5% gain in May 2021. In early June, meanwhile, the company announced it was re-activating more than 2,600 jobs which it had to eliminate at the onset of the pandemic.

The Atlanta-based Delta Airlines, meanwhile, stated its intent to hire over 1,000 pilots by next summer. And, as of June 22, LinkedIn featured openings for no less than 25,000 jobs as flight attendants in the United States alone.

Canada is a major centre for global air travel. According to a 2019 report, Toronto’s Pearson Airport had the most international destinations (163) of any airport in North America, outpacing the second-place holder, New York’s JFK Airport, by over 30. That year, more than 50,000,000 passengers passed through Pearson. Approximately half that number came that year through Canada’s second busiest airport, Vancouver’s.

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If you’re planning to begin (or resume) a career in the international airline industry, it is important you understand, then, factors that may impact your ability to enter the country.

The most common obstacle for non-citizens of Canada intending to enter the country as airline staff is criminal inadmissibility. If you have a criminal record, you may be inadmissible to enter Canada. Airlines are very unlikely to seriously consider hiring individuals with convictions for felonies. Thus, the most frequent criminal inadmissibility situation for airline staff emerges in the context of a conviction for driving under the influence (DUI). First-time DUI and related offences are generally considered less serious crimes, i.e. misdemeanors, in the USA. However, a single DUI conviction can render a person inadmissible to Canada.

Inadmissibility to Canada can have serious consequences on one’s ability to work for an airline. This status can result in a person not being able to qualify for a job with an airline - or impairing their ability to continue in a job they currently hold. Airlines, understandably, need assurance their employees will be able to travel wherever they are sent. It is unpleasant for both employee and employer to suddenly discover a crew member is unable to enter Canada, especially when one has already landed there.

Fortunately, there are different remedies to criminal inadmissibility. The main remedy available to airline staff is known as criminal rehabilitation. This term refers to a process by which Canada recognizes a person otherwise inadmissible to Canada to no longer be so. Individual rehabilitation involves a person demonstrating that they do not pose any risk to Canada through an application submitted to a Canadian consulate.

Eligibility will depend on each persons’ individual circumstances - the crime(s) committed, the sentence imposed, and how much time has passed since the individual completed their sentence. The major advantage to obtaining criminal rehabilitation is that it never expires - as long, of course, as you continue to respect the law. There is no need to re-apply each time, and a Canadian border officer and airline employer should recognize valid rehabilitation as proof of your admissibility to Canada.

The Temporary Resident Permit (TRP) makes a person admissible to enter Canada for a set amount of time - in no case longer than three years. An individual can apply for it in advance through a consulate, or at a point-of-entry (POE). The latter path is discouraged, however. An application through a consulate allows specialized staff to carefully consider a person’s application and for the applicant to obtain their TRP - or at least find out whether or not they will get one - in advance. A TRP may be valid for a single visit lasting a day, or it may allow repeated entries to Canada during its period of validity. If a person can demonstrate a repeated need to enter Canada over a period of time - say, due to work - this factor will make them more likely to receive a longer/broader TRP.

Legal advice can be useful to current or prospective airline staff even before the person has been convicted of any crime. For example, you may have been charged with an offence in a foreign country, but still awaiting your case’s final determination. A Canadian immigration lawyer can explain to you the impact different judgments and sentences would have on your ability to enter the country - whether, for example, rehabilitation would be necessary, or possible.

Airline hiring is discretionary. Proving you are admissible to Canada may not guarantee you will be selected for a job with an airline. However, it can be extremely valuable to show you are admissible to Canada, as a person who cannot demonstrate this status is unlikely to even be considered for an airline job involving international travel.

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