Can You Enter Canada With A DUI ?

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When arrested or convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (DUI), the first thought that comes to mind is rarely how this will affect international travel. However, for people who need to go to Canada, immigration laws are such that having even one DUI on record can actually stop a person from entering the country. This can have serious consequences for people who need to enter Canada for leisure, or especially for business purposes. Missing vacations, appointments, or scheduled meetings can have unfortunate consequences, and failing to be present for the latter two can even jeopardize a person’s employment.

What if I was arrested for DUI but was not convicted yet?

Some think that being arrested for a DUI will not stop entry, and that as long as there has been no official conviction, a person can still be considered admissible, and allowed to go to Canada. However, as far as the issue of inadmissibility is concerned, there is no difference between an arrest and a conviction for a DUI: they will both prevent entry to Canada. Also, as long as a DUI charge is pending in court, inadmissibility still applies, meaning it can prevent you from visiting Canada. If the charge results in a dismissal, it normally can no longer be used as grounds to deny entry to Canada. However, should it lead to a conviction, inadmissibility will continue to apply.

How can you enter Canada with a DUI?

In order to enter Canada legally with a DUI on record, a person should apply either for a temporary resident permit (TRP), or for criminal rehabilitation (CR). The first option, TRP, as the name implies is a temporary one. If the application is approved, it allows the person to enter Canada legally, despite a conviction on record, for a pre-determined amount of time. A temporary resident permit can be granted for up to three years at a time. Once the permit expires, the DUI will once again render the individual inadmissible to Canada, unless another permit is applied for and obtained or a more permanent solution, such as a criminal rehabilitation application, is granted.

The second option, the application for criminal rehabilitation, is an option of a permanent nature. If the application is approved, the applicant will no longer be inadmissible. They would then be able to enter Canada, as would any other person without a criminal record. As the processing time for criminal rehabilitation applications can be considerably long, an application for a temporary resident permit might be a preferable option for any travel to Canada, while the criminal rehabilitation application is pending.

For what kind of reason can a TRP be granted?

Canadian Immigration officials will determine whether a temporary resident permit can be granted to an individual. The reason for which a person needs to enter Canada will be factored into their decision. Justifications can vary, such as entering for business or work purposes, seeing family members in Canada, or being required to transit through Canada to travel elsewhere (Alaskan cruises departing from British Columbia for example).

How does Canada know if you have a DUI?

In order to perform its duty and determine whether a person can be allowed entry into Canada, the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and its representatives have access to various databases of information, including among others:

  • The Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC): A database containing information as to whether a motor vehicle or property was reported as stolen.
  • The National Crime Information Center (NCIC): An American database containing criminal record history information. This database is made available to federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies in the United States, as well as to other jurisdictions, including Canada.

What if the DUI was only a misdemeanor?

DUI charges and subsequent convictions are usually considered misdemeanors, unless aggravating circumstances are involved, such as:

  • Injuries
  • Death
  • Minors being present in the vehicle at the moment of arrest

If any of the above occurred in relation with a DUI, the charge can become a felony. However, some believe that if the DUI is only a misdemeanor, there should be no problem when travelling to Canada. This is especially true when an alcohol-related offense was be reduced from a misdemeanour to a lesser charge. In the state of New York (NY), a charge for Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) can be reduced to Driving While Ability Impaired (DWAI), which is not even considered a misdemeanor, but rather a traffic infraction. However, even a DWAI can prevent you from travelling to Canada.

Whether the offense is considered a misdemeanor, a felony, or even a traffic infraction, such as a DWAI, what matters is the Canadian equivalent of such an offense and its punishment. As such, alcohol-related driving offenses with no aggravating circumstances, such as a DUI or a DWI, are deemed to correspond to the same equivalent offense under Canadian laws, regardless of whether they were misdemeanors or traffic infractions. Consequently, they can still prevent a person from entering Canada.

Do inadmissibility rules apply to everyone?

Canadian border authorities will apply the rules governing inadmissibility regardless of a person’s status or their purpose for entering Canada. A DUI can therefore prevent internationally renowned singers, actors/actresses, or athletes from travelling to Canada. Since these persons usually need to enter for business purposes, this can lead to costly cancellations of planned events, or live performances. It is therefore preferable for matters of inadmissibility to be dealt with as soon as possible, well in advance of the planned trip to Canada. Though an application can be presented in person at a point of entry, a person’s reason for going to Canada can sometimes be too important to be refused entry. Obtaining an answer in advance, prior to travelling is therefore recommended whenever possible.

Pilots, commercial truck drivers, and railway engineers who, as a result of a DUI or a Wet Reckless conviction, are inadmissible, are also subject to certain additional requirements when applying for a temporary resident permit. JTM lawyers have extensive experience dealing with such cases, and can help with the preparation of these specific applications.

Can you enter Canada if you have a DUI that is over 10 years old?

Under certain circumstances, a person with a DUI on record may be deemed rehabilitated by the effect of time, and therefore allowed entry to Canada, if certain specific conditions are met:

  • The person was only convicted of a single offense (in this case, driving under the influence) and nothing else. It should be noted that some particular offenses, of a graver nature (such as, for example, a DUI offense causing bodily harm, or death) will NOT lead to deemed rehabilitation by the effect of time, even if a person only has one such offense on record and nothing else.
  • Ten years have passed since the completion of all conditions pertaining to the DUI. It is important to emphasize that calculations for this delay begin from the moment when all conditions have officially been met, and not from the moment of conviction. For example: if a person is convicted of a DUI on February 1st, 2002, and is given a series of conditions to comply with, among which a probation period of three years. Save for the probation period, the person completes everything during the year following his conviction. Nonetheless, the ten-year calculation would begin from the moment the probation period has also elapsed, in February 2005.
  • There has been no other arrests or conviction during the course of the last ten years.

The points above represent the broad guidelines in determining when deemed rehabilitation can apply. It should also be noted that it falls upon the applicant to demonstrate that he or she is a member of the class of people deemed to be rehabilitated, and that appropriate and relevant documentation will be necessary to satisfy this burden of proof, and therefore be allowed to enter Canada. As each situation is unique, please contact us to determine if this would apply in your case.

If you have two DUI offenses on record that are over 10 years old, can you enter Canada?

When a person has more than one DUI on record, even if only two, the ten-years “deemed rehabilitated” provision can no longer apply. In other words, even if both DUI convictions, as well as the completion of all conditions pertaining to each, date from fifteen or twenty years ago for example, and there is nothing else on record, a person would still remain inadmissible, regardless of the amount of time that has passed. In this case, the possible options to enter Canada legally would be to apply for a temporary resident permit, or for those seeking a permanent solution, to apply for criminal rehabilitation.

Is it better to travel by land or by air?

With a DUI conviction or arrest on record, entering Canada, regardless of whether it is by land or by air, remains an issue. Flying into Canada with a DUI, and therefore not driving, will not by itself improve anything with respect to inadmissibility. Travelling to Canada with a DUI, regardless of the means of entry, will still be cause for concern and can still prevent entry into the country.

Should you retain the services of an immigration lawyer to deal with your situation?

Hiring a lawyer to deal with an issue of inadmissibility in Canada can be intimidating. After all, it involves retaining the services of professionals in a foreign country, and discussing with them personal details that some people might be reluctant to share. A person’s employment sometimes being on the line will make such matters even more delicate. Should you decide to hire a Canadian immigration lawyer to deal with your case, the following points can help guide your decision:

  • Who are you speaking with about your case? Are you discussing confidential details about your situation with a legal professional or with an assistant?
  • Who is advising you? Once you have explained the issue preventing entry to Canada, are you being advised about a possible course of action by a legal professional directly or by someone else?
  • If the situation appears ambiguous, is the person you are speaking with nonetheless proposing a course of action or are they requesting to see court documents in order to properly advise you?
  • If it is determined that you require a temporary resident permit to enter Canada:
    • Has the issue of criminal rehabilitation been discussed? Has the person you have spoken with tried to determine whether you would be eligible for such an application? If you are not yet eligible, has a reason been provided as to why?
    • Has the person suggested that an application be submitted on your behalf or are they automatically proposing that they prepare an application and send it to you to have it processed at a point of entry? In the latter case, why? Was an explanation provided as to why an application cannot be submitted to the government instead?

At JTM, inadmissibility is one of our specialties, an area of law in which we deal on a daily basis. Our priority is our client’s success, and to that effect, we ensure that we have the necessary facts in order to properly advise you as part of a free consultation. Your time is precious and your situation is serious. We understand both and will work with you towards resolving your inadmissibility issue, be it temporarily or permanently.

Questions specific to your case? Contact us

Should you have any questions, we invite you to contact us by phone (1-844-326-8410) or by email today. Contacting JTM Immigration means dealing directly with one of our lawyers, who can advise you on various solutions as part of a free consultation.