Entering Canada with a DUI

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Our friendly neighbors to the North take drunk driving very seriously, and for that, if you have any criminal record at all, including a DUI charge, a bounced check, a fishing violation, uttering a death threat, a poaching charge, even a couple citations for simple possession of a small amount of marijuana, you might not be admitted to Canada. Your DUI also does not have to be alcohol related in order for the border to deny entry for criminality. People are frequently charged with driving while intoxicated because they were on prescription medication such as painkillers or medical marijuana. You can be charged for driving under the influence of drugs regardless of whether or not the drug is legal. Even if you have been prescribed medicine by a doctor, if the substance “could affect the nervous system, brain, or muscles of a person as to impair” it is illegal to be operating a motor vehicle while on that medicine. It is possible to get a DUI by driving while on prescribed drugs that can impair, and a criminal conviction of this type can mean a person is no longer welcome in Canada without special permission. If you were charged with boating under the influence of alcohol, or even some obscure charge such as operating a motorized lawn mower while intoxicated, your ability to travel to Canada can also be affected.


Please note, this applies to everyone trying to gain entry into Canada, not just, say, the driver of a vehicle entering the country.  And if you’re thinking you will be able to “get away” with entering Canada with a felony, the Canadian border now has full access to the FBI criminal database. In fact, even a not guilty verdict (acquittal) may sporadically cause a US resident to be rejected at the Canadian border since the original DUI arrest will still be visible to border staff and the visitor may need to prove his or her admissibility.


To overcome criminal inadmissibility to Canada, a person must correctly apply for and then successfully receive permission from Canadian legal authorities to visit the country. Unfortunately, getting permission to enter Canada can be a highly complex legal process that could easily overwhelm someone without professional assistance. Criminal inadmissibility to Canada as a result of a DUI or DWI can be overcome in a few different ways.


The temporary solution is called a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP).  This lets the individual enter or stay in Canada for a specific period of time, as long as you have a valid reason to enter the country.  This is helpful for people whose DUI has occurred recently, and for whom the Criminal Rehabilitation does not yet apply.  The TRP can be valid for multiple visits over up to three years of travel, as long as the person’s application is strong enough.  The application process for this solution takes some time to write and process, so planning ahead is a must for this option.  If you have more than two DUI convictions or other criminal convictions on your records, you will need to apply for a TRP


A more permanent solution for entry into Canada is called Criminal Rehabilitation.  This is an application process where the individual is essentially asking Canadian immigration authorities to forgive their prior DUI conviction.  In order to be eligible for this, five years must have passed since the completion of your sentence, which includes the payment of fines, completion of driving courses, completion of community service, probation or any other condition set forth by the court.  Once completed, this document never needs to be renewed, unlike the TRP.


A third option is called Deemed Rehabilitation.  This applies to individuals with only one single DUI conviction, and enough time (usually ten years) has passed since completion of your full sentence, which may include jail time, probation, reinstatement of your license, and payment of all fines.  If it has been more than ten years since the completion of your sentence, and nothing further has been added to your criminal records, Canadian immigration authorities may disregard your only DUI conviction and allow you to enter the country.


These applications are lengthy, time consuming, require a lot of your case related documents, and can be a challenge for one person to tackle.  It is advised that to complete one, you hire an attorney to help with all aspects of the exclusion process.