Only one country in the world will present issues in gaining if a person is charged with a DUI. Unfortunately, for Washingtonians, it is our neighbors to the north: Canada.
A DUI conviction can make a person “criminally inadmissible”, and prevent the person from entering Canada because they were convicted of certain crimes. The Canadian Immigration and Refugee Act allows Canadian authorities to prohibit foreign nationals with criminal convictions (like misdemeanors, DUIs, and DWIs) from entering the country unless granted special permission. And this also holds true for people who were originally charged with DUI but ultimately got their case resolved via a reduction to a lessor offense (for example, Reckless Driving or Negligent Driving First Degree).
Canadian authorities are able to access driver license information and court records of all Americans crossing the border. If a Border Patrol Agent inquiries about your DUI/DWI history, you should be honest and cooperative.
Driving Charges Categorized As Criminally Inadmissible
Americans can be labeled “criminally inadmissible” and denied entry to Canada if they have been charged with:
- Driving Under the Influence (DUI)
- Driving While Intoxicated (DWI)
- Driving While Impaired (DWI)
- Operating While Intoxicated (OWI)
- Excess Blood Alcohol Level (BAC)
- Refusal to comply with BAC testing
- Reckless Driving
- Driving While Under Restraint
Canadian authorities will see all impaired driving charges, even those that have been dismissed and those that are still pending. Regardless of misdemeanor/ felony or dismissed/pending, all cases of impaired driving can potentially prevent Americans from entering Canada.
Any kind of driving impairment charge is enough to bar an American from Canada of a minimum of 10 years or until the person is “deemed rehabilitated” or is approved for a temporary resident permit.
Entering Canada After a Driving Charge
There are several ways that people with a driving impaired charge can enter Canada. Americans with previous driving charges will be allowed to enter Canada when:
- 10 years have passed since your last offense (there are a variety of other charges that will count as inadmissible including shoplifting and public mischief), or
- 5 years have passed since your last offense and you apply for rehabilitation, or
- Less than 5 years has passed since your last charge but you are granted a temporary resident permit.
The criminal rehabilitation process allows a previously convicted individual to clear away past offenses for entry into Canada. There are only two ways that individuals can only earn a rehabilitation status:
- 10 years has passed since their last offense (the individual is automatically considered rehabilitated), or
- 5 years has passed and the individual applies for rehabilitation
The processing fee for criminal rehabilitation depends on the severity of the crime committed. For less serious crimes the fee is $200 CAD or about $156 U.S. dollars, for serious crimes the fee is $1000 CAD or about $779 U.S. dollars.
Temporary Resident Permit (TRP)
A Temporary Resident Permit (TRP) allows a previously convicted individual to override a criminal inadmissibility status for a specific reason and for a specific amount of time.
The TRP cannot be used for permanent entry into Canada. For a permanent solution, individuals must apply for criminal rehabilitation. An individual cannot apply for both criminal rehabilitation and a TRP.
Individuals can apply for temporary resident permits through a Canadian embassy, consulate, or any other type of Canadian visa office. It is also possible to apply for a TRP directly at the port of entry (POE), like a boarder crossing or airport. TRP applications are processed much quicker at a port of entry (a few hours versus up to six months through a visa office), but individuals are more likely to encounter difficulties at POEs than at visa offices.
A temporary resident permit costs $200 CAD or about $156 U.S. dollars. To read more about TRPs visit the Canadian government's website.
Compelling or Urgent Circumstances
To qualify for a temporary resident permit, individuals must have a compelling or urgent circumstance to get around the required rehabilitation status. A compelling circumstance can include:
- Traveling for a business meeting
- Receiving medical care in Canada
- Visiting family
- Taking a temporary vacation in Canada
- Visiting a sick relative
There is no absolute rule for determining compelling and urgent circumstances. Situations will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
Consult with attorneys who handle DUI Defense and Canadian Immigration
Entering Canada after a conviction can be a complicated and difficult process. Often, individuals fail to follow the rules and are rejected, making future attempts more difficult. The best thing for a person concerned with Canada entry is to consult with a Canadian immigration attorney. While I can be of assistance in dealing with the DUI case in Washington, I will refer you to a trusted colleague for dealing with travel to Canada.