Can You Go to Canada With a DUI?

Published on: August 23rd, 2018
Last updated: May 5th, 2022

A DUI conviction can make entering Canada for business, a special occasion, or even to live incredibly challenging. A DUI, DWI, or reckless driving charge from years in the past may mean you’re criminally inadmissible to Canada. Fortunately, there are ways to overcome inadmissibility and enter Canada with a DUI. If you are unable to overcome your inadmissibility, you may still be eligible to visit Canada.

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What is inadmissibility?

Inadmissibility is an immigration issue that essentially means a person is banned from entering Canada. The most common reason a person is inadmissible to Canada is if they are thought to be a danger to public safety in Canada.

Inadmissibility can cause headaches at the border for business travellers and people who have offenses on their record from many years in the past. This includes drunk driving offenses like DUIs.

For an offense to make a person inadmissible, there must be an equivalent law in Canada to the one committed in another country. For DUIs the equivalent law is found in Section 253 of the Criminal Code of Canada.

How does Canada know you have a DUI?

Canadian Border Security Agency (CBSA) officers have access to various databases, including FBI records, that allow them to check for a traveler’s DUI.

Visiting Canada with a DUI

If you have a previous DUI charge and need to enter Canada for business, an important event, or any other necessary reason, you may be eligible to enter on a temporary resident permit (TRP).

Obtaining a temporary resident permit is a short-term solution to criminal inadmissibility, that may help you enter Canada for a brief visit.

To be eligible for a TRP, you must demonstrate that your presence in Canada has more benefits than risks.

What constitutes a sufficient reason to travel to Canada is ultimately at the discretion of the officer reviewing your case. For this reason, it is important to provide a thorough explanation of why you need to enter Canada.

An officer usually issues a temporary resident permit for the expected length of your visit to Canada. For example, 1 week to attend a wedding.

Staying Canada with a DUI

To come to Canada with a criminal DUI record long-term, you will need to first be deemed criminally rehabilitated. Criminal Rehabilitation wipes your criminal record clean for Canadian immigration purposes. If five years or more have passed since you completed your sentence, you can apply for Criminal Rehabilitation. In this application, you must show that you have turned your life around and are unlikely to commit another offense.

It may be possible that you do not need to apply for Criminal Rehabilitation. If at least ten years have passed since completing your sentence, and you only have one DUI conviction, you may be deemed rehabilitated. This means that your record has been cleared by the passage of time. If this case applies to you, it may be in your best interest to get a legal opinion letter from a Canadian immigration lawyer to give border officers proof that you are not inadmissible.

New Canadian DUI Laws

Keep in mind that Canada updated DUI laws in 2018. Now, impaired driving is a “serious offence”.

Because of this, DUIs committed after the new law takes effect will not be eligible for deemed rehabilitation. However, it will still be possible to receive a TRP or apply for rehabilitation.

Who can help?

Overcoming a DUI charge for Canadian immigration purposes can be complex. For this reason, we recommend hiring an immigration lawyer. The Canadim Team offers TRP, Criminal Rehabilitation, and legal opinion letter services. If you would like more information on any of these, please contact us for more information!

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