Did you know that even one DUI or DWI can actually stop you from entering Canada? This is true whether you attempt to cross by air or by land, and regardless if you are the one driving the car.
Who can be stopped at the border because of a DUI?
Every day, unsuspecting US citizens are turned away at the Canadian border because they have a DUI, a DWI or similar offense on their record. Canadian criminal laws are such that anyone who has a criminal conviction on their record can be denied entry into Canada. In the case of a DUI, unless it is the only offense on your record and has occurred over 10 years ago, you may, and most likely will be denied entry. This rule applies to everyone, including to those travelling to Canada for business purposed such as a meeting or a conference, to individuals entering Canada for a family vacation, or for skiing, fishing or hunting and even to those who are simply transiting through Canada on their way to another country, such as a layover in a Canadian airport, a drive through Canada on the way to Alaska or a cruise.
What can I do if I have a trip planned to Canada but have a DUI?
Depending on the urgency and time constraints of your trip, you may apply for either a temporary resident permit (TRP) or for Canadian criminal rehabilitation. The temporary resident permit allows you to enter Canada for a specific period of time, depending on your needs and the nature of your trip. Anyone who is eligible can apply for the TRP, usually with the help of an immigration attorney specializing in matters of criminal inadmissibility. You can apply for the TRP if you have a conviction on your record or even if you have just recently been arrested, and a verdict is still pending in your case. There are no time constraints with such an application. Unlike the TRP, an application for criminal rehabilitation requires that at least 5 years have passed since the completion of all of the conditions of your sentence. Once you become eligible, if your application is successful, the criminal rehabilitation is good for life, unless new offenses are committed.
Are there any exceptions to these rules?
As mentioned earlier, if you have had only one DUI conviction, and this offense occurred more than 10 years ago and you have completed all of the conditions of the sentence also more than 10 years ago, in most cases, you will not need to apply for a temporary resident permit or for criminal rehabilitation, because you are deemed rehabilitated by the effect of time. This rule would not apply however, if you have more than one offense on your record, even if the offenses are from 20 or 30 years ago.