I AM NOT A CANADIAN-LICENSED ATTORNEY – THE INFORMATION BELOW IS A GENERAL GUIDE.
Entering Canada with a DUI, or even a reduced offense like reckless driving or negligent driving, can be complicated. One of the relatively unknown consequences of a DUI is that the conviction can bar you from traveling to Canada.
RESTRICTIONS ON ENTERING CANADA WITH A DUI CONVICTION
The legislation that determines and restricts any non-Canadian from entry and travel into Canada is called the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Act. This act also determines whether a specific act should be categorized under “criminality” or “serious criminality.”
In Canada, a DUI allegation is deemed a “hybrid” offense and may be categorized as either an “Indictable Offense” or one that could be prosecuted as a Summary Conviction Offense. Keep in mind that Canada does not have misdemeanors or felonies, and whether or not you are inadmissible only depends on how the offense is classified in Canada. Pursuant to Canadian policy, individuals will be excluded from the country if they have been convicted of an “indictable offense.”
Bill C-46 recently became active in December of 2018 and made significant alterations to the Canadian Criminal Code and related legislation, including the Dangerous and Impaired Driving Act. Dangerous driving offenses such as impairment while driving, noncompliance, and driving while prohibited are now classified under “serious criminality,” instead of “criminality.” This change presents greater obstacles regarding admissibility into Canada, and consequently requires more convincing reasons for travel. It is also worth noting that Bill C-46 now offers police officers more leeway to carry out random drug testing with breathalyzers. Thus, the likelihood of noncompliance will increase as well, resulting in consequences that can further prevent entry into the country.
Anyone convicted of a DUI is automatically barred from entry into Canada. A single DUI offense is now classified under “serious criminality.” Individuals with such an offense may not be deemed rehabilitated by the passage of time, and must apply for Criminal Rehabilitation unless his or her sentence is suspended. Additionally, even if a DUI charge is just pending in the U.S. and a person has not yet been convicted, the Refugee Act treats that person as if they are “Under Indictment” and potentially excludes them as well.
A successful Criminal Rehabilitation application depends on the extent of one’s criminal history coupled with clear examples of subsequent law-abiding behavior.
TEMPORARY RESIDENT PERMITS
If you are charged with or have a DUI conviction and do not apply for Criminal Rehabilitation, or if your application has not yet been accepted, you may travel to Canada with a temporary resident permit.
A temporary resident permit can be granted at any time, even within the five (5) years immediately following the conviction; however, you need to show a compelling and urgent reason for temporary admissibility into Canada. This application process can take several months.
In order to apply, you will need the assistance and advice of two attorneys. The first is the attorney who handled the DUI case in the convicting state because that attorney will have the records documenting your case. Important items are Judgment and Sentence, documents relating to suppression of evidence, if any, and a copy of the Statement of Defendant on Plea of Guilty (if applicable) or a copy of the Jury or Judge’s verdict.
Once you have those documents, you can transmit them to Marisa Feil, an attorney at the immigration law firm FWCanada, who offers free consultations and can help you submit your application for a temporary resident permit. The process to gain entry into Canada with a DUI conviction can take many months, so plan ahead if you will need to visit Canada for familial or business-related reasons. Free consultations can be booked by emailing email@example.com or calling (toll-free) 1-855-316-3555.
CAN YOU REDUCE YOUR DUI TO MAKE IT EASIER TO TRAVEL TO CANADA?
Due to the implementation of Bill C-46, you are highly recommended to plead down your offense to one not categorized under “serious criminality.” The best case scenario for admissibility into Canada would be pleading down to an offense not categorized under any form of criminality, such as “disorderly conduct.”
However, even if a DUI charge is reduced, while the final resolution of the case may be helpful for purposes of entering Canada, even a reduction of a DUI charge does not guarantee smooth processing at the Canadian border. The structure of the resolution of the DUI case is a factor in determining whether entry into Canada will be possible. Plea agreements need to be crafted carefully with future Canadian travel in mind. Make sure that you let your attorney know of that possibility when you are resolving your case.
ADVICE FOR ANY TRAVELER WITH CRIMINAL HISTORY
When reporting to Canada Customs, it is important to note that the border guards are the officials in charge and their decision stands. They can deny you entry for any reason, as entry into Canada is deemed a privilege by the Canadian government.
Finally, if your entry into Canada is denied, abide by the admonition, if given, not to return until legally able to do so. If one were to ignore such a directive and seek entry into Canada at another port of entry, denial is virtually certain and Criminal Immigration charges can follow. All travelers’ information is placed into the Canadian customs database computer and an individual who has been previously denied entry is “flagged.” If you have been denied entry into Canada, it is best to consult with FWCanada before attempting to cross again.
Free consultations can be booked by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling (toll-free) 1-855-316-3555.