Updated with the June 2018 change to the criminal code.
If you have been convicted of DUI (Driving Under the Influence) or DWI (Driving While Intoxicated) charge in the last ten years, or more than once ten years ago or longer, you are what is known as “criminally inadmissible to Canada.” This means that if you try to enter Canada from the USA or any other country with these convictions on your criminal record, you will almost certainly be refused entry into the country.
Of course this restriction also applies to other criminal convictions as well - both felonies and misdemeanours will keep you out of Canada.
When you come to the border to enter Canada, the customs officer will frequently ask if you have ever been convicted of a crime. Keep in mind that even small or minor crimes still count, and it is misrepresentation (a federal crime) to lie to a border officer. For this reason it is better to tell the truth if you have any criminal convictions. It is at the officer’s discretion whether to admit you to Canada or determine that you are inadmissible.
Also keep in mind that Canadian border officers can almost always see any convictions in your criminal record when they scan your passport because of information sharing agreements between the US and Canada.
Even if you are told that you are inadmissible to Canada, there is a solution. If you need to enter Canada but have a criminal conviction, you have to apply for a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP) in order to enter the country. You can apply for a TRP at the point of entry (land or sea border, or airport customs), or you can also apply by submitting your application to the Canadian consulate in your country of residence.
If you have only had one DUI or DWI conviction which is older than 10 years, you are “deemed rehabilitated”, and you do not need a TRP to enter Canada. You will have to prove that you meet the requirements to be deemed rehabilitated, however.
Note: As of June 21, 2018, "deemed rehabilitation" is no longer available to those entering Canada with DUI/DWI convictions. This is due to a change in the Criminal Code; driving under the influence is now considered "serious criminality."
A TRP is a temporary document and you have to apply for a new one every time you enter Canada. However, you may also be able to apply for criminal rehabilitation, which is a permanent solution to being denied entry to Canada. If you become rehabilitated, you will never need to apply for another TRP to enter Canada even if you have been convicted of a DUI or DWI in the past.
The cost of a TRP is $200 for the government application fee, and the cost for a criminal rehabilitation application will now be $1000 for the government application fee. If you hire an immigration professional such as a consultant or lawyer to help with your application, they will charge you legal fees in addition to the government application fees.
Tips for entering Canada with a DUI or DWI
- Do not lie to the border officer.
- If you have been convicted of a DUI, DWI, or other crime, you are inadmissible to Canada.
- Even if you are criminally rehabilitated, you are not guaranteed entry to Canada – it is at the discretion of the border officer to deny entry to anyone who is not a Canadian citizen.
- If you are not criminally rehabilitated, you have to apply for a new TRP every time you want to enter Canada.
If you would normally need a visitor visa to enter Canada, you must still have one even if you are granted a TRP.
- TRP (Temporary Resident Permit) – A document that is issued to someone who is inadmissible to Canada which will allow them to enter Canada one time.
- Criminal Rehabilitation – The process of eliminating the reason that you are inadmissible to Canada such as a criminal conviction.
- DUI (Driving Under the Influence) or DWI (Driving While Intoxicated) – Criminal charges that can prevent you from entering Canada even from the USA if you have been convicted.
Understanding Inadmissibility - Why Can't You Enter Canada?
Canada has three types of crimes, indicating the level of severity of the crime. When you are going to enter Canada, the border officer judges your criminal record by its equivalency to Canadian criminal law.
A Summary Offence is Canada's equivalent of a Misdemeanour. It is the least serious type of criminal offence in Canada. A conviction which is the equivalent of a summary offence will not normally prevent you from entering Canada. However, two or more convictions equivalent to summary offences will usually require a TRP for entry.
An Indictable Offence is Canada's equivalent of a Felony. It is the most serious type of criminal offence in Canada. If a border officer judges your conviction as an equivalent to an indictable, you will need a TRP to enter and you will need Criminal Rehabilitation to remove the need to get TRPs when you visit Canada. A DWI/DUI is considered an indictable offence in Canada.
Canada also has discretionary Offences, called Hybrid Offences, which can be either Summary or Indictable, based upon the discretion of the prosecuting authority. What this means for travellers to Canada with criminal convictions is that the border officer may judge your misdemeanour to be the equivalent of an indictable offence, rather than a summary offence, based on the sentence received for the misdemeanour. There's nothing you can do about this, beyond getting a TRP or applying for criminal rehabilitation.
Types of Offences that Require a TRP or Criminal Rehabilitation
Many misdemeanors in the US (or minor crimes in other countries) are considered hybrid or indictable offences in Canada. Here are some:
- DUI/DWI/DWAI/DWUI/OWI/OUI/OMVI - Any drinking and driving offence is a serious crime in Canada.
- Other Reckless Driving Convictions.
- Driving Without a License or other driving while disqualified infractions.
- Using a Revoked Credit Card/Passing Bad Cheques
- Petty Theft - Even minor theft can make you inadmissible.
- Assault - Even the most minor assault conviction can make you inadmissible.
This list is far from exhaustive. If you are not sure whether or not your conviction makes you inadmissible and you should get a TRP (or get rehabilitated), contact us by calling 1-866-760-2623 or booking a consultation.