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Entering Canada with a DUI Conviction

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Many prospective travelers to Canada are surprised to find out that a past criminal conviction – even one committed many years ago – can render them inadmissible to Canada. Whether coming to work, study, or just planning a day of sightseeing, increased security at the Canadian border means that a past conviction can bar an individual from entering the country.

Citizens from any country, including the United States, can run into problems for a number of seemingly minor criminal convictions, the most common of which is driving under the influence (DUI). Oversight has increased in recent years due to joint data-sharing initiatives between the two countries.

“We regularly receive calls from people who have just been turned away at the border,” said Attorney Daniel Levy, inadmissibility specialist at Campbell Cohen Immigration Law Firm. “Many are surprised and concerned that something they consider to be well in the past is suddenly posing a major barrier to their travel plans.”

It is important to note that it is possible to address potential issues of criminal inadmissibility before traveling to Canada. Below is a detailed explanation of the various ways that an individual can still be admissible to Canada in spite of past convictions.

Why Does a DUI Make Me Inadmissible?

Driving under the influence is a relatively common offense. In the United States alone, there are about 1.4 million drunk driving arrests every year.

There are a number of ways for a drunk driving charge to appear on one’s record. Some common ones are:

  • Driving Under the Influence (DUI)
  • Driving While Impaired (DWI)
  • Driving While Intoxicated (DWI)
  • Operating Under the Influence (OUI)
  • Wet and Reckless (W&R)
  • Reckless Driving
  • Driving without Due Care and Attention

In order to protect Canada’s security interests, foreigners can be denied entry to the country for any number of major or minor offenses. It is prudent to research as early as possible whether the offense will pose a problem for entering Canada.

Options for Addressing Inadmissibility

There are a few different ways to enter Canada with a DUI or other criminal charges. Choosing the best option depends on a number of factors, including:

  • The number and type of offense(s);
  • When the sentencing for the offense(s) was completed; and
  • The severity of the offense(s).

An offense committed outside of Canada is assessed according to the seriousness of the equivalent offence in the Canadian criminal code. Therefore, a minor offense abroad might be treated as a more serious offense by Canadian immigration authorities.

Depending on their personal circumstances, any one of the following paths may be an option for individuals who hold DUI convictions:

Temporary Resident Permit (TRP) – A TRP allows an individual to be become admissible for Canada on a temporary basis. The permit can be issued for any length of stay, up to a period of three years. Applicants should pursue a TRP if their most recent offense occurred less than five years ago.

Processing times for TRPs vary greatly between Canadian visa offices. If seeking to apply for a TRP through a visa office, it is best to set aside at least 6-12 months for processing.

TRP Issued at the Canadian Border – In 2012, the Government of Canada amended its rules so that certain people seeking entry to Canada can be issued a TRP upon arrival at a Canadian port of entry. These permits are only issued where there are compelling or urgent circumstances. One should consult with an attorney before planning on applying for a TRP at the port of entry.

Permanent Rehabilitation ­– Individuals who want to permanently resolve their inadmissibility issues can do so by applying for ‘Criminal Rehabilitation’. In order to be eligible, more than 5 years must have passed since the completion of one’s most recent sentence.

Rehabilitation applications can take a year or more to process, and should therefore be started well in advance. It is possible to apply for a TRP while a rehabilitation application is in process.

Deemed Rehabilitation In the case of a single DUI conviction where more than 10 years have passed from the completion of a sentence, an individual may be deemed rehabilitated by virtue of the time that has elapsed. The line between rehabilitation and inadmissibility is not always clear.

“Even if somebody thinks they are rehabilitated, it may still be in their best interests to provide Canadian border officials with information explaining their situation,” said Attorney David Cohen. “For instance, they may choose to carry a legal opinion that clearly states how and why they are eligible to enter Canada.”

Advice for Applicants

Canada takes its security concerns very seriously. It is not uncommon for a prospective entrant, even a day tourist, to run into trouble for an all-but-forgotten DUI.

Although having a DUI or other conviction on record can pose a challenge to entering Canada, it is a challenge that can often be overcome. For anybody who thinks their history may render them inadmissible to the country, the best first step is to contact a legal professional.

“I encourage clients who want to come to Canada to go through their personal history with a fine-tooth comb,” said Attorney David Cohen. “If there is something that they are unsure about, it is best to be proactive and find out what the situation is well before they pack their bags.”

To find out whether you are inadmissible to Canada, please contact 

To learn more about criminal inadmissibility in general, please click here. 




10 thoughts on “Entering Canada with a DUI Conviction

  1. Avatar

    What happens when Canadian gets a DUI while in the United States. Are they able to return to Canada o

  2. Avatar

    Well, Paul, if you feel that way maybe the 50 cabillions of Canadians who buy, sleep, rent and pollute the great state of Florida should get the hell out. No, instead we are a welcoming country for the most part. I won’t stoop to your arrogance.

  3. Avatar

    Thank you for thinking the same as I do. We for the most part are great neighbors except for the few as the guy above who thinks we are beneath him. That’s a shame as he makes everyone look arrogant as hell. I am now on a mission to make it the same for people coming here as a one way street is not fair to us here in the USA. Good day Cracka.

  4. Avatar

    A couple of things…

    First, “Paul” represents a tiny minority of people who actually think they are better than everyone else on the planet. Ignore ppl like him. He in no way represents the overwhelming majority of Canadians who see our two Countries and citizens as one in the same. Personally, Caadians should be grateful we have such amazing neighbours (and may I say the opposite is likely true as well).

    More importantly, if a crime in the States maps to a crime in Canada, you can get into the inadmissible category. I don’t believe, notlr do I want to find out, if a DUI is a criminal offense in Canada. We don’t have different categories of crime (e.g. misdemeanor vs Felony), just the criminal code of Canada.

  5. Avatar

    I don’t quite understand – in the US people are punished with a misdemeanors for having a BAC of .05. But in Canada driving with BAC over 0.08 is a criminal offence. So someone can be prohibited from entry into Canada when they wouldn’t have broken a Canadian law?

  6. Avatar

    Shame on you, Paul. You confirmed what many of us Americans know to be true, but that Canadians think they are above; Canadians are as rude as people from any other country.

    You might not agree, but many Canadians wish that they were our 51st state.

  7. Avatar

    Well we have our laws , if you want to come here make sure you dont drink and drive .

    The fact you are more upset for not being able to come here rather than the carnage you might have caused while being intoxicated speaks volumes about you , it is a privilege to visit our country , you are not entitled by any means .

    And the fact that you have a cottage here is no excuse to let a person through our borders who might end up as a menace on our roads after partying at said cottage .

    The comment of ” Don’t worry we can’t stop them for the same reason but will get a Canadian for something today to even the score” just reinforces the reason of why the USA is considered to be one of the most rude and arrogant of nations in existence today .

    Have fun keeping yourself within your own borders – we are Canada no the united states of Canada .

  8. Avatar

    All of this really became a problem with the sharing of information after 911. With no borders now in Europe this situation is truely stuck in the dark ages. I was a victim of Canadas restrictions and had traveled to thier country dozens and dozens of times for Sking and other outdoor activities and to tour various cities. They detained me at the border and refused admission for a DUI. I havent been back in over five years and the result was a significant loss in US dollars I would of put into thier economy. I ski in the USA not Canada anymore and I won’t be back. The ironic portion of the day in which I was not allowed admission was when I reported back to the US border patrol apon reentry. The head Border Patrol officer stated to me.” Don’t worry we can’t stop them for the same reason but will get a Canadian for something today to even the score”. Some how that just made me feel worse!

  9. Avatar

    As a US citizen who owns a cottage in Canada who has also never had a DUI, this frankly sounds like nothing more than a money grab. I wonder what a Canadian working in the US for his livelihood would do if they ever got a DUI and the US started to enforce such a ridiculous policy. I really would like to see how different the penalties are between a first offense DUI in each country. I highly doubt they are that far apart and I am certain Canada doesn’t have some sort of magical DUI rehabilitation formula that nobody else knows about. Try to put yourselves in the shoes of someone who had a single DUI 5 years ago or 10 years ago and re-read this article. Then ask yourself this, “if I ever wanted to go to Canada for something other than a required business trip, would I ever attempt to try to figure out a system this ill-defined and preposterous?” The answer is no, absolutely not. Canada, it’s time to re-think your policies on DUIs.

  10. Avatar
    Canada DUI Entry

    Excellent article!
    One small technicality that should be corrected, however, is the statement “applicants should pursue a TRP if their most recent offense occurred less than five years ago.” The date the offense occurred does not actually matter, only the date that the sentence was finished. This means that if someone got a DUI more than five years ago, but only finished their sentence 4 years ago, they should still apply for a Temporary Resident Permit and not Criminal Rehabilitation.

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