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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn more about criminal inadmissibility in general, please click here.