Foreign nationals that are convicted of any alcohol-related driving infraction, such as driving under the influence (DUI), driving while intoxicated (DWI), driving while ability impaired (DWAI), or wet reckless driving may be considered criminally inadmissible to Canada and refused entry at the border. It is possible to overcome criminal inadmissibility with a Temporary Resident Permit (short-term solution) or Criminal Rehabilitation (permanent fix), both of which can allow an American with a DUI to cross the Canadian border. It may also be possible for a visitor to be considered “deemed rehabilitated by the passage of time” if they have only one conviction from long in the past.
Before December 2018, a US citizen or resident with a single DUI or similar offense on their record (misdemeanor criminal conviction or traffic violation) may be considered deemed rehabilitated according to Canadian law if they paid all fines and successfully completed all probation at least ten years prior. Any other court-ordered conditions, such as attending a Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Victim Impact Panel or alcohol education classes, must also have been fulfilled a minimum of ten years before attempting to cross the border. Canada’s DUI entry rules have since changed for visitors with an old offense!
Beginning in December 2018, a DUI is now considered a serious crime in Canada punishable by up to a decade of imprisonment (an increase from a maximum penalty of five years in jail). As a result, impaired driving is now treated as serious criminality under Canadian immigration law and such offenses no longer qualify for automatic Deemed Rehabilitation after ten years. This means an American with a single DWI can now be denied entry to Canada regardless of how long ago the offense happened.
Grandfathered Deemed Rehabilitation
An American with a single impaired driving offense that occurred before Canada changed their DUI laws on December 18th, 2018, may be grandfathered in under the old laws. Consequently, it could still be possible for him or her to claim Deemed Rehabilitation in order to enter Canada without obtaining a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP) or manual Criminal Rehabilitation. Anyone interested in going to Canada with an old DUI should consult with a Canadian immigration lawyer to determine if they may qualify for grandfathered Deemed Rehabilitation, as the onus is always on the visitor to prove admissibility. Before the laws were updated, a visitor to Canada with an old DUI was not always required to prove to border security that ten years had passed since all court-imposed requirements were satisfied. Now that Canada considers a DWI to be a severe criminal offense, however, any visitor who has ever been arrested for impaired driving should expect thorough scrutiny at the Canadian border.
Even if your DUI happened 20+ years ago, if you wish to minimize the risk of a border denial it is advisable to have a Canadian immigration lawyer write a Legal Opinion Letter explaining precisely why you should be considered admissible to Canada. Remember, entry to Canada is always at the discretion of border officials and it is the visitor’s responsibility to be able to justify their admittance. In some cases, a visitor may also need a copy of their FBI Police Certificate to prove to Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officers that he or she has no criminal convictions in the past ten years. In order to be considered deemed rehabilitated by the simple passage of time, an American must be ready to prove their offense qualifies and that all sentencing including probation and license suspension was successfully completed more than ten years ago.
If you have two or more DUIs or a felony conviction, automatic Deemed Rehabilitation Canada will likely never apply to your situation and you could be turned away at the border regardless of how many years have elapsed. Intoxicated driving offenses that involved major property damage or injury to others can also be excluded from Deemed Rehabilitation, even if all sentencing was completed 10+ years ago and the incident took place before Bill C-46 came into effect. Americans with more than one DUI will almost always need to apply for Criminal Rehabilitation or a Temporary Resident Permit in order to legally cross the border even if it has been decades since their last arrest. Reckless driving is now a serious crime in Canada, so both dry reckless and wet reckless convictions can also render a United States citizen criminally inadmissible to Canada forever. Even a traffic ticket for driving impaired, such as OWI or DWAI, can result in a lifetime ban from Canada despite being a civil infraction not a misdemeanor conviction.
I Had a DUI 10 Years Ago Can I Go to Canada if I Do Not Mention It?
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) shares their NCIC criminal record database with Canada’s national police force. Many jurisdictions in America also share their DMV driving records with Canada via mutual information sharing agreements. Consequently, Canadian border security officers can instantly detect when a visitor has a past DUI even if happened 10+ years ago. If you arrive at the border and are asked if you have ever been arrested for driving under the influence, chances are the border agent already knows about your 10-year-old DUI. Honestly is always the best policy! If border agents think a traveler is lying about their driving record it typically will not help the person’s odds of being allowed in.
Questions about how to enter Canada with a DUI after ten years? Contact our legal team today for a free consultation.
Please note: It has come to our attention that there are a few websites claiming foreign nationals will automatically be considered deemed rehabilitated five years after their DUI provided they did not spend any time in jail. This is simply not true! Drunk driving can be prosecuted as an indictable offense in Canada, which means visiting Canada with a DUI after five years can still result in a border refusal. Deemed Rehabilitation after five years only applies to a person with two or more summary convictions, not an individual with an alcohol-related driving conviction or violation.
Five years is the eligibility for applying for Criminal Rehabilitation, if someone wants to file paperwork via the Canadian consulate to request access to the country rather than wait 10 years (in certain cases) or avoid Canada forever. Otherwise, a person will typically never be assumed safe by the Government of Canada after a DUI until it has been a minimum of ten years. Since the regulatory framework around entering Canada with an old DUI changed in December 2018, please be aware that a substantial amount of info available online may not be up to date with current laws.