Updated October 8, 2019
For those looking to enter Canada with a DUI, entry is possible when you complete the requirements and provide the necessary documentation.
If you have past charges for drinking and driving or driving while impaired that leads to a DUI (Driving Under the Influence) you would probably be found criminally inadmissible to Canada.
Since March 2012, you could be eligible to apply for a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP). A TRP depends on each person’s particular circumstances. The duration of a TRP can vary from a 24-hour pass to a 36-month permit, it can sometimes be provided as a single to multiple entry pass as well.
Getting Into Canada with a DUI
If you have a past offense of Driving Under the Influence (DUI), Driving While Intoxicated (DWI), Driving While Ability Impaired (DWAI), Operating While Intoxicated (OWI), Operating a Motor Vehicle While Intoxicated (OMVI), Operating Under the Influence (OUI), Wet and Reckless (W&R), Reckless Driving, Driving without Due Care and Attention, or similar, it can affect your chances of getting into Canada and crossing the border.
While having a DUI or similar conviction can pose a problem when travelling to Canada, it’s a challenge that can often be overcome.
Applying for a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP) for going to Canada with a DUI allows an individual to become admissible on a temporary basis. A TRP will only be considered if there is a humanitarian issue such as a death in the family.
When looking to enter Canada with a DUI conviction, the TRP is your fastest option. Issued by Citizenship and Immigration Canada, a TRP is used to admit visitors with criminal records into Canada. As per Canadian law, if you have ever committed or been convicted of a crime, you might not be eligible for entry into Canada and considered “criminally inadmissible.”
Canadian border crossing rules
Many Americans often believe they can cross the border with a past DUI as it’s regarded differently in the United States. In some states, a DUI is regarded as a misdemeanor, infraction, or traffic violation.
In Canada, drunk driving is considered a criminal offence. In addition to Driving under the influence (DUI), it can also be recognized as Driving While Intoxicated (DWI). Even if you fly into Canada and arrive at a Canadian airport or were to arrive by ship at a Canadian harbor, you can still be denied entry for a past DUI.
There are cases where some people have crossed the border before or know of friends or family that have done so on multiple occasions without any difficulties. Doing so is at your own risk, and once inevitably caught, you could be detained and possibly be banned from entering Canada for years. Additionally, everyone traveling with you would also be denied entry at that time.
It’s imperative that you don’t lie when speaking to an officer about crossing the border. Misrepresenting yourself (and your record) significantly reduces your chances of crossing the border in the future. A Canadian border officer can ban you for an extended amount of time, and even for life.
Past offences that were committed outside of Canada are individually assessed on a case by case basis and compared to the equivalent offence and seriousness of the charges. In some cases, what might be considered a minor offence elsewhere can be regarded as a serious offence according to the Canadian criminal code and immigration authorities. A DUI offence is an example of such a situation.
When crossing the border you would be dealing with The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), and when an agent asks “Have you ever been convicted of a crime?” be sure to answer truthfully. Chances are they have the answer in front of them and how you reply can determine whether you’ll be allowed entry.
How a TRP (Temporary Resident Permit) Works
Each year, thousands of Americans visit Canada for business travel, holidays, hunting, fishing, skiing, visiting family and other reasons.
When applying for a Temporary Resident Permit (or TRP) there are a number of eligibility requirements. A TRP varies in terms of what it permits. In some cases, it might be for a single entry, while in others it might be valid for months, even years, and sometimes allows multiple entries.
Frequent travellers can sometimes have a TRP issued for re-entry, provided;
- the crime resulted in probation or a suspended sentence, and not a jail term
- the crime did not include drugs (simple marijuana possession might be considered)
- did not include physical harm and/or violence
- did not include property damage (DUI in an accident also a factor)
- conditions met while on probation, if applicable
- there are no more than two (2) convictions, which are summary offences, not indictable
In some cases, frequent travellers might want to apply for Criminal Rehabilitation. If your conviction took place over 5 years ago, you might be eligible. Unlike a TRP, which is usually submitted at the Canada/U.S. border, the application for Criminal Rehabilitation is made at a Canadian consulate or embassy.
How long do you have to wait to go to Canada if you have a DUI?
Firstly, you cannot enter if your charge is still pending.
If you are approved for a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP), you can enter Canada within five years. A TRP is generally granted for a specific purpose, such as a business meeting or convention.
After five years, you are eligible to apply for a permanent waiver, which is called Criminal Rehabilitation.
The fastest way to get a TRP is to prepare your application and take it to the border. It could take a few months to prepare your application, depending on the agencies that hold your records. Once you get to the border or airport, it will be approved or denied within a few hours. If it is denied you’ll have to turn around, which makes this a very risky application. This is only recommended for very compelling applications.
Otherwise, you can apply for a TRP at the Canadian Consulate. This will take much longer, but you have a better chance of being approved. It can take up to a year to get a TRP through the Consulate. A Criminal Rehabilitation application can take over a year. For this reason, many people will apply for the TRP and Criminal Rehabilitation at the same time.
The waiting period to apply for Criminal or Deemed Rehabilitation is based on the date you finished your sentence, not the date you were convicted.
Can a Canadian with a DUI enter the USA?
Although there are many convictions that would prevent a Canadian from entering the USA without a waiver, DUI is not normally one of them.
However, if there were multiple convictions or aggravating factors (such as harm to people or property) a Canadian could be denied for DUI. Drug-impaired driving could cause a Canadian to be denied because the US considers evidence of the use of narcotics, including marijuana, as grounds for inadmissibility. In these cases, the person would need to obtain a US Entry Waiver, which would need to demonstrate some rehabilitation.
Can you fly into Canada with a DUI on your record?
Many people hope that Canada will be more lenient if they fly into Canada. After all the major airports can be some distance from the border, and once you land at Customs you are already far into the country. However, the border authorities are unlikely to take pity on you just because you paid a lot for a flight.
Flying into Canada makes it even more crucial that you prepare a compelling TRP application to present on arrival or get pre-clearance through the Canadian Consulate.
If you are turned away at a Canadian airport, you will have to pay your own way home, which can be quite costly. Visiting Canada with a criminal record is not easier if you fly, and in fact, can be more difficult.
If it has been more than 10 years since you completed your sentence, bring proof when you fly or get cleared by the Consulate prior to travelling.
At Pardon Services Canada, we help those requiring a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP) and can assist you with the process.
We also recommend you review our FAQs for a Canadian waiver when looking to enter the country.
Under Canada law, there are some minor and more serious crimes that would make you criminally inadmissible and not permit you to enter Canada.
This includes charges such as theft, assault, manslaughter, dangerous driving, DUI/DWI (driving while under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol), and possession of or trafficking in drugs or other controlled substances.