Updated September 16, 2019
Attitudes toward DUI travel vary throughout the world. There is no doubt that drinking and driving is a risky endeavour. The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention says that 28 Americans are killed in crashes involving impaired drivers every single day. MADD Canada says that on average 4 Canadians per day are killed. If you have a DUI record, you probably realized how serious it was after the fact.
Now that it has happened, you are moving on with your life and probably have considered how your conviction will affect your ability to travel. This depends on where you want to travel. DUI travel may be possible depending on the situation.
In some countries, DUI is considered a misdemeanor. In others, it is a serious criminal offence no matter how it was prosecuted in your country. Some countries will consider whether or not you did jail time and for how long. Some will look at whether there were aggravating factors such as multiple incidents or accidents causing injury. The amount of time since the offence will also be a factor in your travel plans.
Whenever you are asked by a foreign official if you have a criminal record, you should be honest. Otherwise, you could be arrested and detained or banned for life. If you are not admissible, sometimes one-time exceptions are made and other times they aren’t. Explain your situation plainly and hope for the best. You might consider bringing court documents to show the nature of the offence. If you have not received advance permission to enter with a record, the ultimate decision will be up to the border official you encounter.
Rules involving admissibility to countries change a lot. Check with the consulate before travelling.
Places where DUI travel is possible
United States: A single DUI conviction will not prevent you from entering the United States. However, if it is combined with other charges or if there are multiple charges, you could be denied entry.
European Union: A DUI will generally not prohibit you from entering the European Union countries unless there are aggravating factors. Although the United Kingdom may leave the Union, DUI was not considered a prohibited ground prior to their entry. It’s likely that DUI travel to the UK will be allowed even if they leave the Union.
Cuba: Canada does not share its criminal record database with Cuba. Anecdotally Canadians say they do not have to answer questions about criminal records when they enter Cuba; however, this does not mean that you won’t be asked. The Cuban Embassy website states: “If you have a criminal record, you must contact your local Cuban diplomatic mission to determine if you are eligible for entry into Cuba.”
Dominican Republic: Similar to Cuba, people report being able to enter the Dominican Republic with minor records. A tourist visa requires a criminal record check. However, Canadian and US tourists do not require a visa to enter the country for visits up to 30 days. You could still be asked about your record upon arrival. Check with the Consulate before booking travel.
China: The visa application for China will ask about criminal convictions. However, this has not been a deal-breaker for some people who have applied. The Embassy website states that you should attach a personal letter with an explanation of the criminal activity and state that you will not commit any criminal activity while in China and will adhere to the laws in China.
India: Currently, the tourist visa application for India does not require you to declare a criminal record. However, you could be denied if officials investigate your background. Contact the Consulate to determine if you are eligible.
Places where you can’t travel with a DUI
Canada: Canada is very strict about DUI convictions. If you have a DUI in the past 10 years, you will be denied entry. This is especially true for US residents because Canada has access to the FBI database of criminal records. Even if the DUI was a misdemeanor and resulted in a simple fine, Canada will judge it according to the toughest standard under the Canadian Criminal Code, which is called “indictable.” Visiting Canada with a criminal record will require a waiver. Canada has some of the toughest rules against DUI travel.
Mexico: In law, a person with a criminal record for DUI from the past 10 years is not permitted to enter Mexico, though anecdotally speaking, people do visit Mexico with DUIs due to the fact that Mexican authorities do not have access to Canadian criminal record databases. Keep in mind that there are other ways a border official can discover a criminal record, including Internet searches and court record databases. US residents may have more difficulty if their DUI was prosecuted as a felony. Contact your nearest Mexican Consulate for advice if you are considering DUI travel to Mexico.
Australia: If your sentence was more than 12 months, you can be denied entry to Australia even if you did not serve the entire sentence. This includes suspended sentences. In order to overcome your ineligibility, you should apply for a visa rather than an ETA. Ask the Consulate for details.
New Zealand: If your sentence was in the last five years, you will need to get a good character waiver in order to enter New Zealand. If your sentence is older than that and was less than 12 months, you will most likely be permitted to enter Australia or New Zealand. However, you may need to apply for a visa instead of an ETA so that the officials can examine your record. Ask the consulate for details.
What can you do?
Pardon or Record Suspension: As you have seen, officials have a wide leeway to approve or deny your entry to their country. There are only a few countries with specific policies in place. A pardon or Record Suspension can support your application as it demonstrates rehabilitation and helps to assure the officials that you are no longer involved in criminal activity.
Canadian Waivers: Canada offers two different applications for people with DUI sentences in the past 10 years:
- Temporary Resident Permit: If it has been less than five years since the completion of your sentence, this is your only option. It allows you to enter for a specific purpose.
- Criminal Rehabilitation: This is a permanent solution. As long as you keep a clean record, you will not need to apply for subsequent entries. This application is available five years after the completion of your sentence.
If it has been 10 years since you completed your sentence, you can be deemed rehabilitated, which means you do not need to make applications, but you should be able to provide documentation.
US Entry Waiver: If you were denied entry to the US due to aggravated circumstances or multiple DUIs, you can apply for a waiver to enter the United States. These waivers are temporary and last a maximum of five years.
If you need more information about travelling with a criminal record, contact us for more information and a free consultation at 1-866-972-7366.