DUI / Criminal Record and Entering Canada

Written by: The Law Offices of Garrett T. Ogata

Canada is known for being very strict and getting into Canada may be an issue if one has a criminal record.  Even a DUI on your record may prevent you from entering Canada, let alone lesser crimes because Canadian Customs and Immigration officers will have the final say.

Persons who will be considered inadmissible into Canada include people charged with:

  • Misdemeanor offenses, such as DUIs, Reckless Driving, Petit Larceny, Assault etc
  • Gross Misdemeanors
  • Felonies
  • Indictable Criminal Offenses

Under Canadian law, a DUI/DWI may be a felony and an indictable offense and punishable up to 5 years.  Regardless if you are charged with a misdemeanor DUI/DWI in your home state, Canada considers this a reason to deny you entry.  Even a misdemeanor reckless driving can cause custom and immigration officials to deny you.

Basic traffic violations will typically not prevent you from entering Canada.  Juvenile convictions most likely will not prevent someone from entering Canada as well, but if one could have been tried as adult, it may be grounds for exclusion.  It is the Custom and Immigration Official’s discretion, so something minor may still cause a problem for some.

If you have been denied entry into Canada there are several ways one may gain entry if they qualify:

  • One can apply to be Deemed Rehabilitated at a Canadian port of entry.
  • One can apply for Streamlined Rehabilitation at a Canadian port of entry.
  • One can apply for a Minister’s Approval of Rehabilitation.
  • One can apply for a Temporary Resident Permit.
  • Those convicted of an offense IN Canada and who wish to return to Canada will first have to apply for a Pardon from the Clemency and Pardons Division of the National Parole Board.  If unable to do so, one may still apply for a Temporary Resident Permit.

Deemed Rehabilitated at port of entry requirements:

  • One conviction in total.
  • At least 10 years elapsed since the sentence was completed (the case was adjudicated closed).
  • The offense would NOT be considered serious criminality in Canada (most felony convictions may be serious).
  • The conviction did not involve serious property damage, physical harm to any person, or any type of weapon.

Streamlined Rehabilitation at port of entry requirements:

  • Two or less convictions in total.
  • At least 5 years have elapsed since the sentence was completed.
  • The offense would not be considered serious criminality in Canada.
  • The offenses did not involve any serious property damage, physical harm to any person, or any type of weapon.
  • A fee of $200.

Even if one qualifies for Deemed Rehabilitation or Streamlined Rehabilitation, approval is not guaranteed.  However, if you do qualify then this will be the easiest route to take to get admission into Canada.  One will have to show up at the Canadian port of entry during regular business hours (Mon – Fri and 8am – 5pm) and provide Custom officials with the following:

  • Passport or birth certificate with photo identification (passport may be required).
  • A copy of court records for each conviction and proof of completed sentence.
  • Recent FBI identification record.
  • Recent police certificates from the state of the conviction and from any state where the person lived in the past 6 months or longer in the last 10 years.
  • A $200 fee for Streamlined Rehabilitation.
  • It is wise to check with the authority ahead of time to confirm if any other documents will be needed.

Regardless of what route one takes to try to get into Canada, Customs and Immigration Officials have discretion.  It is always recommended that you come prepared with the proper documents in hand to aid the permission process and remember to be polite and patient.

If 5 years has elapsed since completion of a sentence, but one is not eligible for rehabilitation due to number of the offenses or nature of the offense, then one may try to apply for Approval of Rehabilitation through a Canadian Consulate in the United States.

Approval of Rehabilitation requires:

  • Applying directly to a Canadian Consulate’s visa office.
  • Having waited 5 years since the completion of your sentence.
  • A completed application for criminal rehabilitation.
  • The same documentation as was needed for Deemed Rehabilitation and Streamlined Rehabilitation and possibly more.

One will need to contact their nearest Canadian Consulate to complete the Approval of Rehabilitation.  It is best to contact the Consulate first and verify what forms and documents will be needed.  Remember, it is still up to the Consulate to approve your admission into Canada.  Merely applying does not guarantee you will be admitted.  The Canadian Consulate General is located in:

  • Buffalo, NY
  • New York, NY
  • Detroit, MI
  • Los Angeles, CA
  • Seattle, WA
  • Various Other Locations

If one is not eligible for the above mentioned ways to gain admission to Canada, such as, it has been less than 5 years since the completion of your sentence; one will need to apply for a Temporary Resident Permit.  This is the hardest route to take because of the time it takes and the fact that the criminal offense was committed recently.

The Temporary Resident Permit requires:

  • One to submit the same documents required for Deemed, Streamlined, and Approval of Rehabilitation at their nearest consulate’s visa office.
  • An Application for Criminal Rehabilitation, but checking the box in Section A(2) “For Information Only.”
  • Any other forms, documents, or fees required.

Again, it is always best to contact the visa office at the nearest consulate first to make sure one has all the required documents.  This is still another case-by-case process where Canadian officials will have discretion in approval.  They will typically be looking at the nature of the crime, number of offenses, time since completion of the sentence, and other factors.

Always plan in advance; depending on what consulate, it may take at least 6 months to a year to process your Approval of Rehabilitation or Temporary Resident Permit.  There are no guarantees when it comes to entry, but one does has several, all be it time consuming ways to try to enter Canada.

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