Entering Canada a Problem with DUI or OVI Conviction

U.S. citizens seeking to enter Canada with a criminal record, whether a simple misdemeanor or a felony conviction, can be turned away at the border under Canada’s admissibility rules. This can be an unwelcome surprise to someone with a DUI or OVI conviction hoping to enter the country. Any criminal offense on your record could keep you out of the country.

Immigration law in Canada does not distinguish between misdemeanors and felonies. Offenses are considered to be either summary or indictable.  A conviction in the U.S., which has an equivalent offense in the Canadian Criminal Code, is deemed to be an indictable offense.

Canada’s “Operation While Impaired” offense is indictable and is punishable on a summary conviction. Any drug or alcohol related driving offense in the U.S. is considered by the Canadian government to be equivalent to this statute. Canada’s “Dangerous Operation of Motor Vehicles” statute is the equivalent assigned to most U.S. reckless driving convictions. This means that even though your DUI/OVI case may have been pleaded down to a reckless operation charge, you will still be found inadmissible to Canada.

Marisa Feil, an attorney who specializes in Canadian immigration law, states that there are only two ways to overcome the criminal conviction hurdle to successfully enter Canada. They are:

  1. Apply for a temporary resident permit.
  2. Apply for criminal rehabilitation.

That’s it. There are no other options.

To be found eligible for criminal rehabilitation, five years must have been passed from the completion of your sentence for your crime. This includes any fine payments, community service, etc. Upon approval of your application for criminal rehabilitation, your inadmissibility status will be lifted, and you will be approved to enter the country.

If you are not eligible for criminal rehabilitation, you will need to apply for a temporary resident permit – TRP. In order to be a approved for a TRP, you must have a specific reason for entering Canada. To apply for a TRP, you must visit a Canadian Visa office, or a port of entry. It can take some time for a TRP to be approved, so be sure to apply well in advance of your intended visit.

It is advisable to apply for the TRP even if you are eligible for criminal rehabilitation as it may take longer for the criminal rehabilitation application to be approved. The TRP can serve a temporary solution, while the criminal rehabilitation application is being considered for approval.

It is advised to contact an attorney in Canada that specializes in criminality. The country does not typically handle TRP or criminal rehabilitation applications with same speed and attention as work permits, study permits, or permanent residence applications. If you are planning a trip to Canada and have a criminal conviction, it is best to contact an experienced immigration lawyer to facilitate your application.