Canada with DUI

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Canadian immigration lawyer focused on Canada DUI entry from USA. We offer free comprehensive consultations (unlike most companies who demand a retainer before assessing your options).

Can I Go to Canada if I Had a DUI 20 Years Ago?

If a US passport holder has a criminal conviction in their past that equates to a potentially serious crime in Canada, they could be denied entry at the border on grounds of criminality. A DUI is now a serious crime in Canada that can be punished by up to a decade in prison. Consequently, a single misdemeanor conviction for DUI, DWI, OVI, OWI, DWAI, or even wet reckless driving can render an American criminally inadmissible to Canada for life. It is possible to obtain permission to cross the Canadian border with a DUI by applying for a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP) or Criminal Rehabilitation. A TRP is a quick fix for a limited period of time, but requires a valid reason for travel. Canadian Rehabilitation is a permanent fix, but takes substantially longer to obtain and involves more paperwork.

If a visitor only has a single DUI from nearly twenty years ago, they may be grandfathered in under Canada's old laws and considered "deemed rehabilitated by virtue of time." Canada changed their DUI laws in December 2018 making driving under the influence a serious crime. Before Bill C-46 was enacted into law, however, a DUI in Canada only had a maximum prison sentence of five years. This meant that foreign nationals with a single DUI conviction used to be "deemed rehabilitated" or assumed safe by the Government of Canada once it had been ten years since full completion of all sentencing.

If a US citizens wants to visit Canada with a DUI that happened close to twenty years prior, he or she may be eligible for grandfathered Deemed Rehabilitation since the offense occurred long before Canada updated their laws. Before attempting to enter Canada with a twenty year-old drunk driving offense, however, is it advisable to consulate with a Canadian immigration lawyer about your eligibility for grandfathered Deemed Rehabilitation. Now that driving impaired is a major crime north of the border, Canadian border security do not mess around with such offenses and the onus is always on the visitor to prove their admissibility! If a traveler does not bring adequate proof of their admissibility, there is a risk they could be turned around at the border regardless of how long ago the incident occurred. If an American has more than one impaired driving conviction in their past, Deemed Rehabilitation is likely never a possibility and the person will often need to apply for special entry permission to avoid the risk of a border refusal.

Want to enter Canada but have a DUI from about twenty years ago? Contact our legal team today for a FREE consultation!

Can Canada Even See a DUI From 20 Years Ago?

It is easy to forget about an old DUI after 15-20 years, after all such an event is usually an unpleasant experience most people are happy to stop thinking about. The Canadian border never forgets, however, and our law firm has spoken to hundreds of Americans who were denied entry due to criminal convictions from as far back as the 1970s. The Government of Canada has full access to the FBI's National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database. Consequently, the Canadian border can see almost every single arrest and conviction that has happened in the United States in the last half century, and there is no limit to how far back the Canadian border checks for a DUI. Even if a conviction eventually "dropped off" or was sealed or expunged, you should expect the Canadian border to still know about it. Visiting Canada with a DUI after twenty years is certainly possible in a multitude of cases, but anyone with an arrest record involving DUI or DWI should show up at a Port of Entry well prepared.

If someone is not eligible for Deemed Rehabilitation, such as person that had two DUIs from twenty years ago, they can learn how to get into Canada with a DUI by applying for a Temporary Resident Permit or Rehabilitation. While lots of people just avoid the country once they learn they are inadmissible, a person whose offenses occurred 20+ years ago will often have a strong case that they should be considered rehabilitated if they do decide to apply for a Canadian pardon. Other driving offenses, such as driving with a suspended license, dangerous driving, careless driving, and reckless driving (both dry reckless and wet reckless), can also now equate to a serious crime above the border.

My DUI Happened 20 Years Ago, Why Does Canada Still Care?

Many Americans are shocked to learn that a misdemeanor conviction for driving while impaired can be an issue at the Canadian border even twenty years later. This is because driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs can be an indictable offense in Canada, which is similar to a felony in the United States. If a US citizen is convicted of drunk driving today, they can be banned from Canada forever. This being said, back in the day the laws were not as harsh, hence why Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officers would often overlook a DUI from twenty years prior if the visitor had no other criminal history. With Canada's tough new DUI laws, however, the scrutiny at the border has increased considerably and agents can now require proof that an individual traveling on a US passport or Enhanced Drivers License (EDL) is allowed in according to the border rules.

Why Do I Need to Bring Paperwork to the Border?

If you had a DUI twenty years ago, you are probably not thrilled about the idea of hiring a lawyer just to help ensure you get into Canada successfully. If CBSA authorities can see my twenty year-old DUI, why can they not tell if I am eligible for grandfathered Deemed Rehabilitation many people wonder. There are several reasons it may not be clear to border security if an American with a misdemeanor DWI from twenty years ago is inadmissible or not. To begin with, eligibility for Deemed Rehabilitation is based upon full completion of all sentencing not the arrest or conviction date. Many people hear that going to Canada with a DUI from 10 years ago or longer can be much easier than visiting with a recent conviction, but do not realize when the clock starts ticking or what all is involved.

An FBI background check typically shows when a person was charged with drunk driving, and when they were convicted, but from looking at the database alone border agents have no idea if a person paid their fines, took their classes, or successfully completed other court ordered sentencing requirements. Canadian border agents also frequently have no idea how long a person had their license suspended, or when their probation ended, unless the traveler brings such documentation with them. Even non-reporting probation can slow down eligibility for Deemed Rehabilitation.

Ever since intoxicated driving became serious criminality north of the border, Canada's border agents have become much more stringent when dealing with visitors with a DUI or reckless driving conviction appearing on their background check. If a US citizen with a misdemeanor conviction from twenty years ago drives to the border or flies into Canada and does not have any court documents or paperwork on them, border agents will use their discretion when deciding if the person should be admitted into the country. This can obviously be very risky for the visiting party, since the trip can become a disaster if border agents decide not to grant them admission into the country. After twenty years, some agents could certainly decide a person is likely deemed rehabilitated and give them the benefit of the doubt, but without proof of admissibility some agents could deny entry to a visitor with an old criminal record for driving drunk.

Not all DUI convictions even qualify for grandfathered Deemed Rehabilitation according to the rules. For example: offenses that involve significant property damage or physical harm to others can be excluded. Consequently, an American traveling to Canada with a DUI from twenty years ago may need to prove the offense did not involve a car crash. If a person's background check shows a charge for leaving the scene of an accident (even if it was dismissed), border agents could very well assume there was property damage unless the individual can show evidence to the contrary.

Establishing that a foreign national is eligible to be grandfathered in under the old rules can also involve establishing that the corresponding offense in Canada, at the time of the incident, was not yet considered serious criminality. Equating an offense from the USA to an old law in Canada that has a different maximum imposable sentence than today's DUI laws can be particularly difficult. For this reason, many Americans interested in going to Canada with a DUI arrest or conviction from 15, 20, or even 25 years ago obtain a Legal Opinion Letter from an experienced immigration lawyer in Canada. Such paperwork can allow a person to show up at the border without stressing, knowing they have adequate evidence for proving their admissibility according to Canadian immigration law. If someone wants to visit Canada with a dismissed DUI charge, they should bring proof the final result was not a conviction otherwise border authorities may be concerned about the charge.

Wondering how to get into Canada with a DUI from twenty years ago? Contact our team today for a complimentary consultation!

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