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 Get Into Canada with a DUI 5 Years Ago?

Intoxicated driving is now a serious crime in Canada that can be punished by up to a decade of prison time. Consequently, a visitor with a past DUI from America may be denied entry regardless of how long ago the incident transpired. Even a single DUI from five years ago that was reduced to a reckless driving or a civil violation can result in a traveler being refused admittance.

If a US citizen or Green Card holder is interested in crossing the Canadian border with a DUI from about five years ago, he or she can file paperwork with the Government of Canada to request special permission to enter. This involves convincing authorities that you will never reoffend and should be considered safe to let in. A Temporary Resident Permit (TRP) can provide access to Canada for an American with a past DUI, but is only a short-term fix and requires a "compelling" reason for travel such as work or business.

If it has been more than five years since your last DUI conviction, you may now be eligible to pursue a permanent fix. Once it has been five years from full completion of all sentencing, a US citizen can apply for Criminal Rehabilitation which can permanently overcome their inadmissibility to Canada. Rehabilitation never expires, and an applicant does not need a good reason for visiting. Consequently, many Americans with a DUI simply avoid Canada until they reach the 5-year mark and can finally apply for a permanent pardon.

Interested in going to Canada but had a DUI about five years ago? Contact our team today for a FREE consultation.

Does Canada Actually Care About a DUI After 5 Years?

There seems to be a lot of confusion about how long a US citizen needs to wait before being allowed back into Canada after a DUI. Our law firm is regularly contacted by people who think they are in the clear because their DUI was more than five years in the past. This is incorrect! A single DUI conviction can now render a foreign national criminally inadmissible to Canada for life. Even before the nation strengthened their DUI laws in 2018, one drinking and driving offense could put a traveler at substantial risk of being denied entry for a minimum of ten years.

There has never been a rule where Canada automatically ignores a driving while impaired conviction after five years! The 5-year mark is only significant because it is when an American can finally consider fixing the issue once and for all. In a nutshell, Canada still cares about DUIs from five years ago, but after five years it can be possible to obtain a pardon if you are willing to do paperwork to show the Government of Canada you are not a threat.

How Does Canada Know I Had a DUI?

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) shares their criminal database information with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). The RCMP then shares this information with the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA). Consequently, when a visitor arrives at the border with a driving record from the United States, Canadian border agents are capable of immediately red-flagging the individual. Even if a DUI from five years ago has been successfully sealed or expunged, it will frequently still be visible to the CBSA.

5 Year Eligibility for Criminal Rehabilitation

It is crucial to note that eligibility for Canadian Rehabilitation is not five years from the date of incident or five years from the date of conviction. Instead, it is five years from the date all court-imposed sentencing was finished including any probation. Consequently, if you are trying to travel to Canada with a DUI from five years ago you may need to wait another year or two before becoming eligible for a pardon depending on how quickly you finished the requirements of your sentence.

How long it takes to finish a DUI sentence in the USA can vary greatly from state to state. For example: in New York State, sentencing for a misdemeanor DWI or a DWAI violation is typically completed within 12 months. In California, on the other hand, a first-offense DUI or wet reckless conviction typically involved 36 months of informal probation which can delay someone's ability to obtain a Canadian pardon. In Washington State, probation for a drunk driving conviction can be as long as 60 months.

Have a DUI in America from about five years ago and wondering if you can now apply for Canadian Rehabilitation? Phone us today!

How to Go to Canada with a DUI After 5 Years

If you had a DUI, DWI, OVI, OWI, DWAI, wet reckless, or similar incident in the United States approximately five years ago, and are now interested in visiting Canada, the first step is to figure out if you are eligible to apply for Rehabilitation. Your court documents should contain the sentencing information needed to ascertain exactly when you will become eligible to apply for a permanent pardon. If you do not have any case records, you will likely need to contact the courthouse to request a copy. If you are having difficulty determining when your sentence would be considered finished by Canada, a qualified attorney should be consulted.

If your interest in Canada is vacation or leisure, a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP) will likely not be a realistic solution. Consequently, if you are not yet eligible for a permanent pardon it may be best to avoid Canada until you are. Many people start assembling their Canadian Rehabilitation application a few months before they become eligible, so that all the paperwork is finished and ready for submission the first day they can apply.

If someone is not yet eligible for Criminal Rehabilitation but needs to travel to Canada, you may be happy to know a TRP application is an extremely similar procedure. Consequently, if you pursue a TRP in the near-term much of the paperwork can likely be reused in the future if you want to request permanent access at a later date. For example, if an American with a five year-old DWI obtains a TRP to cover them for some business trips to Canada, once they become eligible for Rehabilitation a substantial potion of their previous application is typically reusable.

Temporary Resident Permit vs. Criminal Rehabilitation

The Canadian Government prefers those who are eligible to apply for Rehab instead of an entry waiver. Consequently, a US citizen who wants to visit Canada with a DUI for which all sentencing ended 5+ years ago needs to be careful about applying for a TRP alone. In such a case, Canadian authorities may deny the applicant's request and tell him or her to apply for Rehabilitation instead.

It is only possible to apply for Criminal Rehabilitation through a consulate, and it can take Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) officers several months to review the paperwork. A Temporary Resident Permit (TRP) can also be requested via consulate, but in an urgent situation an expedited TRP application can be brought to the border for instant adjudication. For this reason, if an American needs to travel to Canada asap with a DUI from more than five years ago, they will often apply for both Rehab and a TRP. This approach can facilitate fast travel while also fixing the situation long-term.

Can I Get Into Canada with a DUI Charge From 5 Years Ago That Was Dismissed?

There is no presumption of innocence when dealing with CBSA staff. Even if you avoided a conviction because a field sobriety exercise or breath test was not administered correctly, or by completing a diversion or deferment program, the original arrest may still be visible to border security. In such circumstances, a visitor may be required to prove their admissibility to authorities at the border. In other words, if border security sees a DUI arrest from five years ago, the traveler may be required to prove it did not result in a conviction otherwise they may not be admitted into the country.

How Quickly Can I Travel to Canada Once I Reach the 5-Year Eligibility?

Criminal Rehabilitation processing times are often between 6 and 12 months through conventional consulate channels. In select cases, a qualified lawyer can expedite the process substantially. Since a TRP can be issued quicker than Rehabilitation in some situations, it is common for people with a DUI older than five years to apply for both at the same time. The goal of such an approach is to get into Canada fast with the TRP and then enjoy permanent admission once approved for Streamlined Criminal Rehabilitation. Many of the same documents are required for both the entry waiver and pardon applications, so when evaluating Canadian lawyers it is always smart to ask if these cost savings get passed along to the client.

Am I Safe If My DWI Is Much Older Than 5 Years?

Driving under the influence of alcohol is now a serious crime above the border and therefore can result in a lifetime ban. Prior to the laws getting strengthened, however, there used to be a 10-year rule called Deemed Rehabilitation. Essentially, if a traveling party with a solo arrest could prove all sentencing requirements were completed more than ten years ago they might be automatically assumed safe by authorities. If an American citizen has one old DWI and no other charges in their past, it might be "grandfathered in" under the old rules but an experienced professional should always be consulted.

Is a DUI from 5 Years Ago a Problem If I Will Not Drive While in Canada?

Admissibility according to Canadian immigration law does not differentiate based on whether or not a person will be operating a motor vehicle while in Canada. Even if you plan to fly into Toronto or another Canadian city and will not drive while in the country, a five year-old misdemeanor for drunk driving can be considered an excludable crime. Even if you will only be in the country for a short duration, such as flying into Vancouver to board an Alaskan cruise, if you are considered inadmissible you will be at risk of getting stopped by border security even if you will never drive while in the country.

It does not matter if you were drunk on beer, vodka, scotch, rum, whiskey, rye, wine, tequila, or simply stoned on legal marijuana edibles, driving under the influence of an intoxicating substance is now viewed by Canada almost like a felony. For this reason, a driving record or criminal record for DUI from five years ago can create major problems when trying to go to Canada. Regardless of how short your visit or how obvious it is you will not be driving, if you were arrested for DUI five years ago you should plan accordingly if you do not want to gamble at the border.

What If My 5 Year-Old DUI Was Only a Misdemeanor?

Admissibility under Canadian law is determined by the equivalent crime north of the border, not the seriousness of the infraction where it occurred. Consequently, a DUI that happened in the United States about five years ago can result in border trouble even if it was only a misdemeanor with no aggravating factors. Even a civil OWI violation from Wisconsin or a civil DWI ticket in New Jersey can jeopardize travel plans despite being considered non-criminal in the jurisdiction it took place.

People can be shocked to learn that one bad decision to drink and drive five years in the past can be a problem when trying to go to Canada. American citizens may be ineligible to cross the border with a five year-old DUI or DWI regardless of whether it was a first-time incident or a repeat offense. Since Canada determines admissibility based on the seriousness of the equivalent crime in their country, even a relatively minor misdemeanor with no accident can still be viewed similar to a felony. Applying for permission to visit Canada with a DUI from five years ago can be a headache, so plenty of Americans decide to avoid the nation once they research the rules.

Have a DUI arrest from five years ago and want to enter Canada? Contact us now for a no-cost evaluation.

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