One single drunk driving offense does not usually cause a problem for Canadians crossing the United States border, but, it will most certainly cause an issue for Americans wishing to cross the Canadian border. Many US citizens and residents are surprised by this fact because most drunk driving offenses don’t prohibit people from traveling freely into the United States. However, Canadian imiigration and criminal laws are such that even one single DUI offense can prohibit your ability to enter Canada.
If you are planning on traveling to Canada for work, family or leisure purposes with an alcohol-related offense, it’s important to talk to an immigration attorney about your options. Otherwise, you may be sent home before your trip has even started!
You Can be Turned away at the Border If…
A DUI or DWI charge is a serious offense in Canada. You can be turned away at the border if you have an alcohol-related offense and:
- You are arriving as a passenger in someone else’s car
- You have no intention of driving in Canada
- Your offense was classified as a misdemeanor
- You are only going to be in the country for a few hours or days
- You are visiting family in Canada
- You are entering Canada for work-related purposes
But…Other People Have Gotten Across!
You may have heard stories of people who were allowed to cross the border even though they had a DUI conviction on their record. Others may say that they were allowed to enter Canada several times before border patrol stopped them. But, don’t be misled. People are turned away at the border every day because of single alcohol-related offenses.
One of the reasons why some people make it across the border security without being stopped is because border officers have complete discretion to allow or deny entry to anyone as they see it, and at times may not have the required time or the necessary resources to address the situation right away. Therefore, it’s possible that they may let some people through and turn others away.
If you are stopped by border officers, you may be pulled into interrogation. The officers may let you cross or send you back home. But, why plan a trip to Canada with the hope that the officers will let you cross? Talk to an immigration attorney, know your options and ensure a smooth and seamless entrance into Canada.
Options for Crossing the Border with a DUI
To ensure that you will be able to legally cross the border, you can do one of the following:
- Apply for a temporary resident permit (TRP). This permit allows you stay in Canada for a specific period of time, and could be valid for up to three (3) years at a time. The permit is also renewable upon expiry. You must have a valid reason for being in the country, such as for business or family reasons. Leisure purposes, like fishing or hunting are also considered valid reasons for entering Canada.
- Apply for Criminal Rehabilitation. Although the process to obtain criminal rehabilitation takes longer than that of obtaining a TRP, once approved, criminal rehabilitation is good for ever on. This process may take up to 12 months to complete. You must also be eligible before applying, meaning that your most recent offense, and the completion of all ordered conditions occurred at least five (5) years ago or more.
- Be deemed rehabilitated. Under Canada’s immigration laws, you are deemed rehabilitated by the effect of time if enough time has passed since the offense occurred and all conditions pertaining to said offense were completed. If ten (10) years or more have passed since the completion of all conditions, you may be deemed rehabilitated by the effect of time, and could have an attorney write a Legal Opinion letter explaining the situation to the border officers.
Things You Don’t Want to Do
Regardless of your crime, how long ago it was and your record since, don’t take chances when it comes to visiting Canada. Work with an immigration attorney to ensure your visit to Canada will go smoothly.
Here are some things to avoid:
- Don’t lie. If you are caught lying about your record, your chances of getting across the border are slim. You can be banned on the spot and also prohibited from coming back in the future. Tell the truth and answer all questions honestly.
- Don’t try a second time. Canada border officers are not a customer service team. If you return a second time on the same day in hopes of getting a different officer, you’re going to be disappointed. All denied admissions are immediately entered into a shared database. Officers will know it’s you again, and you may be banned forever.
- Don’t get your friends in trouble. There is always the chance that the people traveling with you will be deemed inadmissible, too. Tell the people you’ll be traveling with about your issue so that they are aware.
There are so many things to see and do in Canada, it’s no wonder why 20.8 million trips were booked in 2018. If you have a DUI, DWI or other drunk driving offense on your record, speak with one of our attorneys at KLM Immigration today. We will review your options and determine the best approach to entering Canada legally.