Even one simple DWAI conviction in New York state can stop you from entering Canada legally. Every day, people are turned away at the Canadian border because of DUIs, DWIs DWAIs and other alcohol-related offenses on record. If you’re planning on traveling from New York to Canada with a DUI, DWI or DWAI charge, it’s important to know the rules so that you can have a successful trip.
New York Vehicle and Traffic Laws regarding DUIs
In New York State, a first offense for a DWAI, is often classified as a traffic violation and not a criminal offense. Section 1192 of the New York Vehicle and Traffic Law (VTL) states that no person shall operate a motor vehicle while their ability to do so is impaired by drugs or alcohol. Furthermore, you may not drive a motor vehicle if your blood alcohol content (BAC) is over 0.08. Penalties in New York can range from, for a first offense, in a fine of $500-$2000 USD and the suspension of your driver’s license for a period of 90 days. However, even though in New York a first DWAI offense is a traffic violation, under Canadian laws, is a serious offense.
In Canada, DWAIs, DWIs and DUIs are serious offenses
As mentioned above, under state law, a first New York DUI offense is typically charged as a misdemeanor or a traffic violation. However, this is not the case in Canada, where DUI laws are stricter and are a matter of serious criminality according to the Canadian Criminal Code. Therefore, even a single DWAI or DWI conviction can make you criminally inadmissible to enter Canada. As Canada and the U.S. share their criminal databases, any resident that has a criminal record will be flagged at the border.
As of December 18th, 2018, Canada has made changed to the laws regarding drunk driving offenses. It is now a matter of serious criminality, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, if convicted. Therefore, if you are planning on visiting Canada for leisure, work or family purposes and have a DWAI or DWI on your record, the first step is determining if you are eligible to apply for a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP) or for Criminal Rehabilitation in order to be allowed to legally enter Canada. What you don’t want to do is show up at the border and hope to get in without prior permission.
How can I overcome inadmissibility and travel to Canada?
To be clear, New Yorkers with a DWAI or DWI may be refused entry to Canada unless they have special permission to enter. To overcome inadmissibility, you have two options:
- Apply for Temporary Resident Permit (TRP): This temporary solution involves being granted a permit, the TRP, to enter Canada for up to three (3) years and as many times as you need. You can also request the permit for specific trip. The TRP can be renewed upon expiration and can also be requested at any time, no matter when the conviction or arrest occurred.
- Apply for Criminal Rehabilitation. This is a permanent solution that removes inadmissibility completely. Once approved, you will be able to travel to Canada as would anyone else without a criminal record. To be eligible, at least five years must have passed since you have completed all of the conditions of the sentence, including probation.
If you are eligible to apply for criminal rehabilitation, we encourage you to do so. This permanently overcomes your inadmissibility so that your past DWAI or DWI conviction is no longer an issue.
If you are not yet eligible to apply for criminal rehabilitation, or do not have time to wait for rehabilitation to be approved (a process that can take up to 12 months), the temporary resident permit is the best solution. TRP applications are quicker to obtain and review time is shorter than that of criminal rehabilitation. You may also apply for both a TRP and criminal rehabilitation at the same time, which would allow for entry to Canada while you await the decision on the criminal rehabilitation application.
Entering Canada with a TRP or criminal rehabilitation
Though it might sound odd that Canada would prevent someone from entering the border over a misdemeanor, in Canada, alcohol-related offenses are considered serious offenses. Fortunately, Canada does have options for overcoming inadmissibility, and by working with an experienced immigration lawyer, you can be screened properly beforehand and ensure a smooth and successful visit.