Did you know that a single DUI conviction or arrest can make you criminally inadmissible to enter Canada? Many US citizens are surprised to learn this information, especially those who need to go to Alaska from mainland USA via Canada. Each year, thousands of US citizens look to travel to Alaska for vacation, to board a cruise ship or to move to and settle in Alaska permanently.
However, if you have a DUI, DWI or another alcohol-related offense on your record, you may be denied entry at the Canadian border, even if you are simply entering Canada for a day or less. Arriving unprepared could result in disappointment, as border control officers have the right to turn you away if you have a criminal record. To prevent this from happening and ruining your plans, it’s important to arrive to the border well-prepared and with the right information.
What Can I expect at the Canadian Border?
Whether you are a long-haul truck driver carrying a shipment from Mainland USA to Canada, are visiting friends and family in the Great White North, or simply planning to board a cruise in Vancouver, British Columbia, you will be screened at the Canadian border prior to entering Canada. A Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officer will ask about your criminal history. You must divulge any criminal charges or convictions, even if they were from a long time ago.
If you are dishonest about your criminal history, border patrol may find out and this could result in a permanent ban from the country. The US and Canada share criminal history data, therefore, honesty is always the best policy.
If you have a DUI, DWI, Wet Reckless or other similar offense on your record, you run the risk of being turned away at the border. The only way to legally enter Canada is to obtain permission from the Canadian government, namely by way of requesting a temporary resident permit (TRP) or by applying for criminal rehabilitation.
How Do I Obtain Permission to enter Canada from the Canadian Government?
There are two options available to you when you need to enter Canada with a DUI on your record. An experienced immigration attorney will help you determine which option is best for you under your specific circumstances. Your Canadian immigration attorney will help you speed up the process and ensure that all paperwork is filed correctly. Depending on your situation, you may apply for one of the following special permits:
- A Temporary Resident Permit (TRP): A TRP is a temporary permit which grants you permission to enter Canada for a specific period of time, whether it be for one day or for up to three years, and is renewable upon expiry. You can apply for a TRP at any time, regardless of when your conviction occurred and even if you were only recently arrested.
- Criminal Rehabilitation: If more than five years have passed since you completed all conditions of your sentence, you can apply for criminal rehabilitation. Once approved, your inadmissibility will be removed so that you may travel freely to and from Canada with no issues going forward. Unlike the TRP, this is a permanent solution, however, please be advised that processing times for criminal rehabilitation are longer than those of a TRP.
If you require traveling on short notice, a TRP may be the optimal solution for you, however, if you are eligible, you may apply for both a TRP and for criminal rehabilitation at the same time.
Who Needs to apply for a TRP or criminal rehabilitation?
You will need special permission from the Canadian government even if you are:
- Arriving to Canada as a passenger in a vehicle;
- Not planning on driving while in Canada;
- Traveling for work or business purposes;
- Visiting friends and family; or
- Planning on being in Canada only for a few hours.
What about boarding Alaskan Cruises which stop in Canada?
Alaskan cruises are very popular and often take travelers to Canadian ports in Victoria and Vancouver, British Columbia. However, cruise lines often neglect to tell travelers about the possibility of being denied entry into Canada due to a DUI, DWI or other alcohol-related conviction. If you have an offense on your record, you can be turned away at the Canadian border and have to forgo your trip.
If you have a DUI and are planning a cruise that arrives, departs or visits Canada, make sure that you obtain a TRP or criminal rehabilitation prior to boarding the cruise. Otherwise, border patrol may find you to be inadmissible to enter Canada and turn you away. Think about how this could affect your Alaskan cruise:
- If the cruise departs from Canada, you could miss your ship’s departure and receive no refund from the cruise line.
- If the cruise stops at a Canadian port, you may not be able to come ashore and forced to end your trip.
- If the cruise ends in Canada, you may be required to leave immediately and take the first flight home at your expense.
To avoid any issues at the border, you can apply for a temporary resident permit or for criminal rehabilitation. Make sure to do this before you plan your trip so that you have everything you need to enjoy your cruise.