Have you been convicted of “Driving Under the Influence” (DUI) or “Driving While Intoxicated” (DWI)? Your drunk driving conviction can make you “criminally inadmissible to Canada,” even if your conviction was more than ten years ago. This means that if you want to get into Canada from the US or any other country with a DUI or DWI conviction, you are more likely to be denied entry. This inadmissibility applies as well to felonies, misdemeanors, and other criminal convictions, all of which may keep you from setting foot in Canada.
In nearly all instances, Canadian border authorities can investigate if you have any criminal record when they verify your passport. It’s part of an agreement between the US and Canada to share information. When you reach the Canadian border, you will be asked by immigration authorities if you have a criminal record. Answer truthfully. Remember that even minor offenses count and lying to border officials is considered a federal crime. It is, however, up to the official to decide whether to let you in or to deny you entry.
In many cases, you can overcome your inadmissibility to Canada due to a DUI. Each case is unique and the costs carry depending on your situation. Here are the three main ways to gain re-entry to Canada, and the approximate cost associated with each.
- Temporary Resident Permit ($200 CAD). If five (5) years have not yet passed since the completion of your sentence, or if you need to go to Canada urgently and can’t wait for a determination of rehabilitation, you can apply for a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP)—a temporary document that will allow you to enter Canada as long as you have a legal and valid reason. You must apply for a new permit each time you enter Canada. TRP applications may take months to process at a cost of about $200 Canadian Dollars. If approved, you may be allowed entry into Canada multiple times for up to three years.
- Criminal Rehabilitation ($200–$1,000). If you plan on staying longer in Canada, applying for Criminal Rehabilitation provides a more permanent solution. To qualify, you must have completed all conditions of your DUI sentence five (5) years or more prior to applying. Processing time for this application can take 12 months or more, and can cost anywhere from $200 to $1,000, depending on the seriousness of your offense. You should apply for this option long before leaving to enter Canada. Once you are approved, you will be allowed permanent entry into Canada without the need to apply for another TRP, even if you’ve had a previous DUI record.
- Deemed Rehabilitation (No additional cost). Generally speaking, if your offense was minor in nature and you only have one offense on your record, you may be considered “deemed rehabilitated.” You must wait 10 years from the date of the completion of your sentence to be deemed rehabilitated. Once this happens, you should be able to enter Canada without having to make an application and at no additional cost. However, Canada changed its Criminal Code in 2018 to make impaired driving a “serious offense,” so this option no longer exists for drunk driving convictions.
Apart from the costs listed above, you may need to prepare for the extra cost of hiring the services of a qualified immigration attorney with expertise in Canadian inadmissibility. They will charge you legal fees on top of the application fees mentioned above.