If you’re planning on traveling to Canada — whether it be by car, plane, boat or train — a DUI conviction could interfere with your plans. That’s because the Canadian government sees those who have been convicted of a DUI as “criminally inadmissible” into the country.
The Canadian Immigration and Refugee Act is the Canadian legislation that restricts non-Canadian citizens from entering the country. Entry into Canada is either granted or denied based on how a crime conviction is equated to Canadian Law. Drunk driving — for example — is usually a misdemeanor in Washington. In Canada, however, it can be either Indictable Offense (similar to a felony in Washington) or a Summary Conviction Offense (similar to a misdemeanor in Washington). Since drunk driving has the potential to be a felony-level offense in Canada, legislation dictates this as grounds for inadmissibility.
There are a couple of ways to overcome this status, however.
The easiest way is to be “deemed rehabilitated” — a fancy way of saying enough time has passed since you completed the sentence for your DUI. If ten or more years have passed since you paid any imposed fines, completed jail time, and/or had your driver’s license reinstated you may be eligible for this status. If you’re not sure, you can read more about the process and required documentation here.
Another method is to apply for “rehabilitation”, which can only be done five years after your imposed sentence has been completed (jail time, license suspension, probation, etc). The form is referred to as the IMM 1444 and the application package can be found on the official website of the Government of Canada (located here).
If you need to enter Canada before this five year waiting period has passed, it is possible to get a temporary resident permit (TRP) that will allow you to enter the country and remain there for a specified amount of time. The permit is not guaranteed and can be cancelled by a border services officer at any time. Depending on the circumstances, there can be fees and waiting periods involved in obtaining a TRP.
Applying for rehabilitation or a TRP can be a complicated process. In both cases, it may be beneficial to get professional help well in advance of your anticipated travel dates. It is especially important to seek the proper counsel if you must travel to Canada regularly for business or family reasons.