If you have a DUI on your record and you attempt to enter Canada, you will most likely be turned away at the border. It is possible to travel to Canada with a DUI, but you need to take special legal steps first to make sure you will be admitted. The same goes for a wet reckless charge.
Unfortunately, Canada’s rules on DUI on the methods to get around them are not well publicized. The result is that countless Californians every year are refused entry at the US/Canada border. You don’t have to be one of them.
Understanding Canada’s DUI and Border Rules
Canada treats DUI and all alcohol violations very seriously—in some ways more seriously than the US. Canadians with a DUI on their record are welcome to enter the United States, but the reverse is not true.
Here are the basics of Canada’s DUI border rules:
- You may be turned away by any border officer at any entry point
- It does not matter if you’re driving or not. Even if you are in the passenger seat, or are arriving without a car—such as in a bus, airplane or ferry—you can still be refused entry
- Border officers technically have the power to make an exception, but they rarely do
- The rule applies equally to all DUI charges, including misdemeanors and felonies
- It does not matter how long ago the DUI was
How Will the Border Officer Know?
We’ve all heard stories of someone who had a DUI on their record and “got through anyway.” It’s possible—officers do make mistakes from time to time. However, Canadian border crossings are high tech operations. They check ID for every individual entering their country and, as a matter of policy, they run your criminal history on their computer before letting you enter. This only takes seconds, and anything that would show up to US law enforcement will show up for them too. This includes DUI’s that are so old your insurance company would not see them.
Because of this, it is important not to lie or attempt to deceive them in any way. This includes:
- Directly lying about your DUI. They will see it anyway, and they have the power to issue a short term, long term or lifelong ban on entering Canada.
- Asking your friends to lie. Everyone with you can be banned if the border officer believes they knew about your DUI and tried to cover it up.
- Trying multiple border crossings. Every attempted crossing is put in the computer right away. The border officer at the second crossing will see your attempt from 30 minutes ago at the first crossing and will immediately become suspicious.
Ways to Go to Canada Legally with a DUI
There are several ways to enter Canada legally if you have a DUI on your record. They all require filing legal paperwork. The best way to pursue any of them is to have a California DUI lawyer help you. It’s important to file everything correctly so that you don’t risk making a mistake that could jeopardize the process and delay you from getting permission to enter Canada.
The three methods are:
- Getting your DUI expunged in the US. If your DUI is expunged from your criminal record, it means that Canadian border officials cannot see it and/or may not hold it against you. Expunging a crime essentially means having it hidden from public view because you have completed your sentence and put it behind you. (It can still be seen by courts and in some other types of background checks.) Expunging has the advantage of being a process handled entirely in the US. The disadvantage is that it is not always accepted by Canadian law. (Canadian law offers a similar concept known as a “record suspension.”) You should first talk to a Canadian visa office about your specific DUI history and whether an expunction will count as a record suspension and allow you to enter the country. Your California DUI lawyer can help you.
- Getting “rehabilitated” under Canadian law. Rehabilitation is a Canadian process whereby you demonstrate your good faith commitment to being a law abiding driver. It has the advantage of being 100% effective if issued, but you must meet certain criteria. There are forms of rehabilitation that require either a 5-year period since your DUI sentence was completed, or a 10-year period. Conditions apply to each. Your DUI lawyer can help you choose the right one and file the correct paperwork.
- Temporary resident permit. If you apply for a temporary resident permit, you may be able to get permission to enter Canada even if it’s been less than 5 years since your DUI. However, you must have a specific purpose for entering Canada and a specific timeframe. For example, if you need to come to Canada for 30 days as part of a job, you may have a basis for a temporary resident permit. Ask your DUI lawyer to help you.
We can connect you with a local Los Angeles DUI lawyer who understand Canadian border law and can help you get the permission you need. Fill out the form to the right or call (310) 862-0199 and get your free consultation today.