Can You Move to Canada If You Have a DUI?

Canadian Immigration Entry Graphic

Canada’s beautiful sights, welcoming culture, and high quality of life make it a popular destination for tourists, business travelers, and immigrants seeking a fresh start. However, like all countries, Canada has specific rules and regulations for those wishing to settle permanently. The process becomes even more complicated for individuals with past DUIs or other convictions.

If you have a past DUI conviction, keep reading to learn about the specific processes to overcome inadmissibility and apply for permanent residence in Canada. The first question is whether it’s possible, so let’s explore that next.

Can you move to Canada if you have a DUI?

Before applying for permanent residency, you’ll need to overcome your inadmissibility to Canada.

There are typically three legal pathways for an individual with a past DUI to enter Canada:

  1. Temporary Resident Permits (TRPs)
  2. Criminal Rehabilitation
  3. Deemed Rehabilitation

Each pathway has its own set of requirements. In short:

Temporary Resident Permits

Temporary Residence Permits allow you to enter and remain in Canada for up to three years. They do not, however, allow you to work or study in Canada. TRPs must also be renewed upon expiry or after you exit Canada and wish to re-enter.

Criminal Rehabilitation

If you have completed your sentence over five years ago, Criminal Rehabilitation is a great option. Unlike TRPs, this route allows you to enter and exit Canadian borders like other US travelers. In other words, Criminal Rehabilitation is more permanent than TRPs as you do not need to reapply, and there is no expiration.

Deemed Rehabilitation

Deemed Rehabilitation is another option to enter Canada if you have a past DUI. To be considered rehabilitated by the passage of time, it must be at least ten years since you fully served your sentence.

Pending DUIs and Moving to Canada

If your sentence is still pending or incomplete, you can apply for a TRP or request a Legal Opinion Letter. However, if you intend to settle permanently, you must still address your inadmissibility status. The two primary methods to do so depend on the duration and conditions of the completed sentence. The following sections will explore both options and their respective requirements.

Passage of Time, DUIs, and Moving to Canada

As mentioned earlier, individuals who have successfully served their sentence years ago can choose to apply for either Criminal Rehabilitation or Deemed Rehabilitation, depending on the time that has passed.

To apply for Criminal Rehabilitation, you must have completed the imposed sentence at least five years ago and have not committed any new offenses since then. Additionally, you need to provide validated legal documentation demonstrating the completion of your sentence and its conditions.

For Deemed Rehabilitation, you must demonstrate that ten years have passed since the completion of your sentence. Moreover, you must show evidence of a stable lifestyle, a permanent residence, current employment, and character references indicating a low likelihood of committing further offenses.

Can You Apply for a Canadian Permanent Residency with a DUI?

In certain situations, individuals convicted of a misdemeanor in the United States can seek an expungement to overcome their inadmissibility. An expungement, similar to a Record Suspension in Canada, allows a previous sentence to be treated as if it never occurred and be concealed from one’s criminal record. It is important to note that even with an expungement or Record Suspension, a DUI conviction will still be visible in the FBI NCIC database utilized by Canadian Border Agents for screening purposes.

Another option for permanent settlement in Canada is through Spousal Sponsorship. In such cases, a Canadian citizen acts as the sponsor for their partner and must ensure that both of their basic needs are met without relying on financial assistance from the government. However, certain circumstances may prevent an individual from acting as a sponsor, such as having a history of serious criminal convictions, declaring bankruptcy, or being previously sponsored as a spouse and becoming a permanent resident of Canada less than five years ago.

Final Thoughts on Moving to Canada with a DUI

If you aim to immigrate to Canada with a DUI, the initial step is to address your inadmissibility status. The main options to overcome inadmissibility include:

  • Applying for a Temporary Residence Permit as an interim solution
  • Pursuing Criminal Rehabilitation if at least five years have passed since the completion of your sentence
  • Deemed Rehabilitation programs if at least ten years have passed since the completion of your sentence

How Dogen Law Can Help

At Dogen Law, we have spent years helping clients navigate various legal pathways to enter and remain in Canada. Our team of experienced professionals can help guide your Temporary Residence Permit and Criminal Rehabilitation applications and advise on the best path for your situation. If you’ve already received an unfavorable decision on your immigration case, we can assist with your appeal.

If you’re ready to visit or immigrate to Canada and need assistance with the application process, contact us today.

Further Reading

Gain deeper insights into criminal rehabilitation, temporary resident permits, and overcoming criminal inadmissibility to Canada by reading our articles below:

Assault Charges

Border Checks, Criminal Inadmissibility, and Expunged Records

Criminal Rehabilitation & Temporary Resident Permits

DUI Resources

Felony Resources