How does Canada know if you have a DUI?

Canadian Immigration Entry Graphic

Canada has strict laws regarding access through its borders. Some crimes considered misdemeanors in some countries can make you inadmissible to enter Canada. Such is the case of DUI convictions. DUIs are among the most common reasons foreign visitors are denied entry to Canada.

This denial might catch some off-guard. After all, how can Canadian authorities know about past convictions, especially if they happened years ago and in a foreign country? Law enforcement agencies are now more connected than ever, particularly between the United States and Canada. As a result, Canadian border authorities have extensive access to criminal databases and criminal records from many countries.

Individuals with past convictions who have yet to make arrangements to enter will generally not be allowed. Does that mean that someone with a DUI won’t be able to visit Canada at all? The short answer is no. This article explores the pathways you can take to enter Canada legally with a DUI.

How does Canada know if you have a DUI?

As previously mentioned, Canadian law enforcement agencies constantly share information with authorities from all over the world. This information-sharing includes criminal databases and records with data on arrests, warrants, pending charges, convictions, and offenses committed by those trying to enter the country. As a general rule, crimes that involve driving are treated as serious offenses under Canadian law. Some of these offenses include Driving Under the Influence (DUI), Operating While Intoxicated (OWI), and Driving While Impaired (DWI). It’s important to note that such crimes are not limited to terrestrial transportation. Some may also include marine or aerial vehicles. That said, a DUI conviction does not mean you’re permanently banned from Canada. It only means you must follow a different path to gain access. In the next section of this article, we’ll discuss some alternatives you can choose to be allowed entry into Canada. 

What can you do if you have an American DUI?

Given that the United States is the only country that shares a border with Canada, it makes sense that many visitors come from America. Unfortunately, some Americans may not be aware that having a DUI on their record prevents them from crossing the border. Nevertheless, options could still grant them access to Canada, which we will discuss next. 

Apply for a Temporary Residence Permit

Generally, the fastest way to enter Canada with a DUI is to apply for a Temporary Residence Permit (TRP). A TRP is an excellent option if your DUI conviction is within the past five years. A TRP allows individuals with a criminal history to enter Canada and stay for a limited time. However, TRPs have some requirements that must be met to be eligible.

The first requirement is to provide a specific purpose for visiting Canada. Examples may include attending a business convention, a wedding, or some other event that border authorities can verify. Sometimes, a TRP allows an individual to leave Canada and re-enter within three years. This is generally the case as long as the permit explicitly states so and remains valid throughout its whole duration. 

Apply for a Criminal Rehabilitation Program

The second most common way to enter Canada with a DUI is to apply for Criminal Rehabilitation. This a great option if your DUI conviction occurred five or more years ago. Obtaining Criminal Rehabilitation permits American visitors to enter and exit Canadian borders under the same conditions as other US travelers, as long as they don’t commit further offenses in either country. In urgent cases, many people choose to apply for a TRP and Criminal Rehabilitation at the same time. If successful, this ensures their permanence in Canada remains legal. 

Deemed Rehabilitation

Lastly, an individual may enter Canada with a DUI if they are deemed rehabilitated. This is an excellent course of action for DUI cases that occurred ten or more years ago. Being deemed rehabilitated means you won’t need to apply for the other programs described above. However, we still recommend they bring the court documents that certify their sentence completion, fine payment receipts, and other documents for Canadian border authorities to verify the dates without further screening.

How Dogen Law Can Help

Whether you are coming to Canada to visit, study, work, or immigrate, entering the country might seem complicated for many. However, it doesn’t have to be. You can make every step of the process easier by seeking assistance from an immigration law firm.

At Dogen Law, we help our clients navigate various legal pathways that allow them to enter and remain in Canada. From document and application guidance for TRPs and Criminal Rehabilitation to advice about which program or path best suits your situation, our experienced professionals are ready to help. We work on cases of inadmissibility, temporary residences, renewal or applications for permanent residence, and applications covered under humanitarian and compassionate programs. Suppose you’ve already applied to enter Canada and were denied. In that case, we can also help with your appeal before the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) or to Federal Court to increase the potential of a positive outcome.

Contact us if you’re ready to visit or immigrate to Canada but need assistance with your application. We can help you understand your case’s conditions and assist with your application.

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