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Can I Travel to Canada After a DUI in California?

Many people who end up pleading guilty to a DUI are surprised to find out that their one conviction can have long-term consequences. Drivers are aware of the possibility of fines, license suspension, and higher insurance rates. However, drivers are often surprised to find out that a DUI can keep them out of another country. 

Drivers who are convicted of drunk driving in the United States may be prohibited from entering Canada. Entry restriction to Canada may include U.S. citizens and residents who try to drive across the border or when flying into a Canadian airport. This is not limited to people from the U.S. Canadian border agents may restrict visitors from any country with a drunk driving conviction. 

If you want to know how to avoid a DUI conviction in order to keep your ability to travel, talk to your California DUI defense lawyer as soon as possible after an arrest. In an East Bay DUI case, contact Lynn Gorelick today.

Inadmissibility in Canada After a DUI

Entry into Canada for most U.S. citizens is pretty straightforward. According to the Department of State, U.S. citizen tourists who want to visit Canada for less than 180 days do not need a visa. Entry generally requires a valid passport, passport card, or NEXUS card. Visitors under 16 only need to present proof of U.S. citizenship. That's about all you need to get into Canada as a U.S. citizen tourist, unless you have a criminal record.  Any alcohol-related driving offense or marijuana-related driving offense is grounds for exclusion, no matter how old or how minor. 

According to the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), there are a number of reasons why you may be found inadmissible to enter Canada. This includes security, criminality, health grounds, misrepresentation, or non-compliance with immigration laws. There are specific restrictions for people who have a conviction for driving while impaired. 

“If you drive while impaired by alcohol or drugs, including cannabis, you may be inadmissible for serious criminality,” according to CBSA inadmissibility information.

Individuals with a DUI or drug DUI will not be able to enter Canada unless Canada grants a temporary resident permit. An application requires payment of a processing fee with no guarantee you will be allowed to enter Canada. To be eligible, Canadian authorities have to determine that your need to enter Canada outweighs the risks to Canadian society, as determined by an immigration or border services officer. 

Rehabilitation for Entry to Canada

In order to be able to enter Canada after a DUI or alcohol-related driving offense, the Canadian authorities have to find that the individual is “rehabilitated.” To be deemed rehabilitated under Canada's immigration law means that enough time has passed since you were convicted that your crime may no longer bar you from entering Canada. This is not a strict number time limit. Rehabilitation may depend on: 

  • The criminal conviction;
  • The amount of time that has passed since serving the sentence or probation; and
  • If you were convicted of more than one DUI or drug or alcohol-related offense. 

If you were convicted of a DUI outside of Canada, you may be deemed rehabilitated if at least 10 years have passed since completion of the sentence. 

Application for Rehabilitation to Get Into Canada

If you have a prior DUI, you may be able to apply for criminal rehabilitation. Rehabilitation means that Canada considers the individual to be leading a stable lifestyle and are unlikely to be involved in further criminal activity. If you were convicted of a DUI outside of Canada, you may be eligible to apply for rehabilitation if at least 5 years have passed since completion of the sentence. 

How Much Time After a DUI?

In general, you may be rehabilitated after 10 years from the end of the imposed sentence penalties and you may be able to apply for rehabilitation after 5 years. How do you calculate the 5 or 10-year waiting period?

If you had a suspended sentence, the time runs from the date of sentencing. If you were imprisoned and given parole, the time runs from the end of completion of parole. 

In California, most DUIs are followed by a 3 to 5 year period of probation. Probation is part of the sentence so counting the time to be rehabilitated generally begins after probation. For example, Mike gets a DUI in Berkeley and is sentenced to 3 years probation on July 4, 2018. Mike's probation would end on or about July 4, 2021. If Mike wants to go on vacation to Vancouver, Mike may have to wait until July 4, 2031, before he would be considered rehabilitated. 

How Does Canada Find Out About My DUI in California?

Canadian border agents have access to the Canadian Police Information Center (CPIC). This information allows them to search for warrants or criminal convictions for individuals in the United States and many other countries. 

Some people try to travel to Canada with a DUI on their record and expect to be eligible for entry because they won't tell the Canadian immigration officer about the DUI. Lying about a criminal conviction or trying to hide a criminal conviction may have even greater consequences than telling the truth. Lying about a DUI may end up getting you banned from entry. 

I Need to Get to Canada But I Have a DUI

If you need to go to Canada but have a recent DUI, you may be able to get into the country with the DUI on your record but you should plan ahead. Generally, you will have to apply for a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP) to get into the country. However, the simplest way to get into Canada after a drunk driving arrest is to avoid a conviction. 

DUI Defense for East Bay Drivers 

East Bay attorney Lynn Gorelick has more than 37 years of DUI defense experience and understands how to approach each case for the greatest chance for success. Representing individuals in Alameda County and Contra Costa County, Lynn Gorelick is familiar with the local criminal laws, local officers, and the prosecutors involved. Contact East Bay criminal defense lawyer Lynn Gorelick today.

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