Entering Canada with a DUI Conviction
Normally entering Canada as a U.S. citizen is fairly straightforward: present a valid passport and have a valid reason to cross the border. However, if you have an arrest or conviction on record for driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or drugs, this can quickly create complications for you. Sometimes people underestimate the seriousness of this charge. It doesn't matter if you received a misdemeanor or a felony offense. Any DUI history could prompt the officer to deny your entry and classify you as criminally inadmissible.
Entry into Canada is Difficult with a Criminal Record
One common mistake that people traveling to Canada make is the assumption that if you don't have a serious criminality, you will be allowed entry into Canada. This is not the case. People may even be refused entry for not guilty verdicts in some cases, as their criminal record may still list the original arrest. Seemingly trivial, isolated charges such as a bounced check or disturbing the peace quite often come back to haunt travellers at the border. The key point to remember is that it's not how serious the crime is perceived to be, but how the crime translates into Canadian Law. For example, some charges may carry harsher sentences in Canada than the U.S.A., and vice versa.
Under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA), Section 36 (2) states that a foreign national is inadmissible on grounds of criminality for:
(a) having been convicted of an offence under an Act of Parliament punishable by way of indictment, or of two offences under any Act of Parliament not arising out of a single occurrence;
(b) having been convicted outside Canada of an offence that, if committed in Canada, would constitute an indictable offence under an Act of Parliament, or of two offences not arising out of a single occurrence that, if committed in Canada, would constitute offences under an Act of Parliament;
According to the Canadian Criminal Code, every one who commits an Impaired Driving offence is guilty of an indictable offence or an offence punishable on summary conviction. An indictment is roughly equivalent to a felony in the U.S., while a summary conviction is roughly equivalent to a misdemeanor in the U.S. To put this in more simplified terms, an indictment is stronger than a summary conviction.
When it comes to Inadmissibility to Canada, even if you only have a misdemeanor charge, it could still result in you being barred from visiting Canada for 10 years. This is due to Section 36 (3) (a) of the IRPA, which states that: "an offence that may be prosecuted either summarily or by way of indictment is deemed to be an indictable offence, even if it has been prosecuted summarily." Most offences in Canada, including DUIs, fall under this legislation. Therefore, if you were charged with a weaker misdemeanor, it could still be treated with the same weight as a full on felony.
The other important thing to remember with DUIs is that it doesn't have to be alcohol related at all to be treated as an inadmissibility at the border. You may have been on medication prescribed by a doctor. However, it is still treated as Driving Under the Influence in that the medication affected your ability to operate a vehicle. Even if the drug was considered to be legal, this won't change the perceived severity of the charge.
So How can I Enter Canada with a DUI?
Getting into Canada with a DUI is not a simple process. In order for the criminal inadmissibility to be dealt with, you will have to submit the proper documentation and paperwork to the proper Canadian legal authorities. You will need to consider on of the following three options: Criminal Rehabilitation, Temporary Resident Permit (TRP), or Deemed Rehabilitation. Please read about each option below to find out which one may be right for you.
The advantage of Criminal Rehabilitation is that once your application is approved, you never have to worry about the DUI charge surfacing again at the border. A Criminal Rehabilitation will give you a clean slate and you will be able to enter Canada freely like other U.S. citizens. Furthermore, once the Criminal Rehabilitation is granted, you need not worry about it expiring or renewing it. It is permanent. If you would like to visit Canada repeatedly or over longer periods of time, this is the route to ultimately pursue.
Keep in mind that if you want to apply for Criminal Rehabilitation, 5 years must have passed since the completion of your sentence. You must have complied with all aspects of your sentencing as well, including any fine payments, probation, courses, etc. If you are not yet eligible for Criminal Rehabilitation, then you should consider a TRP application.
Temporary Resident Permit (TRP)
The Temporary Resident Permit's main advantage is that it can potentially allow you to visit Canada even if you do not yet qualify for Criminal Rehabilitation. However, there will be limits placed on your stay in Canada. Depending on the strength of your TRP application, you may be allowed multiple visits to Canada over a period of 3 years. TRP applications can be submitted at a Point of Entry into Canada or can be submitted to the Consulate.
This third option only applies if you have a single DUI conviction. This DUI must be a misdemeanor. If you have complied with all aspects of your sentencing and 10 or more years have passed since your sentence's completion, the Canadian officers at the border may allow you to enter. It is important to note that you must not have anything else on your criminal record besides the single DUI misdemeanor charge. Even then, it is still wise to have a legal opinion letter with you to help explain your situation to the officer you deal with at the border.
If you are interested in pursuing one of the above options or are simply unsure of how to proceed, our Canadian immigration lawyer is ready to help you. Let her years of experience helping Americans with their criminal inadmissibility issues put your mind at ease.
What if I'm not Driving in Canada?
You may not have any plans to drive in Canada. Maybe you are arriving by plane and will be using public transportation. Unfortunately, if you tell this to the immigration officer, it doesn't hold much weight. The fact remains that you still have an inadmissibility on your record. Also, the immigration regulations in Canada do not have any sort of provisions for a visitor's intension to drive or not.
What if I don't Mention it?
A lie of omission is still a lie. By not mentioning your DUI at the border and not being forthcoming with the immigration officer, you are putting yourself at risk. At the least, you will probably be turned away at the border. At worst, you may be banned from crossing for several years.
Does the State in the US where I Committed the Offence Make a Difference?
Each state has its own unique spin on how it processes criminal charges. The types of documentation you will receive for acquittals, pardons, and absolute and conditional discharges will vary depending on where the charge took place. Another factor that further complicates matters is the wording used to describe the charges and relevant statutes in each state. For example, a DUI charge may be called , depending on the state in which it occurred:
- DUIL (driving under the influence of liquor)
- DWI (driving while intoxicated)
- OUI (operating under the influence)
- OWI (operating while intoxicated)
- OMVI (operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated)
While all of these acronyms are describing the same basic charge (DUI), the issue is how it translates to the Canadian Criminal Code. The Canadian Federal Court of Appeal determined that when applying a U.S. charge to the Canadian Criminal Code, the precise statutory words must be used.
To even further complicate matters, in the U.S. system quite often someone can make a plea bargain on their first DUI charge. This may reduce the charge to something like Dangerous Driving or Reckless Driving. What the charge is reduced to differs from state to state, and sometimes even county to county. Again, this can effect how the charge is interpreted by the Canadian Criminal Code. In Canada, there are two main sets of laws that govern driver behavior: The Highway Traffic Act and the Criminal Code. The Highway Traffic Act is for less serious incidents and usually results in fines and insurance fees, or maybe a licence suspension. However, a charge of Dangerous Driving could be interpreted as an indictable offence.
Each state will have its own legislation for other violations that are sometimes included with DUI charges. Additional charges such as Refusing to Provide a Breath or Blood Sample, Speeding, Driving without Insurance, or Leaving the Scene of an Accident all have equivalencies under the Canadian Criminal Code.
Owing to all the above factors, it is advisable to consult with a licensed immigration professional in this matter to ensure that you have covered all your bases and are adequately prepared before attempting to enter Canada. Our team has assisted hundreds of U.S. citizens with their Temporary Resident Permit and Criminal Rehabilitation applications. We accept clients from everywhere in the U.S. and are familiar with the unique legislation, terminology, and documentation required by each state. With our help, you can rest assured that you will be fully prepared for your visit to the border.
Is it Possible to Submit a TRP Application by Myself?
Like most matters involving Canadian immigration, it is possible to attempt to do the application on your own. However, you must keep in mind that your application will be heavily scrutinized once it is in the hands of officials at the border. The consequences for having an incomplete or poorly prepared application could be extremely costly. Imagine if you arrive by plane to an international airport in Canada, only to have your TRP application rejected. The Canadian official will direct you to take the next available flight back to the U.S. at your own expense. Even if you ignore the financial consequences, you may end up banned from entering Canada for an extended period of time.
To use an analogy, imagine denying legal counsel and representing yourself in court. Most people would agree that you are taking a substantial risk. A Canadian immigration lawyer or Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant (RCIC) can give you the guidance and resources to maximize your chances of submitting a successful application and minimize your risk of rejection. With the help of an experienced professional, you can prepare all of the documentation necessary and organize it in the most effective way possible. Remember, when you prepare a TRP application you are basically trying to convince the officer that you should be allowed into Canada. Under the guidance of a professional, your application package will tell a complete story and focus on the reasons why your request is reasonable, complying with proper procedures and legislation.
Assembling an effective TRP application can take some time. Unfortunately, there are situations that may require expedited processing of an application. Unforeseen events like a family emergency may require you to travel within the space of a few days. Preparing a TRP application for a quickly approaching deadline is the type of situation where professional guidance becomes essential. If you find yourself in this stressful situation, contact our team for a consultation and find out how we can help!
How Long Should I Wait for my Criminal Rehabilitation application to be Processed?
The Consulate General of Canada currently provides an average processing estimate of six to twelve months for Criminal Rehabilitation applications. Keep in mind that this is an average and it is possible that your application may be processed more quickly or slowly. A good workaround solution for this processing time is to prepare both a TRP application for immediate entry into Canada and a Criminal Rehabilitation application for the long term payoff of traveling to Canada with a clean slate. This makes even more sense when you consider that many of the documents that you need to provide can be used for both types of application.
How Likely is it that the Canadian Border Officer will see that I have a Criminal Record?
The previous system at the Canadian border was more likely to allow people with criminal convictions pass through the border undetected. If you were sent for a 'secondary screening', the CBSA officer would run a full check from the CPIC database. CPIC stands for Canadian Police Information Centre. Once the officer accessed the CPIC database, they would be able to see any criminal record registered with the FBI criminal database. If you weren't sent to a secondary screening, usually your passport was only checked against a list of wanted individuals and stolen / fraudulent passports.
Since November, 2015, CBSA officers now have access to the CPIC database at the main checkpoint, or 'first screening'. This means that it is increasingly unlikely to pass through the border undetected if you do have a criminal record. The officers at the border have access to more information about travelers than ever before, which makes the need for TRPs and Criminal Rehabilitations essential if you are planning to cross.
The Canadian government has recently taken further measures to tighten security and the flow of information at the border. In 2015, the federal government announced that the number of border services officers had increased by 26%. In an effort to more effectively screen travelers, a new system called eTA has also been introduced.
(eTA) Electronic Travel Authorization
Rolling out on March 15, 2016, anyone from a visa-exempt country will need to have an eTA in order to fly into or transit through Canada. Currently U.S. citizens do not require an eTA, but if you are from a visa-exempt country (for example, Korea or Germany), you will have to show this document along with your passport. The eTA allows border officers to more easily screen travelers that might otherwise pass quickly into Canada as they are not required to apply for a visa through government channels beforehand. The Canada eTA application contains information like your passport number and address which makes it easier for CBSA officers to pre-screen you before entering the country.
If I'm Traveling with Colleagues, Will they find out that I have a DUI?
This is a valid concern. Imagine you are on a business trip with a group of your co-workers and you are informed by the border officer that you have a criminal inadmissibility to Canada. This could be a potentially embarrassing situation and could also effect your career. If you would like to minimize the chances of people traveling with you finding out about your DUI, there are a few things you can do to prepare.
A TRP can be processed at a Canadian Consulate before traveling to Canada. The advantage of applying this way is that the immigration officer at the Consulate will have plenty of time to review your TRP application. If you receive an approval this way, then crossing the Canadian border should take much less time than submitting your TRP at the border. The other plus is the officer is less likely to mention your DUI if your TRP has already been approved. Keep in mind, however, that applying for a TRP at a Canadian Consulate will take several months to process. Many people do not have enough notice of a trip to Canada to effectively process their application this way. Quite often, there may be an unforeseen reason to travel to Canada, whether it be an emergency or business travel situation. If this is the case, you will have to apply for your TRP at the port of entry (POE). The port of entry refers to the border or wherever you first arrive in Canada (for example, at an international airport).
So, if you have to submit your TRP at the port of entry, what other options do you have to minimize the chances of friends or coworkers learning about your DUI? In this scenario, the best course of action would be to fly to Canada. Once you arrive at a Canadian international airport, everyone is required to go through customs and speak with a border officer. Quite often in busy airports there are many officers spread out over a wide area in order to minimize line wait times. You will most likely go through the gate individually, so the chances of anyone overhearing the officer speak about your DUI or TRP application are already reduced. Once you proceed to secondary inspection, you will be taken to a separate location and be out of sight. Since more thorough security screenings and random spot checks are more common at airports these days, if you disappear for a while and rejoin your group later, it shouldn't arouse too much curiosity.
Contrast this with driving across the border as a group. Crossing the border, you will most likely be grouped together with your co-travelers and when you are sent to secondary screening it will be obvious something is going on. The best strategy in this situation is to give your prepared TRP application to the border officer when he asks for everyone's passport. If you are lucky, the officer will not explicitly mention the purpose of the TRP before sending you to secondary screening. However, your co-travelers are likely to be curious about what happened. That is why the best way to minimize this embarrassing likelihood is to travel by air. If you are able to think of an excuse to travel separately and meet your group after you've arrived in Canada, this might be the best course of action.
Our team specializes in TRP applications both at the port of entry and through a Canadian Consulate. Many of our clients have had DUIs and faced the same scenarios as described above. With our experience and knowledge, we can help you submit a successful TRP and advise you how to keep it discreet!
Have you Already been Denied Entry to Canada?
A previous refusal of entry to Canada should be taken very seriously. If you try to enter Canada again later, even at a different port of entry, your attending border officer has a very high chance of discovering your previous refusal. Once discovered that you are once again trying to enter Canada, the likelihood of receiving a full on ban from entering Canada greatly increases. If you do find yourself in this situation, try not to show frustration or lose your cool. When the border officer perceives any statement or action from you as a sign of non-compliance, you are likely to receive a harsher penalty. In extreme cases, you could be issued a Section 44 Report which could lead to a Removal Order. To avoid this scenario altogether, it is advisable to consult with a legal professional that has knowledge of Canadian immigration before attempting to cross into Canada again.
More importantly, what are some of the reasons why travelers to Canada are initially refused entry? Some of the possibilities are:
Having been convicted of a crime (for example, a DUI)
On health grounds (endanger public safety or cause excessive demand on Canadian health services)
Misrepresentation (providing false information or obscuring information)
One of the most common reasons that American citizens are stopped at the border is for DUI convictions. Many people aren't aware that a DUI charge would prevent them from entering Canada. Other driving violations as well, such as driving underage or driving without a licence can show up in CPIC database records when the border officer checks your passport.
You can request a TRP if stopped at the border for economic, humanitarian, or social reasons. Sometimes Temporary Resident Permits will be granted after the border officer considers the serious of the criminal offense causing your inadmissibility. Other factors that will be considered are: complying with or completion of the terms of your sentence, evidence of rehabilitation, amount of time since your last offense, how many offenses you have, how often you have offended, etc. Ultimately the border officer is assessing how much of a risk you are to Canada and how legitimate your reason for entering the country is. Needless to say, applying for a TRP on the spot at a border or port of entry should only be done in extreme circumstances or in case of emergency. You will receive an immediate answer, but your chances of being turned away are considerable. Otherwise, have your TRP prepared beforehand with the help of a qualified Canadian immigration lawyer.
What Other Convictions can Result in Inadmissibility?
Other than having a DUI or DWI on your criminal record, there are other convictions that make you inadmissible to Canada:
Possession of or Trafficking in Drugs or Controlled Substances
Breaking and Entering
As you can see, even something perceived as a relatively minor charge (mischief, for example) can wreak havoc with your plans to come to Canada. The above list is by no means exhaustive. Before attempting to enter Canada, you should seek help in finding out what your criminal conviction translates to in Canadian law and how it will factor into inadmissibility. A criminal conviction may not prevent you from coming into Canada, but you will need to prepare a complete TRP package before attempting it. Every time you come to a port of entry or the border, you require special permission to enter. It's important to note that immigration regulations change over time as well as the required documents for such an application. By consulting with an immigration lawyer familiar with the latest updates to the requirements, you will maximize your chances of submitting a successful application.
Quite often U.S. DUI offenders get stopped at the border even before being convicted. If you are still in the process of waiting for legal proceedings to determine your conviction, you will be considered inadmissible to Canada. Even if you are not yet convicted, you will have to get special permission to enter Canada. This can sometimes create problems because of deferred sentencing. Once you complete the conditions of a Deferral Program and have a "no conviction" finding from the court, then you can once again enter Canada without a TRP.
A Deferral Program is an option in many U.S. states for people charged with a first offense DUI. Upon notifying the court that they would like to participate in the Deferral Program and plead guilty to the DUI, the court may defer the criminal proceedings . Then the person is placed on probation and they must complete the conditions of the Deferral Program. A year after successful completion, the court will file another motion to have the DUI charge expunged. Until the charge is expunged, a TRP will still be required to enter Canada.
List of Drug & Alcohol Related Driving offenses in United State That Can Make an American Inadmissible to Canada:
DUI (including "Under 21" and "Civil")
Why Else might I be Refused Entry to Canada?
Other relatively common reasons for Americans to be refused entry to Canada include no proof of income or sufficient funds, no international health insurance, no proof of residency in or ties to the U.S.A., or being denied a NEXUS card.
No Proof of Income or Sufficient Funds
Canadian border officers screen for travelers to Canada who might be interested in working there illegally or trying to take advantage of the country's social programs. When a border officer screens you for this, they will ask for documentation that can prove that you have the financial resources to fund your stay in Canada. If you are planning to visit for an extended period time, this will require access to additional funds that the border officer may be interested in verifying. If you will be receiving money in the future but your current bank balance is low, this may put you under suspicion for attempting to enter the country for illegal work.
The best way to avoid this situation is to travel with the appropriate funds and have proof showing any other financial resources you may have. Simply having access to an online banking account through your phone can be a quick way to verify your financial situation to a border officer.
No International Health Insurance
Many people who travel internationally these days invest in travel insurance to cover the potential cost of medical expenses in a foreign country. As you might have heard, Canadian citizens and permanent residents have access to free universal health care as part of the country's social services. However, if you are visiting Canada on a Visitor Visa or Temporary Resident Permit, you do not qualify for this medical coverage. Therefore, when border officers think that you have the potential to require medical services while in Canada, they will often ask if you have travel insurance or appropriate health insurance coverage. Senior citizens and individuals suffering from health problems are more likely to be screened for this requirement.
If you are concerned about this requirement, you should find out if your current health insurance covers out of country medical expenses. Paying out of pocket for medical treatment in Canada can be quite expensive and medical fees can quickly add up. Sometimes VISA or MasterCard will offer emergency medical coverage as part of their services. There are many other options for obtaining travel insurance that should be explored before traveling to Canada.
No Proof of Residency or Ties to the U.S.A.
Another prime concern for border officers when screening travelers to Canada is that they may not exit the country and attempt to live there indefinitely. Having documentation with you that shows a current home address in the U.S. such as a valid driver's license can potentially save you some trouble at the border. If you don't have documentation to this effect, be prepared for the possibility of refusal of entry.
Being Denied a Nexus Card
Frequent travelers at the U.S. Canada border often apply for a NEXUS card. The advantage of this card is that it gives the card holder expedited processing when transiting between the U.S. and Canada. However, if you apply for a card or already have a card and are convicted of an offense, this will cause you to be denied the NEXUS card service. Once you are denied a NEXUS card, border officers will be able to see this information in their initial screening. The Canada Border Services Agency website outlines how a NEXUS applicant cannot have a criminal conviction from within or outside of Canada. In addition, you may not qualify if one of the following applies:
You are considered inadmissible to Canada or the United States under applicable immigration laws;
You have a recorded violation of customs, immigration or agriculture law;
You intentionally provide false or incomplete information on your application; or
You have been convicted of a serious criminal offence in any country for which you have not received a pardon (for U.S. background checks you may be questioned about your full criminal history, including arrests and pardons, which may exclude you from NEXUS)
You must get approval from both Canada and the U.S. to become a member of NEXUS. If you application is denied, this will make it more difficult to enter Canada in the future and will usually result in more intensive screening from border officers.
When Applying for a TRP, what Sort of Documentation do I Need?
If you are thinking of preparing a TRP application for the point of entry, or considering submitting a TRP application to a Canadian Consulate, there are certain documents that will be required to successful process your application. Naturally, you need to show documentation that outlines your criminal history. But more importantly, there should also be documents that show evidence of your compliance with the terms of sentencing. The immigration officer looking at your application will also want proof that you are rehabilitated and are making an effort to not repeat your past mistakes. This is where reference letters and letters of recommendation play a big part in providing evidence of your rehabilitation and good character. The reason you want to visit Canada will also come into question, so documentation that shows your purpose or plans for traveling are vital. At the end of the day, documents are just information. If you submit a pile of documents to the border or immigration officer, it may not be compelling enough for them to approve your application. This is where the help of an immigration lawyer comes in. An experience professional can pinpoint what documentation should be included and how it should be presented. He or she can also assist you in making your application more compelling by providing a submission letter that outlines your key information and tells your story in a positive light.
Flight Attendants and Pilots Traveling to or Transiting through Canada with a DUI
Complications often arise for individuals working for an airline on international flights that arrive in or transit through Canada. If you are a pilot or flight attendant that has a DUI on your record, you are inadmissible to Canada. It doesn't matter that you are traveling to Canada to fulfill the job duties of your employer, you will still need special permission to enter the country. Obtaining a Temporary Resident Permit will allow you to continue your work duties for a temporary period of time (potentially up to 3 years), however, to solve the problem permanently at some point you will need to apply for Criminal Rehabilitation through a Canadian Consulate. Only after approval of your Criminal Rehabilitation application will you be free to enter Canada without special permission.
If you are interested in applying for an airline as a pilot or flight attendant and have a DUI on your record, many airlines with international flights to Canada will refuse to hire you as you will be restricted to certain flights. One of the prerequisites of attending training programs for many airlines is a criminal background check. To start this type of career successfully, it is advisable to be proactive now and work towards obtaining a TRP or Criminal Rehabilitation.
The other common scenario is that you are already a practicing pilot or flight attendant working for an international airline and you have recently been charged with a DUI. It doesn't matter how many years' experience you have or your how amicable a relationship you have with your employer, the fact remains that this DUI will prevent you from entering Canada. If you do receive a DUI charge, you should immediately inform your Human Resources department so that the company initiate proper procedures for this type of scenario.
For pilots with DUI, you will be required to send a letter of notification to the Security and Investigations Division of the FAA within 60 days of your DUI or alcohol-related conviction. In addition, many companies will require you to undergo a substance abuse assessment. Until this is complete, you will not be able to return to work.
Obviously the ramifications for a pilot are more serious than those for a flight attendant. Quite often flight attendants will still be allowed to work, but their schedules will have to be adjusted so that they are not on any flights to Canada. Earlier in the article it was mentioned that even if you are not yet convicted of a DUI, the charge can still show up on your record when screened by a border officer. That means it is in your best interests to inform Human Resources immediately than risk the unpleasant situation of being denied entry to Canada while working. If you are denied entry and you haven't informed your employer of your situation, it could result in grounds for losing your job. It's always in your best interests to be upfront with your employer so you can work together to solve the problem.
Many people working as pilots or flight attendants with international flights to Canada are registered with the Canadian Passenger Accelerated Service System (CANPASS). The CANPASS system is a program established through the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) which allows members to pass quickly through Canadian customs and immigration at major Canadian airports using iris recognition technology. This program merged with NEXUS in 2007 but is still used by many frequent air travelers. However, as discussed previously in the article, both NEXUS and CANPASS have policies that deny U.S. residents with an impaired driving conviction.
If you have a DUI conviction, or even if you have been charged but not convicted, you should consult with a Canadian immigration lawyer so that it doesn't have a negative impact on your career. Even individuals with an expunged DUI or those who plead a DUI down to a lesser charge need to be prepared for complications at the Canadian port of entry. Take the steps and be proactive: apply for a TRP or Criminal Rehabilitation and save yourself from risking consequences that could effect your career.
Many people who have a DUI on record and wish to apply as a flight attendant have used a technique sometimes referred to as 'flagpoling'. Even though you do not yet have a job as a flight attendant, you will need to be admissible to Canada in order to attend airline training programs and ultimately be hired. Due to this requirement, just the fact that you are actively applying for flight attendant positions means that you have a valid reason to obtain a TRP or Criminal Rehabilitation. By going to the border or a port of entry into Canada and applying for a TRP, you can quickly receive approval for entry into Canada. This will allow you to meet the company's requirements and start your initial flight attendant training.
Flight attendants and pilots who have DUIs, be proactive! Find out how our experienced team can help you overcome your inadmissibility and get back to work.
What is the Difference between a Civil DUI and a Criminal DUI?
The main differences between a civil DUI and a criminal DUI are the parties involved, the penalties, and the burden of proof. Usually with a civil DUI case, there is no circumstance in which part of your sentencing would be imprisonment. If it is your first time being charged with a DUI, you might receive a civil license suspension, not a criminal record. Even though the penalty is relatively light in the U.S. system, the problem again lies in the equivalent charge in the Canadian Criminal Code. Canada does not have a civil penalty for a DUI. Therefore, it is treated as a criminal DUI charge in Canada and will make you inadmissible at a border or port of entry.
Civil DUIs are usually processed by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), which means they may not always show up on FBI or State Clearance checks. This could potentially exclude the civil DUI information from the CPIC database that Canada Border Service Agents check when they screen someone at a port of entry or at the border. However, there are no guarantees that your civil DUI will remain undetected. Every year, border officers have access to more detailed information and resources when screening visitors to Canada. Imagine that a border officer asks you if you have ever been arrested before and you say no as you only received a minor license suspension. Meanwhile, the officer is screening your criminal record and he sees your civil DUI. Remember, this is treated as a full blown DUI in Canada. Now you have been caught in a lie and will most certainly be denied entry into Canada. So whether your DUI is civil or criminal, be prepared and apply for a TRP or Criminal Rehabilitation. That way you don't have to go through the stress of potentially lying to a border officer in the hopes your charge goes undetected.
What are My Chances of Having a Successful DUI Application?
Canadian immigration lawyers and consultants are bound by a code of ethics that prevents them from guaranteeing a positive outcome on an application. The reason this code of ethics exists is quite simple: the only person who can determine the success of your TRP or Criminal Rehabilitation application is the immigration or border officer examining your application. If you have been told by a law firm or consultant that they will get you a positive result, they are lying to you. That being said, in the hands of the right team, your application can be strengthened and focused so that it makes the right impression with the person processing your application. One of the keys to having a successful TRP application is having a legitimate reason to come to Canada. Traveling to Canada as a business visitor can potentially carry more weight than a vague declaration that you want to visit Canada. Entering Canada to fulfill the duties of your employment sends a message that you are a professional and will voluntarily leave Canada once your business has been conducted there.
Our team has helped people from many different professions enter Canada successfully. Whether you are an executive attending a conference, a flight attendant on an international flight, or a truck driver who has a delivery / pick-up in Canada, you can use this as a compelling reason to be granted a TRP. We can't guarantee success, but we can guarantee we will draw on our experience and expertise to make your application a compelling one.
Do I Qualify for a Canadian Work Permit if I Have a DUI?
As previously stated, any criminal history that makes a foreign national inadmissible to Canada will prevent them from getting a Canadian work permit. In fact, most immigration applications are not feasible for inadmissible individuals. Whether it's a DUI on your record or a Mischief charge from 20 years ago, the ramifications are the same. Before coming to Canada, let alone working legally in Canada, you will need to go through the process of obtaining a Temporary Resident Permit or Criminal Rehabilitation.
If I Enter Canada through a Certain Port of Entry, Will it Increase My Chances of Success?
As you may already know, Canada is broken up into 13 regions, similar to states. The provinces are, from west to east: British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Nova Scotia. There are also 3 northern territories: Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut. Canada is a massive country and there are multiple ports of entry. Ultimately though, it doesn't matter where you attempt to enter into Canada, as the immigration laws and procedures fall under the Federal government. That means that no matter what your destination in Canada, our team has the knowledge to assist you in getting there.
What Documents are Necessary to Apply for a TRP or Criminal Rehabilitation?
As mentioned previously, TRP and Criminal Rehabilitation applications require similar information from the applicant to process. The implication here is that if you gather the documentation for a TRP application, you could use that same documentation for a Criminal Rehabilitation as well! The Consulate General of Canada requires that applicants fill out certain generic forms to submit with their application.
The Application for Temporary Resident Permit form requires some basic information from the applicant. Much of this information is easily provided, for instance: name, current address, passport details, birth date, and current occupation. The form also requires you to answer some "Have you ever" type questions about your medical history and previous refusals of entry or deportations from Canada. The difficulty lies in the next sections of the form. Here they request details of your criminal inadmissibility, a list of your convictions along with statute number, sentencing details, etc. This information is much more difficult to provide and will require additional documentation as proof for the examining officer. You will also need to provide complete address and work history since the age of 18.
The Application for Criminal Rehabilitation form asks for similar information as the TRP form. It is more concerned with your inadmissibility to Canada and list of offences. The last 2 pages of this form are completed by the immigration officer assigned to your application, the reason being that this form is submitted to a Canadian Consulate.
Citizenship and Immigration Canada provides document checklists as a guideline for what you should be submitting with your TRP and Criminal Rehabilitation applications. Starting with the Temporary Resident Permit checklist, which can be found here, you will see in the bottom section of the document that you are required to provide several requirements. For this type of application, passport-size photographs are required for proper processing of your TRP. You must also include photocopies of your main data page from your passport as well as a stamp from your most recent entry to Canada (if you have one). It is possible that if you previously entered Canada as a U.S. citizen, you may not have gotten a stamp in your passport. Remember, if you passport expires soon it would be in your best interest to get it renewed before applying for a TRP. Other documents that might be required depending on your circumstances include other travel or identity documents and a valid return ticket or other itinerary that shows details of your stay in Canada. The TRP checklist also requests proof of means of support, which could entail a letter of employment from current or previous employers as well as other financial documentation. Most importantly, the document checklist states that you must provide documentation to verify your criminal convictions as well as any action taken on your part to resolve your inadmissibility. This kind of documentation could be state criminal background checks, court dockets detailing the terms of your sentence and your compliance with them, and other programs or classes completed to fulfill the terms of your sentence.
The Criminal Rehabilitation document checklist, which can be found here, provides a more detailed list of what you need to provide in order to prove your claims of rehabilitation. You must provide documentation that details every court judgment made against you including the charge, verdict, and sentence. More difficult to obtain is the next request, in which you should provide the equivalent Canadian laws which pertain to your criminal history. These equivalencies can be very challenging to locate and you will most likely require help from a Canadian immigration lawyer in order to provide the proper sections of the Canadian Criminal Code. Also, like the TRP document checklist, you will need to show documents that prove you complied with and completed all aspects of your sentencing. Originals will be required for state background checks for states that you resided in for 6 months or longer since the age of 18. Also, if you have any charges from when you were a juvenile offender, you will have to provide a letter or document proving that your country has special measures in place for such offences.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, both TRP and Criminal Rehabilitation applications have their own respective fees that must be paid. Your application package should contain the receipt for the payment of these fees in order to facilitate processing. Fees for Criminal Rehabilitation vary from $200 CDN to $1 000 CDN depending on the nature of your previous offences and if you have what is classified as a serious criminality. It is also important to factor in the current exchange rate as well when calculating how much you need to pay in U.S. dollars.
Can I use a Temporary Resident Visa (TRV) form instead of a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP) form?
A common mistake made by applicants for a TRP is using the wrong form and / or checklist when putting together an application. When going to the Citizenship and Immigration Canada webpage, it is much easier to locate instructions and documentation for Temporary Resident Visas. This type of visa is for visitors or tourists to Canada and requires a completely different set of forms, documents, and fees. U.S. citizens do not usually have to apply for this type of application, as they qualify for a 6 month visitor visa simply by presenting a valid passport at the border or port of entry and satisfying the border officer's requests. Remember, TRVs and TRPs are two entirely different things, so take precaution when searching for them on the CIC webpage or the internet in general.
Canada and DUI Entry
The first thing people interested in coming to Canada on a TRP application often do is start scouring the internet for information in an attempt to find out what is needed. The problem is, like all information on the internet, you have to take it with a grain of salt. There are immigration forums with posts from 'experts' that will inform you of what you need to do when filing a successful TRP. Unfortunately, much of this information was gathered from unreliable sources or friends of friends. The only way to get reliable information on this complicated process is to consult the Citizenship and Immigration Canada webpage or to get into contact with someone who is regulated and qualified to give you Canadian immigration advice. Our team of Canadian Immigration lawyers, Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultants, and Inadmissibility lawyers can help you get started on the right foot and guide you through each step of TRP or Criminal Rehabilitation process.