If you were planning a trip to Canada, and you have a DUI or DWI on your criminal record, you may want to change your plans. Or, at least, you may want to learn a few things about Canadian immigration law first.
In Canada, there are two major types of criminal offenses: “indictable” offenses, which are more serious, and “summary conviction” offenses, which are less serious. For simplicity’s sake, let’s just think of them as the Canadian equivalents of felonies and misdemeanors.
According to Canadian immigration law, a person is barred from coming into the country if he or she has been convicted of an offense that would have been treated as an indictable offense if it had been committed in Canada. In other words, it doesn’t matter how US law classifies the offense; it matters how it’s treated in Canada.
In the United States, most DUIs and DWIs are misdemeanors. But in Canada—for the purposes of immigration law—they are treated as indictable offenses (that is, felonies).
That’s why having a DUI conviction on your record can keep you out of Canada.
Here’s an important thing to know: if you do have any kind of criminal record—even if you were simply arrested, but never convicted of an offense—Canadian law requires you to inform an inspecting immigration officer.
Does this mean, if the DUI charges against you were dropped, that you would still be unable to enter? Probably not. But you should still play it safe and inform the immigration officer. Even if you are never asked, you still have a legal duty under Canadian immigration law to disclose anything that might be relevant.
If you have been convicted of a DUI, you’re probably wondering if your record will make it permanently impossible for you to enter the country. The answer is usually “no.” Canadian immigration law provides a way of clearing your record. To do this, you have to apply for what’s called “criminal rehabilitation,” which will require you to pay a fee and provide a long list of documentation (including court documents, letters of reference, proof of completed sentences, and others).
If you’re unsure how your criminal record would affect your ability to travel to Canada, you may want to contact a Canadian immigration lawyer.