US Citizen Visiting Canada: Problems and Resolutions for 10+ year old DUI

Written by James Hirby | Fact checked by The Law Dictionary staff |  

Any person who wishes to enter Canada is required by Canadian law to declare any conviction to the customs agent whether asked or not. If a person does not make such a declaration and then it is discovered or questioned after entry, that person can be charged for illegally entering the country, which is serious issue.  Because of very well-known reasons, security and its enforcement that occurs at the Canada-United States border has increased in activity in recent years. 

Because of this heightened concern, more US citizens with records of criminal charges or convictions are not allowed free entry into Canada.  Almost all convictions, including DUI, reckless driving, misdemeanor drug possession, all felonies, shoplifting, and so on are seen as felonies in Canada, and that makes any person with such a charge or conviction an undesirable for entry into Canada, regardless of how long ago the violations occurred.  Yet, this issue is not without resolution.  That is why the phrase “allowed free entry” was used.  It is certainly not recommended that any person with any past charges or past convictions try to enter into Canada without first obtaining necessary Canadian-issued documents.   Note:  Even with beaucoup documents (beaucoup is French for “many”) it is always the final decision of Border officers at the ports of entry to determine if a person will be allowed into Canada.  Many people have experienced rejection, refusal for entry, upon interaction with the Canadian Border Patrol.  Querying the issuers of the documents gets the same type of reply:  the Canadian Border Patrol has the final say at the point of entry.  Very frustrating – yes, but it is Canadian law.

There are a fair number of different ways for an individual to get past this “criminal inadmissibility”:

  • Apply for Deemed Rehabilitation at a Canadian port of entry.  This is rather limited – see below.
  • Apply for rehabilitation through a Canadian Consulate in the United States.
  • Obtain a “Temporary resident permit” through a Canadian Consulate in the United States.

Deemed Rehabilitation

A person is eligible to apply for “deemed rehabilitation” at a port of entry if the person has:

  • only one conviction in total or one criminal act.
  • At least ten years elapsed since all sentences for the conviction were completed.
  • a conviction that is not a serious violation in Canada.
  • a conviction that did not involve a weapon, serious property damage, or physical harm to any person.

Application for Rehabilitation

A person can apply for rehabilitation if at least five years have passed since the completion of the sentence penalty for the conviction.  This occurs by sending an application for rehabilitation with all the required accompanying documents to the Immigration section of the Canadian Consulate General in Seattle. Please note there is no guarantee that rehabilitation will be granted.  The decision to approve or refuse rehabilitation is made after review of all case information.

Temporary Resident Permit (TRP)

If less than 5 years have gone by since the completion of any penalty sentence, a person is not yet allowed to apply for approval of rehabilitation.  A TRP is the only option for entry into Canada.  An applicant must contact the Immigration section of the Canadian Consulate General in Seattle should if he or she has any questions about applying for rehabilitation or TRP.  Note: the Canadian Consulate in Anchorage does not handle issues on DUI Admissibility.

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