Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Getting into Canada with DUI's and Other Criminal Charges

Imagine the frustration of planning to spend a day in Canada and having to turn around because of some past criminal charge. Unfortunately, this is a very common concern amongst many Americans. Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) is designed so Canada can keep out people who commit serious crimes like assault, fraud, criminal mischief, etc., but many crimes deemed a misdemeanor in this country also fall under the Act. This includes convictions for DUI, reckless driving, misdemeanor drug possession, shoplifting, and various other criminal charges. Here are some ways to get entry into Canada.

One way to avoid issues is to apply for "deemed rehabilitation" status at the point of entry into Canada. A letter from an attorney stating this can ease the process. However, this only applies to DUI's at least ten years old. After you have the letter drawn up, you can just keep it in your glove box with your registration. Convenient, quick, and saves you trouble of having to explain to friends and family why you turned down at the border.

If you are planning to be visiting Canada a lot, you may consider criminal rehabilitation. Your DUI needs to be 5 years old from the date you completed all fines, jail time, driving courses, etc., Then you may complete the “Streamlined Rehabilitative” process. This is a permanent fix, and you do not have to renew it. This process takes six months to one year. 

Another option is to apply for a Temporary Resident Permit. Your DUI does not have to be old, but you need to have a “valid” reason for visiting Canada, and shoe shopping or whale watching is not a valid reason. The Temporary Resident Permit has its benefits though. If you are traveling to Canada with a co-worker, boss, new partner, you may not want them knowing you had a DUI. The Temporary Resident Permit is a discreet way to travel into Canada without your traveling companion finding out about your DUI.

Finally, for criminal charges other than DUI it is possible the charge can be vacated by an attorney in the United States preventing any issues with crossing into Canada. Please refer to my other blog on vacating past charges.
When filling out any of these applications it is important to have a professional either look them over or complete them for you. It can be embarrassing and a waste of gas to get turned down at the border; hiring a competent attorney can go a long way to make your traveling as smooth as possible. 

There is always the chance that Canadian Border Officials will not ask about DUI's or criminal history, but if they do, do not lie. Lying can get you barred from entry to Canada for several years, and there are no simple fixes for that problem. If you have already been denied for entry, seek advice from an attorney how to proceed. He or she will know how to address you specific problem and save you from being turned away in the future.


Luke Larson, Attorney and Counselor at Law

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