Convicted for DUI or Reckless Driving? Canada May Not Let You In.
If you got a DUI or reckless driving conviction in the US, you may want to reconsider your plans to visit Canada, as the country has strict policies on immigration and tourism for foreign nationals who have a criminal record. Canadian immigration officials generally won’t allow foreign nationals to enter the country if they’ve been convicted of certain crimes. For clarity, “foreign national” means tourists, businesspeople, students, temporary workers, and anyone who doesn’t have Canadian citizenship or permanent residency.
DUI is a federal crime in Canada, which we explain further below. Despite a DUI being a misdemeanor in most US states, Canada will not let you into the country because federal criminal convictions are generally grounds for inadmissibility in Canada. As such, if you were convicted of DUI in the past 10 years, you may not be allowed into Canada.
With this in mind, if you were convicted of an offense like DUI or reckless driving in the United States, you may experience issues getting into Canada and be deemed inadmissible altogether if circumstances call for it. I explain Canadian laws on inadmissibility for foreign nationals and permanent residents below. If you have any questions, call my firm at 786-785-2035 for answers.
Under Section 36 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA), a permanent resident or a foreign national is inadmissible on grounds of SERIOUS CRIMINALITY for:
- having been convicted in Canada of an offense under an Act of Parliament punishable by a maximum term of imprisonment of at least 10 years, or of an offense under an Act of Parliament for which a term of imprisonment of more than s6ix months has been imposed; or
- having been convicted of an offense outside Canada that, if committed in Canada, would constitute an offense under an Act of Parliament punishable by a maximum term of imprisonment of at least 10 years; or
- committing an act outside Canada that is an offense in the place where it was committed and that, if committed in Canada, would constitute an offense under an Act of Parliament punishable by a maximum term of imprisonment of at least 10 years.
A foreign national is inadmissible on grounds of GENERAL CRIMINALITY for
- having been convicted in Canada of an offense under an Act of Parliament punishable by way of indictment, or of two offenses under any Act of Parliament not arising out of a single occurrence; or
- having been convicted outside Canada of an offense that, if committed in Canada, would constitute an indictable offense under an Act of Parliament, or of 2 offenses not arising out of a single occurrence that, if committed in Canada, would constitute offenses under an Act of Parliament; or
- committing an act outside Canada that is an offense in the place where it was committed and that, if committed in Canada, would constitute an indictable offense under an Act of Parliament; or
- committing, on entering Canada, an offense under an Act of Parliament prescribed by regulations.
Lawful permanent residents of Canada may be inadmissible into the country for serious criminality but not general criminality, while Canadian citizens, including dual citizens, are always admissible into Canada because it’s their right.
What Is Considered a Conviction in Canada?
Canadian law does not consider record expungements when determining whether a foreign national has been convicted of a general or serious crime. This means that getting your criminal record expunged does not guarantee admissibility into Canada, as the country doesn’t recognize expungements. In contrast, you will likely be able to enter Canada if you have deferred or suspended adjudications on your record because they aren’t considered convictions.
As you can see, Canada’s immigration policy typically doesn’t allow individuals with convictions to enter the country. In addition to pending criminal charges in the US, the following are also considered convictions in Canada:
- Suspended impositions
- Deferred sentences
- Pleas of nolo contender (no contest)
Impacts of Criminal Convictions on Admissibility into Canada
Canada and the United States classify criminal offenses differently, meaning a low-level crime in the US could be considered a serious crime in Canada, establishing grounds for inadmissibility. To give you a perspective, indictable offenses in Canada are equivalent to felonies in the US, whereas summary offenses in Canada are similar to misdemeanors in the US. Unlike the US, Canada may classify a crime as a “hybrid offense,” which is still an indictable offense that would make you inadmissible.
If your criminal conviction in the US would be punishable by a maximum sentence of at least 10 years in prison in Canada, you may be denied entry. Canadian officials won’t allow you into the country, even if your conviction is punishable by less than a 10-year sentence in the US. This is because as long as your conviction is deemed an “indictable offense” and/or is punishable by at least 10 years in Canadian prison, you are inadmissible into the country.
Another key fact to know is that if you have two convictions that equate to summary convictions in Canada, you will not be allowed into the country. You may enter the country if you were convicted of ONE summary-equivalent offense.
An Exception to the Rule: Deemed Rehabilitation
Let’s say you were convicted of a crime that is considered an indictable offense in Canada, or two crimes that are considered summary offenses in Canada. If 10 years have passed since your conviction for an indictable offense or two summary offenses, you may be deemed “rehabilitated” and thus, allowed to enter Canada. However, this rule only applies to general criminality offenses.
A DUI is considered an indictable offense, but if 10 years have passed since your DUI conviction, you may be permitted to enter Canada.
Reach Out to My Firm Today
I understand these rules and exceptions can get confusing. Understanding which offenses in the US are considered general criminality or serious criminality as well as indictable or summary offenses is not always simple. As such, if you have a criminal record and want to visit Canada, contact my firm at 786-785-2035 if you’re unsure about your admissibility status.