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Traveling to Canada if You Have a DUI Conviction

Traveling to Canada if you have a DUI conviction or a “wet reckless” on your record could prove difficult as these convictions could prevent you from entering the country.[1]

Aside from the heavy penalties that come with a California DUI conviction, this type of conviction could also prevent you from traveling to neighboring countries like Canada.

Luckily, there are ways to be able to travel to Canada even if you have a DUI conviction. A California DUI attorney can advise you of possible options, including:

  • Proving to the Canadian authorities that you have been rehabilitated
  • Expunging your DUI conviction and/or other criminal convictions
  • Getting a “temporary resident permit” which will allow you to travel to Canada even if you are otherwise inadmissible based on Canadian laws

For example, Susan is an American living in San Jose, California. She meets John on the internet and they start an online relationship. John is a Canadian living in Toronto, Canada.

Susan wants to visit John in Toronto but 4 years ago, Susan was convicted of a misdemeanor DUI. She was devastated when she learned that she might not be allowed entry to Canada due to her DUI conviction.

Susan consulted with a local attorney in California and learned that she may apply for an “individual rehabilitation” with the Canadian immigration authorities. After the Canadian immigration authorities are satisfied that Susan has indeed been “rehabilitated”, she was allowed to finally visit John in Toronto.

Our California criminal defense Law Firm explains the following in this article:

  • California DUI Convictions and Inadmissibility of Entry to Canada
  • How to be Allowed Entry to Canada with a DUI Conviction
  • Deemed Rehabilitation
  • Individual Rehabilitation
  • Record Suspension or Discharge
  • Temporary Resident Permit

1. California DUI Convictions and Inadmissibility of Entry to Canada

Canadian laws state that you may not enter Canada if you have a DUI, even if it is just a first offense. According to Canadian laws, aliens that have the following in their criminal record may not be allowed entry:[2]

  • Two (2) convictions for any offenses that would be crimes in Canada and that don’t grow out of a single event
  • One (1) conviction for what Canadian law calls an “indictable offense” (roughly the equivalent of a felony under California law)

DUI is more commonly known in Canada as “impaired driving”. Under Canadian laws, it is an “indictable offense.”

A “wet reckless”, while it is a reduced conviction from a DUI due to plea bargaining under California law, it is still considered an equivalent to “impaired driving” under Canadian laws. Therefore, a “wet reckless” on your criminal record can still prevent you from entering Canada.[3]

It can be said that, at least when it comes to DUIs, Canada immigration law is stricter compared to U.S. immigration law.

American laws do not consider DUI to be a crime involving moral turpitude for which immigration penalties may apply. In the U.S., aliens may not be deported for a simple DUI because it is not on the list of deportable crimes or inadmissible crimes.

Canadian laws, on the other hand, will not allow you entry if you have even one conviction for a California DUI, regardless if it is a misdemeanor or a felony conviction. This restriction also applies to California juvenile DUI.

2. How to be Allowed Entry to Canada with a DUI Conviction

There are a few ways to enter Canada despite your prior DUI conviction.

2.1: Deemed Rehabilitation

Deemed rehabilitation is presuming that an individual has been rehabilitated because a long enough time (at least 10 years) has passed since their DUI conviction and they have not committed any other indictable offense after that. You do not need to apply for this. But it is highly advised that you carry documentation to prove this.

The requirements for deemed rehabilitation are:

  • The maximum term of imprisonment for your DUI conviction was less than ten (10) years (this does not apply for gross vehicular manslaughter or DUI as murder);
  • You completed the sentence for your DUI at least ten (10) years before the date of your intended entry to Canada; and
  • In the 10 years after your DUI conviction, you have not committed or been convicted of any other crime that would be an indictable offense in Canada

2.2: Individual Rehabilitation

You may apply for individual rehabilitation if you have not yet completed the required 10 years from deemed rehabilitation. Unlike deemed rehabilitation, you will need to apply with the Canadian immigration authorities showing that you are have completed your sentence at least five (5) years before your intended entry to Canada.

The five (5)-year waiting period is calculated as follows:

  • If you received a suspended sentence, 5 years from the date of sentencing
  • If you received a suspended sentence and a fine, 5 years from the date you paid the fine
  • 5 years from the end of your term of imprisonment if you were sentenced to prison (no parole)
  • 5 years from the end of your parole or probation
  • 5 years from the end date of any driver’s license suspension or restriction that you received

You must fill out Canadian Form IMM 1444 – Application for Criminal Rehabilitation.[4] In the form, you have to be able to explain why you believe you have rehabilitated and that you do not pose a risk to Canadian public safety. [5]

In addition to filling out the appropriate form, you must pay a non-refundable processing fee (even if your application is eventually denied) and pay at a Canadian visa office in the U.S.[6]

A Canadian immigration officer will consider the following factors on whether to allow or deny your application:

  • The number of convictions on your record;
  • The nature and seriousness of each crime;
  • Your behavior since your convictions;
  • Your explanation of your past criminal behavior and why you are not likely to commit further crimes;
  • Why you think you are rehabilitated;
  • Your present circumstances, including support you receive from your community

2.3: Record Suspension or Discharge

A record suspension or discharge is the equivalent of a California expungement. Under Canadian law, you may not be kept out of the country because of a DUI or “wet reckless” conviction for which a “record suspension” has been issued.[7]

With the help of a California DUI defense lawyer, you may be able to apply for an expungement for your DUI or wet reckless conviction. In some cases, this may be faster than applying for a Canadian individual rehabilitation. However, you must first confirm whether a California expungement will meet the requirements for a “record suspension” under Canadian laws. You may ask a Canadian visa office or California DUI defense lawyer with experience in DUIs and Canadian criminal inadmissibility matters.

2.4: Temporary Resident Permit

If you do not qualify for deemed rehabilitation, individual rehabilitation, or record suspension or discharge, you may apply for a temporary resident permit. This will allow you entry into Canada for a specific purpose and for a limited time only.[8]

To be eligible for a temporary resident permit, you must be able to show that even if you’re otherwise inadmissible but have a reason to travel to Canada that is justified in the circumstances.

“To be eligible for a temporary resident permit, your need to enter or stay in Canada must outweigh the health or safety risks to Canadian society, as determined by an immigration or a border services officer. Even if the reason you’re inadmissible seems minor, you must demonstrate that your visit is justified.”[9]

Similar to an individual rehabilitation, you must pay a non-refundable processing fee.

No Judgment, Only Professionalism

If you have been arrested or charged with a DUI and you intend to travel to Canada, it is all-important to hire an experienced, aggressive, and seasoned private West Covina defense lawyer to fight your case. We always make our clients feel right at home and we encourage you to take comfort in the fact that you have a dedicated advocate on your side at Coimbra Law Firm, APC. Our highly-experienced lawyers at Coimbra Law Firm, APC will help ensure that your Constitutional rights are protected. Each of our clients will receive personalized attention, complete discretion, and trained staff working to provide the best legal assistance available.

Our only job is to defend you with the maximum competence, diligence, and zealousness. Do not hesitate to call us at (626) 827-7222 for the representation you need.


[1] Canadian Immigration and Refugee Protection Act 36

[2] Id.

[3] Canadian Criminal Code 225

[4] Please see the following website for the downloadable form: https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/services/application/application-forms-guides/application-rehabilitation-inadmissible-persons-criminal-activity.html

[5] Please see https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/services/application/application-forms-guides/guide-5312-rehabilitation-persons-inadmissible-canada-past-criminal-activity.html

[6] Id.

[7] Supra note 1.

[8] Please see https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/services/immigrate-canada/inadmissibility/temporary-resident-permits.html

[9] Id.

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