Did you know that Canada has strict laws about allowing those with prior convictions for driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs to enter the country? An American citizen may be considered inadmissible with a prior DWI or other alcohol-related conviction. This is in stark contrast to the reverse scenario: Canadians who have committed DWI offenses in their home country face no obstacles entering the United States.
You Can be Denied Entry Even Without any Intent to Drive
Canadian border officials have the right to deny any person from entering the country, and a DWI conviction can often be used as a reason to deny entry. All foreigners who enter Canada do so at a border officer’s discretion. Even if you are arriving in Canada with no intention of driving, such as part of a bus trip or walking sightseeing tour, border officials have the right to deny entry to you if you have ever been convicted of a DWI or any other alcohol-related offense in the United States.
The amount of time that has elapsed since the conviction plays a role in whether or not an American will be allowed into Canada. Usually, officers will allow a person entry whose offense occurred more than 5 years prior, however they can deny entry for those with a DWI conviction as much as 10 years old. More recent convictions are subject to more scrutiny and could result in being taken aside for further questioning about the offense, its sentence, and any unique circumstances surrounding it.
At the Canadian border, all foreign visitors are asked if they have ever been convicted of a crime. While DWI’s are not “crimes” under New Jersey legal terminology, it will appear on your record if it is retrieved by law enforcement. If it is determined that you lied or forgot about a past conviction, you may be denied access to Canada for years or even decades. If you have a previous DWI Conviction In NJ on your record and you want to visit Canada, remember that honesty is the best policy when speaking to border officers.
Exception #1: Showing Rehabilitation
If it has been at least five years since your original DWI conviction, you may try to prove that you have been rehabilitated. To begin this process, you must obtain Canadian rehabilitation forms from a Canadian visa office. These forms can cost $200 or more (Canadian), depending on your specific offense. Obtaining and processing your rehabilitation forms (See Form IMM 1444E) can take at least six months, sometimes up to a year, so remember to get these well in advance of your intended trip to be sure they’re ready in time. Don’t make the mistake of procrastinating with these forms, then arriving at the border unprepared. Having all your documents in order can be the difference between entering Canada and having to remain in the United States.
Exception #2: Temporary Resident Permit
Another way for an American with a previous DWI or alcohol-related conviction to enter Canada is to obtain a Temporary Resident Permit. This permit costs $200 (Canadian) to obtain and is meant for non-citizens to gain entry to the country for reasons other than vacationing, such as national interest, humanitarian work, or business. Like the IMM 1444E, the Temporary Resident Permit is available at Canadian visa offices. It also takes about six months to process, so filing in advance is advised. A Temporary Resident Permit, or TRP, is valid for one year after it is finalized.
TRP’s are often used for professional athletes who need to travel to Canada. Approximately 10,000 TRP’s are issued every year to Americans who otherwise could be denied entry to the country. Canadian Customs and Immigration consider the following factors when deciding whether or not to grant a TRP: the nature of the applicant’s conviction; the date of the applicant’s most recent conviction; the applicant’s reason for attempting to enter Canada; and the sentence he or she was given for the conviction.
Stopping in Canada for a Connecting Flight Only?
These laws apply to any American who tries to enter Canada – even those only laying over at a Canadian airport between legs of a longer international flight. Canadian Customs and Immigration reserves the right to screen all travelers moving through their country, and an American with a DWI on his or her record may face intense screening and long waits at Canadian airports. To make this process easier, cooperate with officials by explaining your conviction, sentence and identification clearly, and answer all questions that you are asked to your best ability.
Don’t let a past DWI Conviction In NJ or any other blemish on your criminal record keep you from exploring the world. Travelers who require information regarding the process of applying for a waiver or have other admissibility questions can contact the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) during business hours by calling either (506) 636-5064 or (204) 983-3500.
NJ DWI Law Firm
It’s important to defend your current drunk driving case so this collateral consequence or possible DWI Conviction In NJ doesn’t affect your ability to travel to our neighboring country. If you are facing a DWI or other serious alcohol-related charge in New Jersey, contact the team of experienced DWI attorneys at Villani & DeLuca for a free consultation to explore your options. Call (732) 965-3350 today.