Colorado DUI / DWAI Convictions & Canadian Travel
Our Denver DUI Lawyers Explain the Repercussions
Under current Canadian law, a DUI or DWAI conviction in Colorado (or elsewhere in the U.S.) may make you an "inadmissible person." An "inadmissible person" cannot visit or stay in Canada because they have been convicted of certain crimes in, or outside of, Canada.
DUI / DWAI offenses that may make you ineligible for Canadian travel:
- Criminal or Administrative Conviction for impaired driving offense (DWAI)
- Revoked or Suspended license for excessive blood alcohol levels (DUI per se)
- Administrative or Criminal Conviction or license suspension for failing to take a breath, blood or urine alcohol test (Refusal)
- Outstanding warrants and pending criminal charges or trials for impaired driving offenses (DUI or DWAI)
You might think your DUI starts and ends in your home state. Sure, your license might have been suspended for a while, you might have even served jail time, but once you’ve paid your debt to society everything will go back to normal. Well, no, that’s not the case. Your DUI follows you around everywhere you go.
Take, for example, that bachelor party you’re supposed to attend in Canada later this year. You have a DUI conviction in Colorado, but you assume it isn’t a big deal to cross the border; your papers are all in order. That could not be further from the truth.
Will I be detained at the Canadian border if I try to cross?
The United States government shares driver license and court records with Canadian immigration authorities. If you are traveling to Canada, you should assume that the Canadian government will find out about any DUI/DWAI charges you have or will face. You must be honest with the Border Patrol Agent. Failure to disclose or be candid, will likely result in you being denied entry to Canada.
It would be prudent for you to obtain a complete copy of your court file and a certified record of disposition, a certified motor vehicle record and bring those documents with you if you are attempting to enter Canada. It is imperative to understand that unless you have obtained rehabilitation status or a temporary resident permit, the decision on whether or not to grant you access to Canada is at the sole discretion of the Border Patrol Agent at the port of entry in which you are attempting to come through. Just because you have entered before or without issue previously, does not guarantee you entry in the future. Without proper documentation and pre-approval your access to Canada is 100% discretionary.
You will be allowed to enter Canada legally if:
- 10 years have passed with no other indictable offenses
- Five years have passed since your last offense and you apply for rehabilitation status
- Less than five years have passed; you can apply for a temporary resident permit, which requires a fee
FAQ's Regarding Travel and Entry to Canada:
Will a criminal conviction for a DUI or DWAI make me inadmissible to Canada? If so, for how long?
Yes, a criminal conviction for a DUI or DWAI makes you inadmissible to Canada for a period of ten years following the completion of all the terms of the sentence relating to your conviction. Permission to enter can be obtained either at a Canadian consulate or Port of Entry (Canadian Border).
Will an administrative conviction for an excess BAC or Refusal at the Colorado DMV make me inadmissible to Canada? If so, for how long?
It is not relevant to Canada what agency treated or sanctioned the offense, all that matters is what the equivalent of the offense is in Canadian law. Therefore, an administrative conviction for an excess BAC or refusal at the Colorado DMV will most likely make you inadmissible to Canada for a period of ten years following the completion of all the terms of the sentence relating to your conviction, as it is equivalent to a DUI under Canadian, criminal law.
Will a conviction for Reckless Driving make me inadmissible to Canada? If so, for how long?
Most often, reckless driving is equivalent to an offense under the Canadian criminal code called “dangerous operation of a motor vehicle”. Therefore, similar to a DUI, a criminal conviction for reckless driving will most likely make you inadmissible to Canada for a period of ten years following the completion of all the terms of the sentence relating to your conviction.
Will a conviction for Driving under Restraint or Suspension make me inadmissible to Canada? If so, for how long?
Generally, a conviction for Driving under Restraint or Suspension is equivalent to “operation while disqualified” which is a criminal offense in Canada. As a result, a criminal conviction for driving under restraint or suspension will most likely make you inadmissible to Canada for a period of ten years following the completion of all the terms of the sentence relating to your conviction.
Will I be denied entry to Canada if I have a pending charge for an offense that Canada deems inadmissible?
Most likely, because a pending charge may be considered proof of the commission of an act that would constitute an offense in Canada. The statute that renders a person inadmissible refers to both convictions and commission of offenses without distinction. Therefore, even a pending charge that would make you inadmissible to Canada if convicted will make you inadmissible to Canada.
If I received a Deferred Judgment and Sentence will Canada see that and if so, how will they treat it?
If, in your jurisdiction a deferred judgment is not a conviction, it will not render you inadmissible. If the conditions imposed in the deferral are fulfilled, the judgment rendered may be a finding of “not guilty”, in which case you would not be inadmissible to Canada once you have satisfied the conditions.
A deferred sentence is still generally considered a conviction, providing the offense equates to Canadian Law and that a conviction is registered on your record. In such a case you would be inadmissible to Canada.
Why do these offenses make you inadmissible to Canada?
These are the rules established by the Canadian Government in order to prevent very serious criminals from crossing the border and under Canadian Law both DUIs and more serious offenses have the same classification.
How do I apply for Rehabilitation Status and when do I need to do this? How long does this process take?
You are eligible for criminal rehabilitation after five years have elapsed since the completion of all the terms of the sentence relating to your conviction. These paper applications are processed at a Canadian Consulate based in the U.S, they do not require any program or counseling. Processing time for this application can be anytime between six months and one year.
What is a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP) and do I need one? If so, how do I apply or obtain one? How long does this process take?
A TRP is like a hall pass which allows you temporary entry into Canada despite being criminally inadmissible. These can be obtained at the consulate or the Port of Entry (Canadian border). In order to be granted one, it is very important to have a significant reason for traveling to Canada. For more information you should speak to an attorney who will evaluate your chances of obtaining a TRP. Depending on where you apply, you can either obtain a TRP on the spot or it could take 6-12 months to process.
If I have a criminal or administrative conviction on my record, what documentation should I bring with me to show the border patrol agent at the port of entry?
These are highly complex cases, given the fact that you are petitioning the government for relief from criminal inadmissibility. Each case is different and might require different documentation. An attorney can help guide you in this respect. Generally you are going to have to produce criminal background checks, court documents showing your charges/convictions and documentation supporting the claim that you are unlikely to re-offend.
How will a conviction for DUI or DWAI affect my ability to obtain a Work Visa in Canada?
If you have a conviction for DUI or DWAI you are most likely criminally inadmissible to Canada and would require a Temporary Resident Permit in order to be granted a work visa. Both applications could be granted simultaneously as you could not be granted a work visa without a TRP, if you were inadmissible.
I’ve heard that access to Canada is completely up to the discretion of the border patrol agent at the port of entry and that I can be denied for any reason even if I have been granted entry to Canada previously. Is this true? If so, what can I do to maximize my chances of being allowed entry into Canada?
Yes, the border agent does have a significant amount of discretion when deciding whether or not to allow an individual to enter Canada and you can be denied despite being previously admitted. To maximize your chances you should have a well prepared application that properly addresses your criminal inadmissibility.
If I am denied entry into Canada, how long do I have to wait to try again and is there anything I can do to ensure I am granted access in the future?
There is no limit or time frame in which you are allowed to reapply for admission into Canada. However you should only reapply if you have more documentation addressing your inadmissibility or if the circumstance has changed. You should consult a lawyer to minimize the chances of being detained and being called to an inadmissibility hearing.
Note: The Orr Law Firm and their attorneys do not practice in Canada. This information is for advisory purposes only. This information is intended for general guidance and reference only. A legal decision on your inadmissibility can only be made at the time you seek entry into Canada either through an application or at a port of entry. Please contact the Canadian Consulate or a Canadian Immigration Attorney in the Province you will be trying to enter into with questions regarding Canadian law and inadmissibility.
For more information on Criminal Inadmissibility and entry into Canada we recommend you contact and consult with Canadian Immigration Attorney - Marisa Feil.