Can I Enter Canada After My DUI?

January 11, 2018 Written by Ryan Witt

The status of the law is clear on admission into Canada as a visitor if you have a conviction for a DUI. The status of the law on admission is unclear if you have an arrest, but not a conviction. Conviction is the operative word.

Many things can bar a person's admission as a visitor into Canada. We get this question a lot as many people want to go and spend a ski weekend in Whistler. Crimes ranging from minor to serious can prevent admission into Canada. Examples of such crimes are: Theft, Assault, Manslaughter, Dangerous Driving, Drug Offenses, and DUI. 

DUI is the crime that most people are interested in. A conviction for a DUI may make you "Criminally Inadmissible" under Canada's immigration law. At the Witt Law Group, many of our clients are arrested for DUI, but we are able to avoid the conviction. This can be through an outright dismissal, amending the DUI charge down to a lesser charge, or putting the individual onto a contract where after a period of good behavior, the City or State will agree the amend the pending charge of DUI down to a lesser charge. All of these previously mentioned options do truly avoid the "conviction."  

How does this impact me at the Canadian Border?  

The answer is that it is not an absolute bar to admission. From our own experience here in Bremerton and Tacoma, we have had many clients successful with their border crossing. Also in speaking with other attorneys up closer to the border, their conclusions are the same. It works about 50% of the time. We have called the Canadian Consulate many many times inquiring about the "arrest but not conviction" issue, but we have never been able to speak with a live person.  

Some tips that seem to up a person's odds at being able to cross the border (if you don't have a conviction) is to (1) use a passport, not your driver's license. (2) Be a passenger, not the driver. And (3) do not take that car that you received the DUI in. These are not guaranteed to work, but they do seem to give people a slightly better chance at getting across. Also, if you have the paperwork from your case that shows that you resolved it in some way other than a conviction, bring it to show the border patrol agent.  

We hope this helps. Understand that this is not a guarantee, but just some advice that may make your ski weekend go more smoothly. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to call our office. We typically answer our phones afterhours because no one plans on getting a DUI during normal business hours. There are other exceptions such as if you were under 18 when you received the DUI. You may have an exception that applies in your case. The Witt Law Group is a law firm that practices DUI Defense and Personal Injury out of Bremerton and Gig Harbor Washington.