You may have trouble entering Canada if you have a previous driving under the influence (DUI) offense.
Canada has strict DUI laws, and it further strengthened the laws in 2018 when cannabis became legal. It doubled the maximum punishment for DUI from 5 years to 10 years in jail. As a result, a DUI is now considered to be serious criminality under Canadian immigration law. In theory, serious criminality can be grounds for being banned from entering Canada forever. In practice, there are three major ways you can overcome your DUI to enter Canada.
Canada may allow you to enter the country despite your DUI after considering the type of offense, the number of times you committed it, its severity, and when you completed your sentence. Even if you committed the offense years ago, it may still show up on your record when you come to the Canadian border, so it is wise for you to plan ahead. The three options available to you are: applying for a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP), Criminal Rehabilitation, and getting a Legal Opinion Letter.
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Temporary Resident Permit (TRP)
You must apply for a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP) if it has been under five years since you completed your DUI sentence. If approved, the TRP may be valid for up to three years.
You must provide Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) with a compelling reason to allow you to enter Canada. IRCC must make the determination you do not represent a threat to the Canadian public. The decision-making process is subjective, so you need to submit a well-prepared and compelling TRP application.
You may be eligible to apply for criminal rehabilitation if it has been over five years, but under 10 years since the completion of your DUI sentence. If your application is approved, your criminal record will no longer be an obstacle to entering Canada again as long as you do not commit another offense.
You can be deemed rehabilitated if it has been 10 years or more since your conviction thanks to the passage of time. Like criminal rehabilitation, your slate will be wiped clean and you will be able to enter Canada assuming you do not commit any other offenses in the future. This solution is possible only in instances where you have a single and non-serious conviction on your record.
Legal Opinion Letter
If you are currently being charged with a DUI but do not have a criminal history, you should still be allowed to enter Canada. However, Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officers have discretion in these instances and they will weigh the benefits and risks of allowing you into Canada. Getting a Legal Opinion Letter from a Canadian immigration lawyer can help you enter Canada if you have a pending charge since the lawyer can explain to the CBSA why you should be allowed to enter Canada.