Heading to Canada? Have a DUI? Not so fast…

For Americans, Canada has always been a uniquely welcoming place. There are many points of entry along the vast border we share, and Americans need not even have a passport – a driver’s license or identity document will do.

Things get a little less cozy between the two countries if you have a DUI. Generally Canada bars people with a drunk driving conviction from entering the country. (In fact, the U.S. also denies entry to those with DUIs, but only multiple convictions). It does not matter if the conviction was for a misdemeanor or felony offense, or even if you are intending to drive in Canada.

You can’t enter Canada with a DUI, but the ban is not usually permanent. Five years after you have completed your sentence you can apply to be rehabilitated. If your application is accepted, you’re deemed fit for entry. Keep in mind, though, that completing your sentence means paying fines, doing jail time and probation, treatment, community service, and anything else that is required of you. Only then does the five-year waiting period start.

One might ask how the Canadian border officials will know if you have a conviction. In this security-conscious age, it doesn’t take long to research someone’s criminal record. Don’t lie about your conviction – doing so will get you banned from the country, probably for five years.

And if you’re thinking of trying a second point of entry after you’ve been refused at the first one – forget it. This is the age of Big Data.

If you have a DUI on your record, there are many sites which will help you negotiate your way into Canada, provided you fulfil the requirements. If you don’t have a DUI, you’re ahead of the game. Canada will welcome you with open arms.

Have a good trip.