Crossing the Canadian border with a DWI, DUI or Other Drunk Driving Offense
An offense of driving under the influence will typically not cause problems for Canadians entering the United States. However . . . . . .
The biggest surprise for most Americans is that they are very likely to be turned away at the Canadian border if they have any type of alcohol related offense.
- It does not matter if you are arriving as a passenger in another person’s car.
- It does not matter if you have no intention of driving in Canada at all. For example, 4 to 5 passengers a week who take the ferry to Victoria Canada for a one-day walking sightseeing trip are turned back for DUI / DWI offenses even though they do not have a car with them.
- It does not matter if your offense was classified as a misdemeanor or a felony.
- There are no exceptions for fans, guests, officials, or anyone else entering Canada for special events. Former U.S. President G.W. Bush had to get a special waiver to enter Canada because of his 1976 drunken-driving offense in Maine.
We have a short video you can view which provides an overview of your options to enter Canada with a criminal record.
“But my Friend Got Across …”
You may hear stories of people who were allowed to cross the border even though they had a drunk driving offense. Others will say that they were allowed to into the country 2 or 3 times but were then stopped the next time they tried to cross. Why? Because border officers have complete discretion to allow or deny entry to anybody. You may get across, or you may be stopped. You may be pulled in for interrogation, and then allowed to cross, or you may be sent back. The simple fact is – Canada considers drunk driving to be a serious offense.
As a general rule, the older your conviction (10 years or more), the better the chance that you have of being allowed to enter Canada without filing for a waiver. However, you certainly cannot count on being granted entry.
There are several ways to obtain permission to enter Canada despite having a DUI or DWI on your record. Most commonly, you will file for a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP), or file for Rehabilitation. The TRP allows you into Canada for a specific trip. Being deemed “Rehabilitated” removes the issue completely so long as you do not commit another offense. You should read carefully through our discussions on “Resolving Inadmissibility to Canada”.
Several Things You Shouldn’t Do
Don’t lie. If you are caught misrepresenting your record your chances of ever getting across the border again will drop significantly. Canadian officers can ban you on the spot for an extended time and perhaps for life.
Secondly, do not attempt entry at a different border crossing on the same day thinking you have a fresh chance with a new officer. Denied admissions are updated immediately in a centralized database and will be visible at all ports of entry. If you look like you are trying to evade the system you will further jeopardize your ability to enter the country for the rest of your life.
Finally, there is a chance that the driver of the car, or people travelling with you, could also be deemed inadmissible – and even face criminal charges – if they are aware of your inadmissibility and your intent to hide it.