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If you try to enter Canada with a DUI or even a reduced offense like negligent or reckless driving on your record, you will almost certainly run into immigration complications. Canada takes a comparatively harsher stance on these convictions and can bar offenders from crossing its border for up to 10 years.

It’s a legal barrier that has shocked many Americans who have flown or driven into Canada to visit relatives, attend an event, or meet with the Canadian branch of the company they work for. Canadian border officers have access to the FBI’s criminal database via its CPIC system, and discovering a previous DUI arrest is a simple matter.

Under Section 36 of the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, a person is inadmissible if they are convicted of an offense outside of Canada that would be punishable by up to 10 years in prison if committed on Canadian soil. This includes those charged with impaired driving. Even if your DUI charge is only pending and you have yet to be convicted, the Canadian Refugee System treats you as if you are “under indictment” and could deny you entry.

In Florida, a first-time DUI offense is nearly always a misdemeanor. In Canada, it is a “hybrid” offense. This means that it could be treated as a summary offense (the equivalent of a misdemeanor in the U.S.) or an indictable offense, which is the same as a felony. Canadian immigration policy is to bar anyone from entering the country if their criminal record includes a conviction for an indictable offense, and since a DUI can be indictable in Canada, it is grounds for exclusion.

Are there exceptions to the 10-year restriction?

It is theoretically possible for a U.S. citizen with a DUI conviction to enter Canada before the 10-year period is up, but the process is both time-consuming and expensive. You may apply for one of the following:

  • “Rehabilitation”: A person is treated as rehabilitated if they gather no more convictions for at least five years after completing their sentence.
  • Temporary Residence Permit: You may apply for a temporary residence permit if there are “urgent and compelling” reasons why you should be allowed to enter and remain temporarily in Canada.

To obtain either exemption, you need help from two attorneys:

  • The one who handled your DUI case in Florida because they will have the legal documentation for your case
  • A Canadian attorney who will assist you in applying for the exemption

The entire process can take several months, requiring you to plan ahead if you need to go to Canada to visit family or attend to business.

Call a Florida criminal defense attorney

This type of immigration complication is one of the many reasons why you should always obtain legal counsel when you are arrested for DUI in Florida, even if it is your first offense. Other countries may have tougher laws when it comes to DUIs, and an experienced criminal defense attorney like Malcolm Anthony will work to achieve the best results for your case. Protect your future by calling 904-285-4529 (4LAW).



Jacksonville, FL Criminal Defense Attorney​​​​​​If you’ve been charged with a crime, you need the determination and experience of criminal defense attorney Malcolm Anthony on your side. As a Jacksonville area criminal defense attorney, I am a seasoned lawyer with a high success rate in criminal…

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