Traveling to Canada After a DWI

canadian flagThinking of travelling to Canada after a DWI? If you have been convicted of any criminal charge — including DWI — in the United States, visiting Canada requires money and effort. Possibly lots of both.

Just in case your yearning for plaid shirts, lumber jacks, and maple syrup persists, I have done the research for you.

Up to 10 Years

Drunk driving is a serious offense, and I don’t want to make light of it. However, given Canada’s draconian limits on visiting for a weekend fishing trip if you have a single DWI up to ten years in your past and no other criminal charges, I can’t help but think of Arlo Guthrie’s song “Alice’s Restaurant.”

I went over to the sergeant, said, “Sergeant, you got a lot a damn gall to ask me if I’ve rehabilitated myself, I mean, I mean, I mean that, . . . you want to know if I’m moral enough join the army, burn women, kids, houses and villages after bein’ a litterbug.” He looked at me and said, “Kid, we don’t like your kind, and we’re gonna send you fingerprints off to Washington.”

If you study Canada’s “Citizenship and Immigration” website long enough you’ll learn . . . well, actually, you won’t learn anything. You’ll go cross-eyed and decide never to go.

Just in case your yearning for plaid shirts, lumber jacks, and maple syrup persists, I have done the research for you.

You have two options: applying for rehabilitation and paying a fee, and just showing up at the border and paying the fee there.

Option A: Apply for Rehabilitation

To enter Canada after a criminal conviction in the U.S. you have to demonstrate that you have been rehabilitated. “Rehabilitation means that you lead a stable lifestyle and that you are unlikely to be involved in any further criminal activity.”

  • If five years or more have passed since the final penalty resulting from your offense (the end of your jail term, the end of your probation, the final payment of a fine paid in installments—whichever happens last), then you may apply for rehabilitation.
  • If fewer than five years have passed, you go through the same process but check the “For Information Purposes” box on the application form and send it in anyway. This is a request for “special permission to enter.”

You fill out the Application for Criminal Rehabilitation.

Include these original documents:

  • Two passport photos taken within the last six months,
  • An FBI certificate for the United States and (if appropriate),
  • State police certificates and local police certificates from all the locations, in the United States, where you have resided at least six months since reaching the age of 18,
  • If your driver’s license was suspended as a result of your conviction, you must provide official proof of restoration of full privileges and of the date of restoration.
  • Official proof of payment of fines, discharge from probation, and/or satisfaction of community service.

And copies of these documents:

  • Pages of your passport showing your name, country of birth, and date of birth OR your driver’s license and birth certificate,
  • A copy of all judgments against you, including the statute under which you were convicted and any sentence
  • Documents showing completion of any jail sentence, probation, or parole and receipts of any fines paid.

You must also pay a processing fee of $200.00 (Canadian).

If your crime is punishable by ten years in prison or more, these rules do not apply. You have to petition the Canadian government for a pardon.

Option B: Take $200 and Gumption

However, anecdotally, people have told me that rather than going through this time-consuming process (up to six months), they have succeeded in traveling to Canada  in spite of a DWI, which they disclosed, by appearing at the border crossing with their $200.00 and a passport.

Some have been asked to pay the $200.00 fee, some have simply been admitted.

Might be worth a try.

Share your own experiences with travel to Canada in the Comments Section. Questions? Call me at 612-310-7398.

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