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How a DUI/DWI Will Impact Your Travel Plans to Canada

Under current Canadian law, a DUI or DWAI conviction in Colorado (or elsewhere in the U.S.) may make you a “criminally inadmissible person.” An “inadmissible person” cannot visit or stay in Canada because they have been convicted of certain crimes in, or outside of, Canada.

Despite meeting eligibility requirements, foreign individuals from any country may still be criminally inadmissible to Canada due to previous criminal conduct, or the criminal conduct of their dependents. In particular, if you are convicted of a DUI, Canada entry may be denied or become more complicated.

Drunk driving charges are processed under a variety of names across the U.S. ( DUI, DWI, OUI, DWAI, UDD, OMVI, DUID, BUI, etc) , however they all have the potential to create issues of criminal inadmissibility for U.S. residents attempting to enter into Canada. Drunk driving charges that can make an individual criminally inadmissible include, but are not limited to, Driving Under the Influence (DUI), Driving While Intoxicated (DWI), Driving While Impaired (DWI), Operating While Intoxicated (OWI), Operating a Motor Vehicle While Intoxicated (OMVI), and Driving While Ability Impaired (DWAI).

Americans should note that Canadian immigration law does not place a great emphasis on the distinction between misdemeanor and felony offenses, which means that even a misdemeanor may make you criminal inadmissibility.

Criminal inadmissibility can be overcome permanently by Criminal Rehabilitation or temporarily by obtaining a Temporary Resident Permit.

Criminal Rehabilitation

If an individual has only been convicted of a single DUI offense and a period of 10 years has passed since the completion of the entire sentence, then the individual may have been Deemed Rehabilitated.

In order to be eligible to apply for a finding of Criminal Rehabilitation, a period of 5 years must have elapsed since the completion of the entire sentence imposed for the DUI. If an individual has more than one DUI conviction, an application for Criminal Rehabilitation will be required as such an individual cannot be Deemed Rehabilitated.

Rehabilitation means that you are not likely to commit new crimes.

You can apply for individual rehabilitation to enter Canada. The Minister, or their delegate, may decide to grant it or not. To apply, you must:

  • show that you meet the criteria,
  • have been rehabilitated and
  • be highly unlikely to take part in further crimes.

Also, at least five years must have passed since:

  • the end of your criminal sentence (this includes probation) and
  • the day you committed the act that made you inadmissible.

You must apply to the Canadian visa office that serves the country or region where you live. You must also pay a processing fee. Check the visa office website to see whether the office has any special requirements.

Note: These applications can take over a year to process. Make sure you plan far enough in advance of your travel to Canada.

Temporary Resident Permit (TRP)

TRPs are granted to allow individuals, who would otherwise be inadmissible, to gain admission to Canada for a specific purpose. The specific purpose of the visit must be properly explained in any application for a TRP.

A DUI conviction can create complications in regards to temporary or permanent entry to Canada, however there remain a number of ways to overcome such issues.

If you are otherwise inadmissible but have a reason to travel to Canada that is justified in the circumstances, you may be issued a temporary resident permit.

To be eligible for a temporary resident permit, your need to enter or stay in Canada must outweigh the health or safety risks to Canadian society, as determined by an immigration or a border services officer. Even if the reason you are inadmissible seems minor, you must demonstrate that your visit is justified.

There is no guarantee that you will be issued a temporary resident permit. If you would like to receive a permit, you will have to pay a processing fee, which is not refundable.

A permit is usually issued for the length of your visit to Canada—for example, one week to attend a conference. You must leave Canada by the expiry date of the permit, or get a new permit before your current one expires.

Please note that this permit may be cancelled by an officer at any time. The permit is no longer valid once you leave Canada, unless you have specifically been authorized to leave and re-enter.

How to apply

If you are a citizen of a visa-exempt country, the visa office responsible for your country or region may have its own application form for temporary resident permits. You should check the visa office to find out about its specific application procedures.

Otherwise, you should submit an application for a temporary resident visa along with supporting documents to explain why you are inadmissible and why it may be justified for you to enter Canada.

Note: You may have to attend an interview so that an officer can assess your application.


You must pay a fee (C$200) to cover the cost of processing your application for a temporary resident permit. The fee will not be refunded if the permit is refused. Check the visa office website for specific payment instructions.


Reasons for inadmissibility:

A person may be denied a visa, refused entry to, or removed from Canada on any of these grounds:

  • security reasons, including
    • espionage
    • subversion (attempts to overthrow a government, etc.)
    • violence or terrorism, or
    • membership in an organization involved in any of these
  • human or international rights violations, including
    • war crimes
    • crimes against humanity
    • being a senior official in a government engaged in gross human rights violations or subject to international sanctions
  • committing a serious crime that would be punishable by a maximum prison term of at least 10 years in Canada (see note 1)
  • having been convicted of a crime, including driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol (see note 1)
  • organized crime, including membership in an organization that takes part in organized criminal activity, people smuggling or money laundering
  • health grounds – if their condition is likely to:
    • endanger public health or public safety, or
    • cause excessive demands on health or social services (some exceptions exist – see notes 2 and 3)
  • financial reasons – if they are unable or unwilling to support themselves and their family members
  • misrepresentation, which includes providing false information or withholding information directly related to decisions made under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA)
  • failure to comply with any provision of IRPA (see note 4) or
  • having an inadmissible family member.


(1) To find out more, see Overcoming Criminal Inadmissibility.

(2) Not all temporary residents are required to be medically examined. Generally, if you are coming to Canada for less than six months, you will not need a medical examination. However, there are some exceptions. Find out if you need a medical examination before entering Canada temporarily.

(3) Some groups of permanent resident applicants are exempt from the excessive demands assessment:

  • family class sponsored spouses, common-law partners and dependent children
  • convention refugees or people in similar circumstances and
  • protected persons.

According to the law, a spouse, common-law partner, child or other family members of these permanent resident groups are also exempt.

Find out more about who requires a medical examination and where to find a Designated Medical Practitioner in your area.

(4) Examples of failure to comply with IRPA include:

  • temporary residents who do not respect the conditions of their stay—for example, they stay longer than allowed, or work or study without the proper permits
  • permanent residents who have not lived in Canada for the required amount of time and
  • people who have previously been deported and try to enter Canada without written authorization.

In some cases you may need an Authorization to return to Canada (ARC) in order to be admitted to Canada.

If you or someone you know has been charged with a DUI in Colorado and you have concerns about gaining entry to Canada, please call us for a free Consultation.  The Orr Law Firm, L.L.C. focuses exclusively on DUI and Criminal Traffic Defense and represents clients facing criminal charges for DUI, DWAI and other major traffic offenses throughout the Denver Metro Area and Colorado’s Front Range.  Call or email for a free consultation – 303-818-2448 or

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Rhidian Orr

Rhidian Orr

The Orr Law Firm, L.L.C. is Colorado’s premier DUI defense law firm. The Orr Law Firm focuses exclusively on DUI and criminal traffic defense. Denver DUI attorney Rhidian Orr, senior partner and owner of The Orr Law Firm, believes that DUI defense is so complex that a firm must focus exclusively on this area of law in order to provide clients with the expertise and knowledgeable defense they deserve. Attorneys at The Orr Law Firm go through extensive training and certifications to ensure they are up-to-date on all cutting edge defense strategies and evidentiary principles as they relate to DUI defense. Attorneys at The Orr Law Firm are active members of the National College for DUI Defense, are trained in Standardized Field Sobriety Testing, Gas Chromatography and are also trained in the operation of the Intoxilyzer 5000EN. DUI defense is our passion and we promise to provide all clients with exceptional customer service and the best possible legal defense as it relates to each individual case. Almost half of all of our clients are either return clients or referrals. This speaks volumes to the success of our firm and the satisfaction of our clients. The majority of criminal defense attorneys claim to "handle" DUI cases, but you need a Colorado DUI defense attorney, not just a general criminal defense attorney. Don’t let a DUI ruin your life. We will aggressively fight for your rights while respecting your privacy and time.

One Response

  1. Hi Rhidian,
    First let me commend you on the excellent article. I operate a Canadian immigration law firm focused entirely on Canada DUI entry, and this is one of the most well researched and factually correct articles I have read on the subject. From my experience, many American DUI attorneys are not well informed about the consequences an alcohol related driving offense has on international travel, and it can occasionally be a disservice to the client. For example: last week I spoke to a businessman who travels to Canada regularly, and the individual told me had he known a wet reckless would still render him inadmissible to Canada he would have plead not guilty to his DUI (0.084 BAC). Instead he made a deal which resulted in a “harmless” reckless driving charge and ended up getting denied entry at the Canadian border as a result. Your knowledge on the topic assures me that had a similar client retained your services he would much better understand the true ramifications of cutting such a deal.

    Gordon Vuong

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