Flying Into Canada After A DWI or DUI Conviction
By Gregory J. Reigel
© September, 2007 All rights reserved.
Living here in Minnesota next to the "Great White North," flights to and from Canada are a daily occurrence. Many of my clients have cabins in Canada. My charter clients fly passengers to the various lodges during the prime Canadian fishing season. One issue that has been discussed with greater frequency lately is the effect a driving-while-intoxicated ("DWI") or driving-under-the-influence ("DUI") conviction has on a person's ability to fly to and from Canada.
DWI/DUI Equals Inadmissible
According to the Canadian Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration, if you have committed or been convicted of a criminal offense, you are considered "inadmissible" and may not be allowed to enter Canada. If you have a criminal conviction and you fly to Canada without rehabilitation, as discussed below, the immigration officer who meets you at the airport of entry may advise that you will not be allowed to enter Canada and ask you to return immediately to the U.S. or the officer may arrest, detain and/or remove you from Canada. (Not a good situation in either event).
Criminal offenses include both minor (shoplifting, theft, assault, dangerous driving, unauthorized possession of a firearm, possession of illegal substances, etc.) and serious (theft, assault, manslaughter, dangerous driving or driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol) offenses. Canada regards DWI/DUI convictions as extremely serious offenses. (A list of criminal offenses in Canada is available here
If you have a DWI/DUI conviction, you are, upon initial review, considered to be "inadmissible". However, depending on the facts and circumstances surrounding the conviction, the time elapsed and your behavior since the conviction, you may no longer be considered inadmissible to Canada. You may be permitted to fly to Canada if: you are able to satisfy an immigration officer that you meet the legal requirement to be deemed rehabilitated or you have applied for individual rehabilitation and your application has been approved.
Even if you have a DWI/DUI conviction, through the mere passage of time following the conviction, you may be "deemed" rehabilitated and allowed to fly to Canada. (You are rehabilitated if you lead a stable life and you are unlikely to be involved in any further criminal activity.) In order to be "deemed" rehabilitated, at least 5 years and as many as 10 years must have passed since you completed the sentence imposed for your conviction. The clock only starts ticking after the sentence has ended. As an example, if you were sentenced to 12 months in jail but only served one month, the rehabilitation period would not start until after the 12 months had elapsed, rather than after the one month you actually served.
Deemed rehabilitation also depends upon whether you have committed one or more offenses. In all cases, you may only be deemed rehabilitated if the offense(s) committed would be punishable in Canada by a maximum term of imprisonment of less than 10 years (which is quite likely with a DWI/DUI). You do not need to apply to be deemed rehabilitated. However, you may want to contact a Canadian embassy or consulate before you depart to avoid any confusion or problems with a Canadian immigration officer upon arrival at your airport of entry.
If you are inadmissible and are not eligible for “deemed rehabilitation,” you may still be able to overcome the inadmissibility fly to Canada. However, you will need to apply for "individual rehabilitation". To apply, at least five years must have passed since you completed all your criminal sentences. You must submit a completed Immigration Form 1444-Application for Criminal Rehabilitation
to the Canadian visa office in your area and pay a processing fee. The application requests personal information including your name, family members, addresses and employers for the last 10 years, purpose of your visit to Canada, the criminal offense for which you were convicted and a detailed description of the events and circumstances leading to the conviction, reasons why you consider yourself to be rehabilitated and why you do not present a risk to public safety.
In addition to the information you disclose on the application, you may also need to supply court records relating to your conviction(s), reports of probation or parole officers, a copy of the statute under which you were convicted and three letters from persons of standing in the community who know you and can attest to your rehabilitation. Also, a fee of either $200 or $1,000, depending upon the severity of the criminal conviction and whether authority from the Minister will be required for approval, must be submitted with the application for individual rehabilitation.
Upon receipt of your application, an immigration officer will review it and any supporting documents. When reviewing your application, the immigration officer will consider (1) the number of offences and the circumstances and seriousness of each offence; (2) your behavior since committing the offence(s); (3) your explanation of the offences and why you are not likely to re-offend; (4) any support you receive from your community; (5) why you think you are rehabilitated; and (6) your present circumstances.
If you are eligible to apply, the officer will make a positive or negative recommendation and forward the application to the authority who can approve or refuse applications for rehabilitation. For less serious offenses, the authority is usually the manager of the local office. For more serious offenses, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration will make the decision. In either instance, the authority is not bound by the immigration officer's recommendation.
Applications for rehabilitation can take over a year to process. The Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration will notify you in writing of the decision it makes on your application. If you receive Approval of Rehabilitation, this will permanently remove the inadmissibility caused by your conviction.
Canada has some spectacular fly-in opportunities to enjoy truly beautiful scenario, whether you are hunting, fishing or camping. If you are planning to fly to our northern neighbor and you have a DWI/DUI conviction, plan ahead to ensure you will be able to reach your destination and enjoy the opportunities Canada has to offer.