With Minnesota being a border state, it is common for some residents to travel back and forth across the border that we share with our northern neighbor. What many people do not think about is whether having a past criminal record can make it difficult to get into Canada. Most believe a passport is sufficient. However, the truth is that border officials have the authority to turn away anyone who has been convicted of any crime at any time in his or her life – and that includes DWIs. When traveling to Canada following a DWI conviction, there are some important facts to keep in mind.
When a person wants to get into Canada, a Border Services Agency Officer will probably inquire about whether the individual has ever appeared in court or been arrested or fingerprinted. Driving while intoxicated is a serious criminal offense in Canada, so having such a charge on record is more than sufficient for that officer to deny entry into the country. It makes no difference whether that conviction was a misdemeanor or felony. People can be turned away regardless of the circumstances surrounding the case. Travelers can even be denied if they are only passengers with no intentions of ever operating a motor vehicle.
What about those cases where a license was revoked because of a refusal to agree to a sobriety test? The outcome will not be much different. Refusal can be criminally charged in Minnesota and therefore may create difficulties for travelers. If the refusal charge was dismissed and the person instead pleaded guilty to reckless driving, it still may be sufficient grounds for border officers to deny entry. Likewise, anybody with pending charges or outstanding warrants can be refused simply because they are facing charges. So even without a DWI conviction specifically, many situations can stall travelers at the border.
With all the ways of being denied entry into Canada, there may be a temptation to lie about past charges. However, travelers are strongly recommended to stay honest. Some people think they can get away with lying just because they are traveling to another country. They do not realize that Canada and the United States both allow each other to access license databases and court records. They then use that information when investigating anybody who is trying to cross the border.
Lying is never a good idea. It is very likely that a border officer will find out the truth if a traveler says he has never been convicted when in fact he has. Aside from criminal records, agents can also access information regarding pending charges and outstanding warrants. Liars face arrest and even potential prison time. Those lucky enough to avoid charges will likely be unable to travel to Canada in the future, at the very least. Cliché or not, honesty is always the best policy.
Those with DWI convictions less than five years old can apply for a temporary resident permit, which grants one-time entry into Canada. It can be done at the border, but approval is never guaranteed. The better option is to contact the Canadian Consulate prior to leaving for the trip.
If the conviction is older than five years, a rehabilitation permit is available. Those who apply cannot have had any additional recent charges, and they have to offer proof of a stable lifestyle since completing their sentence. This may include proof of work and permanent residence as well as reference letters. Applications and fees are sent to the Canadian Immigration Board. Upon receiving the permit, the person can then travel across the border without further issue.
If you have plans to travel to Canada and you have past convictions that may lead to denial at the border, please reach out to one of our attorneys for further information and assistance.