Canada to ease bar on DUI arrestees from entering country

Canadians to ease rules allowing Americans Entry

For years, Canada has refused entry to anyone with a DUI on their record.  This is because Canada does not allow felons into their country, and in Canada, all DUIs are felonies (even though most in the United States are not).

I have even had a client, whose case had been dismissed, be refused entry.  Canada knew about his arrest, but did not know about the dismissal.

Canada also refused entry to anyone who received court supervision for a DUI in Illinois, even though Illinois law defines “supervision” as “a means of disposition and revocable release without probationary supervision, but under such conditions and reporting requirements as are imposed by the court, at the successful conclusion of which disposition the defendant is discharged and a judgment dismissing the charges is entered.”  730 ILCS 5/5-1-21.

Well, it looks like this policy is about to change, thanks to angry Canadian tourist businesses, who are sick of having their potential customers turned away at the border.

According to Doug Smith of the Star Tribune:

After years of turning back Americans with drunken-driving and other misdemeanor convictions, Canadian border officials are about to relax their entry restrictions.

The move, which begins March 1, should prevent many hunters, anglers and other tourists heading to Canada from being rejected at the border when officials discover a single DWI or other misdemeanor on their records. Thousands of Americans, including many Minnesotans, have been snared by the increase in border security in recent years.

But the changes won’t apply to those with multiple convictions or more serious offenses.

As issue for Americans is that drunken driving is a felony in Canada, while a single offense here often is a misdemeanor.

Canadian tourism industry officials say the tightened border restrictions have resulted in thousands of American customers being turned away at the border, resulting in the loss of millions of dollars in revenue.

“We’ve had hundreds of customers turned around,” said Gene Halley, who runs Halley’s Camps, a fishing lodge-outpost business in the Kenora, Ontario, area. …”The restrictions have cost millions of dollars just in northwestern Ontario over the years,” said Loewen. “People are being turned away who shouldn’t be. We’re not saying let criminals in, but someone who made a minor indiscretion years ago shouldn’t be prevented from coming here to fish.”

It was the Canadian tourism industry’s continued pressure on their government that led Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) to develop the new policy, which begins Thursday. Under it, people with one minor conviction can get a free Temporary Resident Permit (TRP) to enter Canada. Previously, obtaining that permit was a lengthy, costly process.

Americans with convictions still would have to go through a “rehabilitation” process to permanently clear their record, but the TRP would prevent their rejection at the border.

A key unanswered question is whether the permit will give an American essentially one “free pass” into Canada, or whether the pass would be good for a certain period of time.

The government has yet to release the details, but a spokesperson said in a written response to questions from the Star Tribune: “It aims to facilitate the entry of those who are currently inadmissible for certain offenses, such as where the individual has served no jail time and there is no evidence of repeat behavior.”

The policy apparently will apply to a DWI, if it is the only conviction on a person’s record.

Loewen and other Canadian tourism officials were recently briefed about the coming changes. Though they, too, are awaiting details, they are encouraged the changes will benefit them and their American customers.

“We’re hoping it’s a large step in the right direction,” said Halley…
For those with criminal records, the procedures to overcome inadmissibility to Canada are complex. See the Canadian government’s explanations at www.startribune.com/a1086.

Thanks to DuPage attorney Donald Ramsell for flagging this important story.

6 thoughts on “Canada to ease bar on DUI arrestees from entering country

  1. How do I obtain the trp? Do I get it at the border? I only have one DUI, that I’m under court supervision for in Illinois. I’m going crazy trying to figure out how to get this permit in order to see my friends and family. Most everything I read says it’s $200, only a few say the first time is free. Please help me out, I appreciate it so much!

    • If you are still under court supervision, you should make arrangements before your trip. You will need to contact the Canadian Embassy. You will need a certified disposition from the Court showing the disposition of your case. You should also obtain a letter from an attorney explaining that supervision is not a conviction under Illinois law.

  2. UK citizen one DUI ( drunk driving in UK) 18 months ago, going to Whistler for 1 week vacation 17 Jan, no time to get a visa, will i be able to get a TRP at the border?

    • You can apply for a TRP at the border, but it will be Canada’s decision whether to grant you entry. You should make sure that you bring certified records of disposition for your case. If you received a deferred sentence or something like that, you should also bring a letter from your attorney explaining the legal consequences of your sentence.

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