Canadian Law Group

Upcoming Trip or Layover in Canada? A DUI May Make You Inadmissible.

By Véronique Malka

With spring and summer approaching, this means busy tourist season for Canada, especially with the snow now all gone.  Approximately 18 million tourists are expected to be welcomed to the country.  At this time of year, our Firm often sees a spike in calls from people who are booked for trips, such as cruises with a stop at a Canadian port of entry, concerned about the impact of a prior conviction on their ability to enter Canada. Driving while intoxicated offenses (“DUIs”) in the USA are a common scenario.  While DUI convictions are sometimes only traffic offenses in the USA, they are regarded much more severely in Canada and always viewed as a “felony” conviction (also known as an indictable offence in Canada).

Many other convictions, in fact, which are categorized as a misdemeanor in the United States, hold a greater gravity in Canada, which does not differentiate misdemeanors and felonies. Therefore even a disorderly conduct offence can give grounds for inadmissibility to Canada.

So how does a person get that connection flight or cruise to Canada if they have a DUI on their record from many years ago?  Visitors can still proceed with a vacation by taking the right steps towards admissibility: If they plan ahead, they can apply for either a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP), or a Criminal Rehabilitation.  Each of these carries different requirements legally.

A TRP will allow the individual to temporarily enter Canada if Canadian immigration officers agree that the reason to enter Canada outweighs the public safety risks the individual poses on the Canadian society, and that the crime must be minor, as determined by the officers. TRPs have an expiry date; therefore visitors must apply for them again if they wish to visit the country past the expiry date of the permit.

Criminal rehabilitation (or a “Rehab”), is a more permanent solution to inadmissibility. It involves demonstrating to the Canadian government that the applicant has been “rehabilitated” from their prior conduct and no longer poses a risk to Canada.  Usually, the passage of more time is critical to applying for a Rehab.  In order to be eligible to apply, the date of completion of the sentence, in most cases, must be at least 5 years old.  However, in some situations, if an individual has a conviction that occurred 10 years ago, and that this is the only conviction on their record, they will be considered “Deemed Rehabilitated” by the Canadian government, and therefore will not need to apply for rehabilitation. We usually still recommend a letter explanation for presentation at the border in Deemed rehab cases.

The process of being granted rehabilitation, or a TRP, is needed even in cases where the traveler is not planning on visiting Canada, but who has a flight with a layover in the country. Indeed, most visitors will be asked to go through customs when arriving by plane, no matter their final destination. However, in cases of flights coming from countries other than the United States and Canada, in destination of the United States, visitors may not need to go through customs.

Take a look at the chart below to see if you need to go through Canadian customs if you have a connecting flight at one of these sample airports.

IF YOU ARE ON A CONNECTING FLIGHT, DO YOU NEED TO GO THROUGH

CANADIAN CUSTOMS AT THESE AIRPORTS?

Airport

Location

International-US flights

US-International flights

International-International flights

Toronto Pearson International Airport

Mississauga, Ontario

YES*

YES

YES

Vancouver International Airport

Richmond, British Columbia

NO

YES

YES

Montréal–Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport

Dorval, Quebec

DEPENDS ON THE AIRLINE**

YES

YES

Calgary International Airport

Calgary, Alberta

YES

YES

YES

Edmonton International Airport

Leduc, Alberta

YES

YES

YES

Ottawa Macdonald–Cartier International Airport

Ottawa, Ontario

YES

YES

YES

Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport

Winnipeg, Manitoba

YES

YES

YES

Halifax Stanfield International Airport

Enfield, Nova Scotia

YES

YES

YES

Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport

Toronto, Ontario

DEPENDS ON AIRLINE***

YES

YES

 

* There are exceptions, such as the NEXUS & CANPASS programs.

** If the airline offers the option of automatically transferring your luggage from one flight to another, visitors can proceed via the connecting flights corridor, which avoids Canadian customs.

*** If visitors are planning on connecting a Porter flight to a Jet Blue flight (or vice versa), they can follow the domestic connections corridor and avoid Canadian customs.