Some countries exclude non-citizens from entry based on criminal convictions reflecting a lack of good character. Entry into Canada is particularly problematic for folks with a drunk driving conviction on their record, and all the more so because the United States shares criminal and motor vehicle databases with Canadian authorities.
Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, Chap. 27 (2001), § 36, states that a “foreign national” is “inadmissible” if that person “committed” or was “convicted of” a single offense that would constitute an “indictable” offense under an Act of Parliament. It does not matter if the offense occurred in another country. Driving under the influence, driving with a .08 percent or higher alcohol content, refusing a chemical test, leaving the scene of an accident, and driving on a suspended license, are each independently deemed to be indictable offenses under the Criminal Code of Canada. A conviction for anyone of these offenses makes one inadmissible to Canada. Moreover, a “conviction” includes deferred dispositions where a “guilty” or “no contest” plea has been entered.
In California, an individual convicted of “reckless driving” pursuant to California Vehicle Code (CVC) § 23103 may be excluded because a conviction involving “dangerous driving” is an excludable offense. If the reckless driving conviction was alcohol related (i.e., the subject is sentenced pursuant to CVC § 23103.5) exclusion may be based on dangerous driving or simply because the elements for a DUI conviction in Canada are present. These cases should be referred to a specialist in Canadian Immigration law.
In addition to convictions causing a problem with Canadian travel, admission may be denied to one who has “committed” an act that amounts to an indictable offense. Hence, an administrative suspension by the Department of Motor Vehicles for a DUI-related incident (excessive BAC or chemical test refusal) is grounds for exclusion.
Inadmissible persons found in Canada may face deportation and possible prosecution.
Generally, the aforementioned first offense individuals are “deemed” rehabilitated after ten years from the end of the last court-ordered sanction (e.g., when the term of court probation ends). However, multiple offenders cannot be deemed rehabilitated!
Folks eligible for rehabilitation after 10 years may apply for it after five years. Forms to apply for rehabilitation are available online at the Immigration Canada website, but fees and supporting documentation are required. The process can take up to a year.
Those persons seeking entry sooner than these deadlines may apply for a Temporary Resident Permit which is good for up to six months. These can be issued at the border but are usually denied. It is best to apply through the Canadian Consulate before travelling, and at least six months ahead of time. Those who are travelling for business, particularly where it has some benefit to Canada and her people, have a better chance of obtaining approval.
CAUTION: One should not rely upon this information before making a determination about Canadian travel. You should consult with Canadian Immigration Counsel.