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Effect of DUI (Driving under the Influence) convictions in the United States on Canada Immigration

Posted by attorney Herman Dhade

Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol (DUI), impaired driving and similar US convictions, have many consequences for an individual, including a possible criminal record in the United States. Those who are not US citizens, also have to be concerned about possible US immigration consequences of their DUI criminal conviction.

US citizens do not have to worry about being deported from the United States. However, it is often overlooked, that a DUI could result in refusal of entry into Canada by Canadian immigration officials even for US citizens.

A US citizen only has a right to remain in the United States. US citizens do not have a right to enter Canada. Instead, US citizens (along with all other immigrants or visitors to Canada), must demonstrate to Canadian immigration officials that they are in compliance with all Canadian immigration laws upon each and every attempt to enter Canada at the border, airport or other port of entry.

Canada is a separate sovereign country with its own Immigration laws and regulations which must be adhered to by all travelers, including US citizens or US permanent residents (ie Greencard holders). Failure to do so could result in Canadian immigration enforcement procedures and even immigration detention and removal back to the United States.

An individual’s US criminal record could be visible to Canadian immigration officers, which is where the Canada immigration problem begins.

If the record contains a DUI or other inadmissible crimes, the Canadian immigration officer will deny entry for that traveler and return them to the United States. (If that person is not a US citizen, they could then face serious immigration problems by US immigration officials as well upon their reentry into the United States.)

For Canada, the DUI is usually considered a crime which renders an individual “criminally inadmissible to Canada".

Immigration Case Illustration:


Border of Detroit, Michigan, USA / Windsor, Ontario CANADA

Port of Entry: Ambassador Bridge

John Smith (a hypothetical client) chooses the Detroit / Windsor Ambassador Bridge port of entry to do his crossings. He is a US citizen and visits Canada often to visit the Windsor tourist attractions. He has been crossing this border for years without any problems.

Last week, he attempts to enter Windsor at the Ambassador Bridge and is surprised when the Canada Immigration officer finds an old Michigan DUI from many years ago. He is immediately sent into the Canadian immigration office for secondary inspection. Inside, after lengthy questioning by a Canada Immigration officer, he is told he is criminally inadmissible to Canada due to this DUI. “But I never had a problem crossing into Canada before!" John exclaims. No matter, his DUI has been discovered by Canada immigration, he is now permanently barred from ever entering Canada due to his criminal inadmissibility.

To overcome Canada immigration inadmissibility, based on driving under the influence (or impaired driving) offenses in the United States, there are several legal strategies that could be deployed.

This could involve a Canada Application for Criminal Rehabilitation, an Application for a Temporary Resident Permit, contesting the inadmissibility finding, or even attacking the DUI in criminal court based on the immigration consequences or other factors.

Although denial of entry into Canada because of a DUI could be a stressful experience, there are solutions and applications available to overcome this to help ensure travel or immigration to Canada is a smooth and enjoyable experience.

About the author: Herman Dhade is a Canadian and US immigration lawyer licensed to practice law in both countries. He is the principal attorney of Dhade & Associates, PC a Canada, USA immigration law firm located in West Bloomfield (Detroit area), MI USA.

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