When I have clients with questions about entry into Canada, here are the general points I counsel them on:
- Entry into Canada is discretionary, not a matter of right (unless you have citizenship or permanent resident status). So if the border crossing agent does not want to let you in, whatever the reason, that is where things start and stop for you.
- Conviction (or admission or proof by a preponderance of evidence) of an indictable offense (and a DUI in Canada is an indictable offense, whether prosecuted as one or not) makes one inadmissible to Canada. I do not know whether reckless driving is an indictable offense. The following website link may assist you in determing whether reckless driving is an indictable offense: http://geo.international.gc.ca/can-am/seattle/rightnav/temporary_instructions-en.asp.
· Many people get in and out of Canada without ever being questioned about criminal history or offenses (appearances and courtesy frequently matter).
· I have heard through the grapevine that it is generally easiest to go over to Canada as a passenger in a vehicle with a passport, and more difficult to go over as a driver or a passenger with a driver’s license, and most difficult going through the airport. But, this is purely anecdotal.
· The Canadian Embassies can provide some assistance (but Seattle’s is extremely backed up, and I understand Buffalo is the most helpful and has the shortest wait times for assistance, which can run into months and years).
· A U.S. Citizen should not assume entry into Canada.
**Thanks much to Attorney Jeff Sifers (Oklahoma City, OK) and Attorney Scott Wonder (WA) for contributing to this answer!**
In short, ANY criminal conviction can keep you out of Canada. The problem that many US citizens face is that enforcement isn't always consistent. So your friend who has Negligent Driving 1st Degree conviction might be allowed entry into Canada, but when you try to enter you get denied--even though you were convicted of the exact same crime. I have heard accounts of people who were cited with Negligent Driving 2nd Degree (only an infraction!!) being denied entry into Canada. But, enforcement is tightening up and I do not recommend that you attempt entry if you have a criminal conviction. You will likely be excluded and the attempted illegal entry could affect your ability to enter lawfully at a later date.
If you have a criminal conviction, you can apply for special permission to enter Canada through a Canadian consulate office here in the U.S. I have never had a client go through this process but I have heard there is a ton of paperwork involved and that the paperwork can take 6 months or longer!!
If you are convicted, you can ultimatley apply to be "deemed rehabilitated" through the Canadian consulate. A waiting period applies (generally 5 years from completion of sentence), and again, there is a lot of paperwork to submit.
Obviously the best approach is NOT to get convicted, but if you are convicted, contact an attorney for assistance that will be both current and specific to your situation.