With summer officially underway, in late June most Americans are getting the bunting and fireworks ready for Independence Day on July 4. However, some among us like to head north to the wilds of Canada for outdoor adventures, sporting events, fries and gravy, and maybe even some of their infamous moonshine-like beer. So, with Canada Day right around the corner, it seems like as good a time as any to address one of the occasional inquiries we field from people who don't want to get turned away by the Mounties - especially in light of some changes in Canadian law this past year.
Since North Dakota is a border state, folks will contact us wanting to know about their ability to get into Canada with any sort of criminal history. More often than not, these questions tend to be about prior charges or convictions for Driving Under the Influence (DUI) or similar offenses.
Unfortunately, as I tell those who contact us with these questions, I am not an immigration attorney, nor am I licensed to practice in Canada. The most I can do is pass along the limited information I have been provided by those who are, and it would be in one's best interest to contact a Canadian immigration specialist with questions about being admitted to Canada. With that said, there is some important general information people should be aware of if they want to head to Flin Flon in search of giant pike.
For a number of years, the general rule was that after a certain period of time had passed, a person would be "deemed rehabilitated" and permitted entry to Canada. However, in December 2018 Canadian law significantly changed with respect to DUI, making it that much more difficult to be permitted entry with a prior DUI or similar offense. In her recent piece in Counterpoint, Canadian immigration attorney Marisa Feil with FWCanada outlines the changes made by the Parliament of Canada which make DUI and similar offenses "serious criminality," which negates the old rehabilitation period standards for DUI and similar offenses occuring after December 18, 2018.
According to Feil, even those who are able to plead to lesser charges such as reckless driving and avoid DUI, will likely be deemed inadmissible due to the fact it is not considered a reduction under Canadian law (DUI and Dangerous Operation, the Canadian equivalent of Reckless Driving, are a "hybrid offence") and, now, is one that also contsitutes "serious criminality" due to the 2018 changes to the Canadian Criminal Code (Section 320.13 et seq.). As such, if a person has a DUI or Reckless Driving after December 18, 2018, they are likely going to need to either obtain a Temporary Resident Permit, or Criminal Rehabilitation through the Canadian Consulate in either Los Angeles or New York in order to be admitted to Canada.
You can find out more about entry to Canada with a criminal history on FWCanada's website. Canadian immigration attorney Ilir Orana also has an extensive amount of information at Canada DUI Entry. And we've referred a number of clients to Mira Thow with Zaifman Immigration Lawyers in Winnipeg. Regardless of who you contact, if you are worried about your summer trip "up north" being cut short at the border, you should contact a Canadian immigration lawyer well ahead of time to ensure your vacation is the stress-free break you intended.