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If I Have A DWI, Am I Eligible to Enter Canada?

In Minnesota, any DWI conviction comes with serious and surprisingly far-reaching consequences. However, one of the most surprising effects a DWI conviction can have is its ability to allow you to visit our friendly neighbor to the north.

While hopping right over the border to Canada can be a fun vacation for many Minnesotans, if you have a DWI on your record, a simple border crossing is about to become much more complicated.

Criminal Offenses and Travel to Canada

Whenever you enter Canada, even if your flight was just temporarily stopping there, Canadian Immigration will determine your eligibility to enter the country. While this is a simple interview for many, they will run a criminal background check on you. While not every crime makes you ineligible to enter Canada, many do. Crimes that affect your eligibility include:

  • DWI
  • Reckless Driving
  • Assault (As well as most violent crimes)
  • Obstruction
  • Theft
  • Drug Charges

If you have a conviction for any of these crimes, you will be deemed ineligible for entry into Canada, even for just a temporary period. If you arrived in Canada on a flight, you will be detained until transportation out of the country can be arranged. If you were attempting to cross at the border by land, you will be turned away.

It is important to remember that only convictions will bar you from entry into Canada. If you managed to plea your charge down to a crime that did not affect eligibility or had the case against you dismissed altogether, the arrest for the crime itself will not affect your record. This makes hiring a good criminal defense lawyer all the more important, especially for those that live close to the border and might even need to make a crossing on a daily basis.

Eligibility to cross into Canada after the expungement of your record is a little vaguer. Canada will be able to see your conviction and that it has been expunged officially, but eligibility is still not completely guaranteed in this circumstance. Often it will be up to their decision, though the factors such as what kind of crime it was and how long ago it happened will often affect the decision. While the fact that they could still bar you after expungement is a little disappointing, usually, they will uphold the expungement.

What to Do When You Already Have a DWI?

Hiring a good lawyer and not getting a DWI conviction is good advice for those presently facing charges, but typically you don’t find out that a conviction for driving while intoxicated bars you from entrance into Canada until much later – like when you are actually trying to enter Canada. If you already have a DWI or another criminal conviction that affects your eligibility to enter Canada, you are not without options completely. Unfortunately, these options will take a little pre-planning to complete. So if you are sitting at the border with your family, your vacation is going to be postponed until you can make the proper case.

If you have a crime on your record, the only way to legally enter Canada permanently and freely is to apply for criminal rehabilitation. The application process, however, can take over a year to complete. Furthermore, five years will need to have passed since the completion of your sentence before your application will even be considered. During this time, you must also not have any more disqualifying convictions.

The frustrating part of this probationary period is when the period actually starts, though. If you served your time, but still have probation or loss of license from a DWI, you probationary five years does not start until your criminal probation ends or your license revocation is over. You must also have your court fines paid up before the period will start officially. Essentially, you must be completely free of the criminal justice system both physically and financially so that the waiting can begin.

If your DWI happened more than 10 years ago and you have not had another criminal offense in that time, you do not need to file for rehabilitation as Canada will consider you automatically rehabilitated. However, this is only true if your DWI or other criminal offense was not a felony. If your crime was of a felony level, unfortunately no matter whether it happened five years ago or twenty years ago, you will still need to file for criminal rehabilitation.

While criminal rehabilitation is the permanent solution, if you need to enter Canada sooner than a five-year waiting period will allow, you can also apply for Temporary Resident Permit. Unlike criminal rehabilitation, this permit is not subject to the same waiting period. In certain circumstances, you could even be still serving a portion of your sentence and still receive one, but is is only a temporary solution. In order to receive a Temporary Resident Permit, an ineligible person must have a very good reason that they need to enter Canada. Visiting the country for a funeral can be a compelling one. However, this permit is cancelled upon leaving Canada’s borders, so while it has a lifespan of three years and can be extended, it is not a license to come and go from Canada as desired until you can apply for criminal rehabilitation.

Depending on your crime, you may also be declined for a Temporary Resident Permit. Typically DWI, even at a felony level, will not be declined if the reason is good, but the Visa officer will always weigh the risks of the person against their need to enter the country. If you are too much of a risk, such as a violent criminal, they may decide it is too much of a risk to allow you into the country.

Need Help? Contact Attorney Judith Samson Today!

Unfortunately for those that already have a DWI conviction, this is a consequence that they will have to endure until they can apply for rehabilitation. However, if you are currently facing DWI charges or other criminal charges that will affect your eligibility to enter Canada, contact us today. The best possible thing you can do is to be proactive in your defense and allow the Judith Samson to give you the best criminal defense representation.

Disclaimer: The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. We invite you to contact us and welcome your calls, letters and electronic mail. Contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information to us until such time as an attorney-client relationship has been established.

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County: Scott

Type of Charge: 3rd DWI

Priors: 1 prior

Final Deposition: Plead to a 4th degree DWI

Sentence Imposed: No jail


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Type of Charge: Harassment Order

Priors: None

Final Deposition: Dismissed

Sentence Imposed:


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Type of Charge: Solicitation of Prostitute

Priors: 1 prior

Final Deposition: Stay of imposition vacate and dismiss

Sentence Imposed: No jail

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