Can you enter Canada from the US if you have a DUI?
  • I was recently accepted to do my PhD work in Canada. Problem is I got a first (and last) OWI about 1 year ago. Contacted the consulate to hear that the TRP process would take approximately one year. Need all sorts of documents and $200 application fee on a dice roll. I'm tempted to just chance it at the border, apply for a study permit and hope nobody asks. If someone does, I'll have to be honest and apply for the TRP at the border. But, I've heard TRP's are hard to get and they require exceptional circumstances. I hope studying for a doctorate in Canada might be considered exceptional. I don't know they just make you ineligible for a driver's license, and if they ever catch you driving, just deport and ban you from Canada. Both the DUI and marijuana things are dumb on both the US and Canada's part. I can understand trafficking or felony-related drug convictions, or multiple DUI's or with injuries. Other dumb, minor mistakes should be admissible. I'm considering writing both the US and Canadian governments about this issue. I thought the US and Canada had a good, open relationship with trust and responsibility. I guess that's not totally the case.
  • I was very lucky to find someone very interesting on line in Mid-November. That was the good news. The first bad news was delivered by Mapquest: she was 621.48 miles away....But, we e-mailed and talked...then talked and talked some more. After a month and a half, curiosity got the better of both of us. We began seeing each other on New Year's weekend. It went well. The drive was long enough. Adding to the duration was the length I was waiting to get across the border. Thinking I might save some time, I was about to make a huge mistake. I applied for a Nexus pass on line. I was asked on the application if I had ever committed any serious crimes. Thinking nothing of it (I have not had a drink in 19 years), I disclosed three DUI's all of which occurred in the 1980's. The last occured in 1987, almost 25 years ago.

    Five weeks ago, I received a call from a border agent. I was expecting a few routine follow-up questions quickly leading to her advising me that my application for the Nexus pass was to be approved. I was shocked when she told me that the purpose of her call was to inform me that I was not eligible to be in Canada. Anyone who has been in a new (and great) relationship can imagine how I felt. The officer was kind enough to tell me about an expedited process and give me the number of another border agent. When I told her that my girlfriend had no passport she advised me of another possible way I might enter Canada but, with the caveat that it would be at the border officer's discretion to allow me to enter.

    I called the other border officer then went on line as soon as I could to begin putting together the paperwork necessary for reinstatement. I studied the language of the requirements for "rehabilitaton" then went to each county courthouse to obtain the necessary records. I searched law libraries to get copies of the statutes which contained the sections of the criminal code under which I was charged. I set up appointments as soon as possible to obtain my state criminal background checks as soon as possible. I made an appointment with the county sheriff's office which is necessary to take fingerprints for the FBI criminal background check. Whenever possible, I obtained certified copies of court records. I sent my FBI background check certified mail, return receipt requested. I had two passport photos taken. I obtained three letters of recommendation (actually, only two are necessary).

    After I had obtained everything necessary but for the FBI background check (which can take up to 8 weeks), I put together the packet, double and triple checked it against the checklist provided by the Canadian government (both on line and in the packet they send you) then drafted a cover letter covering every single item in the checklist (just to make sure I had not forgotten everything).


    I then sent my application by Fed Ex (you will require a Fed Ex store that does international deliveries if you want overnight delivery).

    I kept the multiple copies of my packet.

    I then called the officer in charge of my case. I told her that my packet was assembled and on its way. We then discussed what the first officer had told me (that I might be allowed in Canada if I showed up with a copy of my entry packet). I was very disheartened when she advised me that I would likely be turned away.

    I was feeling very discouraged, THEN I FOUND THIS BLOG. I read the posting of someone with almost an identical situation (except that he had a job interview rather than a girlfriend in Canada). He was was allowed entry. I talked to friend with (U.S.) Homeland Security. He thought my chances for admission were, maybe, a little greater than 50/50 despite what the border agent processing my paperwork had advised.

    I decided to suck it up and give it a shot. I drove the 500 miles to the border, handed the agent my passport along with a complete copy of my application and the supporting documents. My heart sank, when he said, "We don't process those here" but, I VERY POLITELY (re)-explained what the first border agent had told me. He wrote up a ticket and sent me to the building that held the immigration agents.

    A very nice female immigration officer took my papers. She told me to have a seat. Shen then informed me that contrary to what the poster on this blog had stated, they do NOT have the capacity to process the applications for reinstatement on the spot at the ports of entry. My heart sank further. I waited anxiously until she informed me that THEY DO HAVE THE CAPACITY TO PROVIDE YOU A TEMPORARY RESIDENCE PERMIT FOR $200.

    After reviewing my file and looking at my period of sobriety, letters of recommendation and length since the offenses were last committed, she declared me "low risk". She then asked when I thought I might return. When I told her "a couple of weeks", she gave me temporary residence status for up to 3 months, the maximum length allowable.

    Today, a week later, I called the officer processing my paperwork. She commended me for being thorough in assembling the packet and told me that she had seen where I had received my temporary residence permit and was still surprised.

    If you have a similar situation, I think the following would be worth consideration: 1) Put together as much of your application as you can and put it in the order the item appears on the checklist. 2) BE POLITE EVEN IF THEY ARE NOT. You are at their COMPLETE MERCY. 3) Dress neatly and conservatively. I was in a dress shirt, dress pants, dress shoes and a suit jacket. 4) Talk in a soft tone. Say "Yes, sir" and "No, sir" when responding to their questions.

    Remember it is your job to convince them that you are not a risk. The easier you can make that decision the better off you will be.
  • A bunch of American hating perverts at the border in Montana.
  • Jeff Iowa Atty: Thanks for your story, I always recommend following protocol and being as thorough as possible. Glad it's worked for you!
  • I use to go to Canada all the time when I was under 21 because Montreal is awesome and drinking age is 18. From 2005-2009 about 4 times a year. Me and a bunch of friends use to drive up and go through the main border in New York state closest to Montreal we all had juvenile records for non sense such as underage drinking, assault, breaking and entering, trespassing and DUI. It never was an issue until around 2009 when we heard a rumor they would not be letting Americans in with a DUI. We decided to go for a trip spring of 2009 and out of 6 of us 3 had a DUI so the 3 decided to stay back for fear of being turned away at the boarder. So 3 of us without a DUI went on a road trip to Canada. When we got to the boarder after a 6 hour drive they took our passports and asked if we have ever been arrested we drove from 4am and arrived at the border just after 10am. One of us were arrested we they were 18 but all charges "were dropped" (possession of marijuana(1 gram) and a fake ID) in NYC. So since all our records should have technically been clean we decided before hand to say "no we have never been arrested" if asked. When we said no they scanned our passports and right away they said "we know you have and you should not have lied your in big trouble drive to that building and pull the car over. We did as they said a Canadian border officer escorted us inside the building(precincts/offices)". They yelled at us for a bit saying we could get in enormous trouble for lying and be put in there holding cell. We begged and pleaded explaining we thought the charges were dropped and we drove 6 hours. Finally they let us go and said they are putting a note in there system if we get in any trouble charges will be much worse because we've been warned(which I believe was just to scare us). What may have helped is we were in a new $40,000 Infiniti and were 3 well spoken 20 year old white kids in college. If we didn't talk our way out of it my friend would have spent at least the night in a holding cell or best case scenario we would have had to turn around and drive 6 hours back home. Im unsure how they could pull up all records that even other states or even towns can't pull up but I'm proof that they can and if you live more then an hour away and have a DUI it isn't worth it to try and drive through the border. How ever I have heard flying isnt a problem DK if thats true BC it doesnt make sense. If anyone has had an experience flying please share. Thank you
  • It is very likely the border person will ask for your ID. WHen they do they will run your record. If you have DUI they will send you into the office. At that point they are already typing up your refusal to enter papers. From that point on you are flagged. If you try to go back without applying and being approved for rehabilitation they will not let you in. If you make it in and they catch you in the country you can get put in prison for up to a year and then deported. These guys do not mess around. Too bad our US border wasnt this secure between US and Mexico. It's a pain in the ass.
  • I Was Arrested As A Accesory To The Fact For A Stupid Thing Back In 1980 Had A Conditional Sentence Of 1 Year. My Lawyer Told Me That I Coud Cross The Border No Way. Got Rejected. Got A Pardon But The USA Doesn't Reconize That. Now Have To Pay $1350 For A Border Waiver Fuck That I Got Antlers Fur Coat And 4 Hoofs Going For It Have To See My GF From NJ
  • For a concise explanation of the Canadian immigration laws for foreign nationals with criminal histories, visit
  • Well, if this is the case. You consult someone better to know about this stuffs. Or must try going there and if you have no problem, you can go on but on the other hand you go home.
  • A best bet would probably be to apply for a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP) in advance. Even if it isn't processed in time for your trip, at least you can print out your prepared documents to show the Canadian immigration or border officials that you've done all you can to address the issue. There's never a guarantee that you'll be allowed in, but this will likely increase your chances of entering Canada with a DUI.
    More info on TRPs and criminal rehabilitation can be found at
  • Ok.....enough of all the flag waiving......
    When I was a young lad of 18 I was busted for two.... TWO joints , personal possesion I believe they called it back then. In The last 32 years I have traveled back and forth from Canada to the US many many times, flown and refuelled in the US tio mexico atleast 7 times, and have traveled to the US for training on numerous occasions. Then...out of the blue last christmas, going to Pheonix as we have twice a year for the last 8 years they decide I'm a criminal, with no-good intentions and refuse me entry....LMAO. here in gods green earth is the sense in this? They stated that well, maybe the gaurds never caught it before. BULLSHIT.....has always been available, I had my passport/I.D every time I traveled, and way do we want your kind here. So.......jumped through the hoops of a waiver, which the US used to grant "lifetime" and have since gone to the 1-5yr granting. Guess what.....1 year and you have to start the process atleast 6 months prior to it running out for the tidy sum of 565.00 to the US government. Add extra costs beyond that, Never again will the US hold me hostage for more of my money, I dont give a rats ass if I ever visit again.....just a money grab if you ask me, ......why dont they try and fix there economy properly so that people who WANT to come, spend money and help the economy truly can instead of riding the backs of people that made foolish mistakes so far in the past but STILL pay the price.....over and over and over again.I think its all a load of crap.........wonder if the new legalized pot laws in some of your states will have a bearing on this kind of stupidity......
  • Has anyone with a past DUI record recently been to Canada? I heard that they easened the rules for those with only one misdemeanor in their criminal background and I will be visiting Canada in August. I do have only one DUI and that is it, but it is relatively a new one and I know it is my bad that it exists; in fact, it was the most stupid thing I have ever done and I admit I should have never done it. So I do respect their laws and I have been to Canada various times before (before I got to have a DUI in my records) and like being there. The problem is I know I am not eligible for a rehabilitation application since the DUI arrest is not old enough. Is there a chance for me to cross the border without them looking at my records or noticing my DUI arrest? I would be more than happy to hear from anyone who has just got into Canada with a prior DUI arrest or has seen someone with such situation let in by the CBSA agents. And would you suggest taking a bus increase my chances to get into the country? Or maybe flying? Train? Thanks a lot and looking forward to hearing from those who have been there.
  • MISTAKE #1!!! While crossing into Canada by car recently as I've done an estimated 700 plus times before this was the first time I have ever been asked to pull over for secondary inspection. Once inside I was asked to fill out a "permission to enter Canada" form. At the bottom of the form was a space for "have you ever been arrested?". I obviously remembered getting a dui over thirty years ago but it was dismissed completely and was told by the judge that the record was sealed. Knowing a prior DUI can deny you entry I answered no. They then escorted me into an interrogation room and asked me to sit down as they had some questions for me. The fellow asked me why I lied on the form about being arrested not once but twice! I explained the first arrest stating the judge had told me it was sealed and would not show on my records. WRONG!!!

    MISTAKE #2!!! I asked what the second arrest was about and he said it's for a failure to make a court appearance. Over twenty years ago I failed to appear in court for a speeding ticket and a warrant was issued. I took care of it and the charges were dismissed. I honestly had forgotten about the bench warrant ordeal.

    The agent proceeded to tell me that since I made a false statement I could be arrested immediately and face jail time and up to $2,000.00 dollars in fines. He said he was going to be nice and let me return to the states because it's too much of a waste of Canadian taxpayers money to arrest me (how thoughtful). I had to sign a permission to leave Canada form and was sent back to the US. Before I left the agent told me if I tried to re-enter Canada without a statement declaring the charge was dismissed I would be arrested immediately.

    I now have my attorney obtaining a letter from a judge stating that the case was dismissed and no charges are pending. Once I obtain the document I'll try and re-enter Canada and see what happens. Long story short- be honest, polite and remember every encounter you have ever had with the police! In my own defense I was never convicted of any offence and felt since I was never convicted I could answer that I was never arrested. WRONG!!! Think handcuffs when you are filling out the form or being asked. If you've ever sat in the back of a police car with handcuffs, you have been arrested whether you are convicted or not.

    The entire incident was very embarassing and the week long trip was over in ten minutes. It's a shame they don't show some leinency for incindents that are twenty or thirty plus years old. For a country that does a lot of tourism business they've lost mine for now.

    As to the comments people have been making bashing border crossing agents.. Remember this, not many people like cops, lawyers and proctologists but hey....somebody's got to do it!
  • I have a similar situation. DWAI from 2003 and have a trip planned to Vancouver to visit my boyfriend and meet the parents... I will obviously be horrified if I am denied entry. I have done tons of research and the best option for me seems to be filing for a TRP on the spot. When I spoke with an attorney in Montreal she said I had pretty good chances since it is my one and only mark on my record. I plan on getting as much paperwork together as possible, along with letters of recommendation and showing reason for needing to be in Vancouver... I'm also looking at UBC. I am more than terrified that I will get turned away and would appreciate any imput or tips anyone has. I have neer been in any other trouble and consider myself a honest and responsible citizen... Except for the obvious time in 2003!

    Once again, I appreciate any advice out there! If nothing else, it will calm my nerves!
  • While your entry into Canada is ultimately at the sole discretion of the border agent, it is always best to be honest. Since 9/11 and especially since 2009 when it became mandatory to present a Passport to enter Canada, the US and Canada have been sharing more information than ever. In other words, border agents are a lot more likely to know the details of your criminal history. If you do have a criminal history, try informing yourself in advance of what steps can be taken (filling out a TRP application, criminal rehabilitation, letter of opinion) to best ensure your entry into Canada.
  • Here's a question for you. A friend of mine has a felony record. He's a dual national between the US and Ireland and resides in the US. Could he enter Canada with his Irish passport and not have it trigger any red flags? He has no record in Europe at all.
  • Hi Dryan,
    I have a similar situation, am heading to Canada at the end of the month. My DWI was around the same time as yours, almost 10 years ago. How did it go? Did you get through the border??? Any advice is welcomed.
  • I Have driven the Alcan 10+ times. When I started I was driving a VW van. Lol I would bring a book because it would be over 2 hours min for them to search my van. Each time they would trash it too no respect at all. I've never been arrested no record nothing. Over the years I've gotten a nice new car and a little older. Now it's a different story they couldn't be nicer. I always laugh because if I was smuggling drugs don't you think I'd be driving a nicer car?
  • Dryan,

    Here the ticket - date an American guy, there's 150 million of us, so you should be able to find at least one.
  • Well think I have a one to top all.
    I am an airline pilot.
    35 years ago i got popped for simple possession of marijuana while 23 years old in the usa.
    Nothing here, was in the military at the time and they even ignored it, said one chance no more.
    Held high security clearances never smoked it again.
    Tonight i entered Canada as crew,flying civilian cargo.
    Customs agent questioned me on this from 35 years ago.
    Said I needed to produce papers next time saying this is off my record, which no one here in usa cares about useless things such as this 35 years ago.
    Did not plan on staying in Canada, just drop cargo and leave.
     Immigration Woman made me feel like a criminal, don't ever want to return there.
    There is something seriously wrong with this picture!
    Everything I have read says that over 10 years for simple things such as this should be not even looked at.
    35 years is a long time and I even bet they smoked some dope back then.

  • Sorry to hear about your troubles standback, but your situation is not unique. CBSA on the Canadian side and CBP on the US side can both be vindictive organizations and there are LOTS of stories similar to yours going in BOTH directions.

    At least your situation is easily rectified, simply apply for criminal rehabilitation and it will be rubber stamped and you'll never have to worry about problems at the border again.

  • hi...Can you enter Canada from the US if you have a DUI? Well, this is just all extraordinarily confusing. I'm a guest on this site, and I appreciate all the comments and information here. I'm also a former attorney, and I've spent a couple of days doing research on the dui/minor conviction barring entry to Canada issue. For those folks with recent convictions

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