Can I Visit Canada with an Operating Under the Influence Charge?

For many years, a Maine Operating Under the Influence conviction meant that you were not getting into Canada. That’s because in Canada, Operating Under the Influence, sometimes called OUI or DUI, is an “indictable offense.” Under Canadian immigration policy, people who commit such an offense are deemed “inadmissible.” This is still true today, but the Canadian Government has loosened some of the restrictions so that there is now a relatively easy way for some people convicted of Operating Under the Influence to enter that country.

An OUI Might not Keep you out of Canada

Citizenship and Immigration Canada issued Operational Bulletin 389 which became effective March 1, 2012. The bulletin announces a new rule which will allow some people who committed Operating Under the Influence to enter Canada. Still, it’s not quite as easy as just driving across the boarder. The person must:

  • Apply for a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP) and be granted a visa. The usual $200 application fee can be waived for people seeking the TRP because of an OUI conviction.
  • Have received no jail time as part of the disposition of the case. In Maine, many Operating Under the Influence Charges have mandatory jail time and people convicted of the those crimes are not likely eligible for this program.
  • Have no other convictions and have committed no other acts that would make them inadmissible.

Criminal Rehabilitation: The Other way to Enter Canada

If you are not eligible for the TRP process, it is possible to enter canada if you overcome criminal inadmissibility by being granted “criminal rehabilitation.” This is a process where the government has discretion to allow someone to become admissible. The immigration Canada site gives some good guidance on the process and criteria. Here is the basic run down:

  • For offenses which Canadian Courts could have punished by 10 years in Prison or less. One is deemed rehabilitated 10 years after the sentence is finished but can apply for rehabilitation after 5 years.
  • For offenses which Canadian Courts could have punished by 10 years of more. One is never automatically deemed rehabilitated but can apply 5 years after the sentence is finished.
  • For offenses which Canadian Courts would have treated as “summary convictions” (that’s like a misdemeanor punishable by only 6 months in jail) one is deemed rehabilitated after 5 years and there is no sooner time to apply for rehabilitation.

You are Playing by Canada’s Rules

For either the TRP or Rehabilitation Process, there are two final things to keep in mind:

  1. The determination of admissibility is based on how serious the crime might have been if it had been committed in Canada and processed through that system. It wasn’t, so this makes it a pretty speculative process.
  2. Canada is concerned about convictions or commission of crimes and you can become inadmissible for either. So if  there is evidence that an offense was committed, you may still be inadmissible and need to apply for the TRP or Rehabilitation even though charges were dropped.

Still, there is a process available and for many, these options will allow them entry into Canada. While they can’t just cross the boarder at will, there is now a way for most people with Operating Under the Influence convictions to cheaply apply for entry. Take advantage of these processes and you might be enjoying the two dollar coins, frigid temperatures, and lack of sarcasm in no time.

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