Q. I’ve been planning a fishing vacation to Canada for several months now with the intent to reach Canada by car. Although I have every necessary document — ID, passport, birth certificate, etc. — I also have a DUI conviction within the last five years. I’ve been searching everywhere to find out if I will be granted admission to Canada. The answer has been “maybe you will, maybe you won’t.” As I will be driving around 1,000 miles to reach the border, this is not an answer I can live with. I really need advice or assistance in this matter.
A. Unfortunately, and perhaps surprisingly, the answer you have received is fairly accurate — maybe you will, maybe you won’t.
Let me explain.
Firstly, assuming your conviction for DUI is equivalent to the Canadian version of the offence, you are considered inadmissible to Canada and therefore you may not be freely admitted here, even as a tourist.
Had five years passed since you had completed the sentence imposed on you, you would be able to overcome this inadmissibility by making a successful Application for Criminal Rehabilitation. This application would be approved if the immigration department, viewing all of your circumstances, determined that you had rehabilitated yourself and were no longer a threat to Canada by virtue of your criminal past.
However, since five years have not passed you are ineligible to make such an application.
The only way you could be admitted to Canada is by making a successful application for a temporary resident permit (TRP) — the proverbial “golden pass.” A TRP allows an officer inclined to facilitate your entry to overcome your inadmissibility. The minister of immigration permits border security officers to issue TRP’s in circumstances similar to yours.
The immigration department would always prefer that a foreigner apply for this document at a Canadian embassy or consulate before heading our way. Such applications are expected to include documentary proof of the conviction, the circumstances regarding the offence, your employment and residence history, evidence of establishment in your country, and letters of support. You should also include proof of what you plan on doing in Canada and how long you intend to stay here.
Essentially, the more minor the offence and the more compelling the reasons you have to come to Canada, the more likely you will be admitted to Canada on a TRP.
If time doesn’t allow you to process your application at a Canadian consulate in the United States, I would approach the Canadian border openly and candidly about the conviction and with as much of the documentation mentioned above as possible.
Then I’d keep my fingers crossed and hope that the border officer has a real appreciation for the sport of fishing.
Guidy Mamann practices law in Toronto at Mamann, Sandaluk and is certified by the Law Society of Upper Canada as an immigration specialist. Reach him confidentially at 416-862-0000 or at email@example.com.