DUI Entry to Canada Law

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American Denied Entry to Canada

Every year, thousands of Amercians are denied entry into Canada from the U.S. for a multitude of reasons. In Canadian immigration legislation and regulations, these reasons for denial of entry are often grouped under the term "inadmissibility". Below you will find an outline of the different reasons why you might be considered inadmissible to Canada and refused entry at the border or at a port of entry.

Whatever your reason for being denied entry to Canada, we can help you. Contact us for a consultation today. Learn about our services!

Reasons why an American can be Denied Entrty to Canada

Criminal Record

If you've ever been convicted of a crime, it will most likely be detected by the border officer when you attempt to enter Canada. A common misconception is that if the crime is not serious (for example, a single misdemeanor) then you won't have any issues at the border. This is not the case. A single DUI or DWI conviction on your record, or even an arrest with no conviction, can make you inadmissible to Canada. Another misconception is that a minor charge in the U.S. has similar repercussions in Canada. The Canadian Criminal Code may interpret a minor charge in the U.S. more harshly and the sentencing may be more severe under the Canadian system.

American denied entry to Canada

Another source of confusion is automatic rehabilitation. After 10 years upon completion of your sentencing, you may be considered automatically rehabilitated under Canadian immigration law. However, there are many conditions attached to this automatic rehabilitation. For example, if you only had one misdemeanor charge over 10 years ago (like a DUIs) and have not offended since that time, then you are likely to qualify for automatic rehabilitation. However, if you have multiple misdemeanor charges, a felony conviction, or have recently received another offence, then you will not qualify and will have to actively pursue criminal rehabilitation before entering Canada.

In any event, the Canadian border officer will want to see proof that you should be considered admissible to Canada. This means that unless you had an acquittal or absolute discharge, you need to provide evidence that you are not a threat to Canada. Applying for a Temporary Resident Permit or Criminal Rehabilitation becomes necessary to overcome your inadmissibility. If you don't have the necessary documents, forms, and other information necessary to satisfy the officer that you are admissible to Canada, you will most likely be denied entry.

No Valid Travel Documents

The biggest mistake people make is showing up at the border or port of entry without any sort of valid identity documents. It is vital that you bring a passport or another document to prove your identity, such as an Enhanced Driver's License for example. Another common mistake people make is presenting a passport that will expire in a short period of time. If you are planning to visit Canada for a couple of months and your passport expires in 2 weeks, it is highly unlikely that the border officer will admit you to Canada.

Previous Immigration Violations

If you violated immigration laws or procedures in the past, even if it was a long time ago, you might be refused entry at the border. Canada's immigration laws are toughly enforced and the consequences for breaking them can result in long term bans from entering the county. Some of the more common violations of Canadian immigration law include: overstaying your previous visit to the country, working without a work permit, providing false information (misrepresentation), and intention to remain in Canada indefinitely.

Intention to Remain in Canada Indefinitely

One thing that Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officers regularly look for is individuals who seek to enter Canada in the hopes of remaining there indefinitely. One of the first questions any traveller to Canada will be asked is why they are visiting. It may seem like a casual question, almost like small talk, but the implications for providing a nonchalant or insincere answer can result in refusal of entry. If you wish to be properly prepared for this scenario, make sure to have a plausible reason for entering Canada and, if necessary, bring documentation that shows your ties to the U.S. (this could simply be an employment letter or an apartment lease, for example). The CBSA officer needs to be confident that your reasons for coming to Canada are legit and that you will comply with any time limits given for the duration of your stay.

Intention to Work without a Permit

Another thing that Canadian border officers regularly screen for is individuals who are entering Canada to work without a valid work permit. Certain things may arouse suspicion from officers: traveling with specialized equipment, having a vague reason for visiting Canada, or having a Canadian employer's contact information or email on your phone, etc. If a border officer suspects that you may be entering the country to work illegally, you will need to show evidence of your ties to the U.S. Things like proof of an active job or work contract back home will usually satisfy the officer that you have a means of income in the U.S. and are not intending to work under the table in Canada.

Insufficient Funds for a Visit to Canada

If you are visiting Canada, it is reasonable for the border officer to inquire about how much money you have available for your trip. Especially if you are planning to stay in Canada for an extended period of time, this question carries more weight. Again, if you don't have evidence of the necessary funds required, the officer might suspect that you will be earning money illegally while in the country. It's always a good idea to have access to your online bank account through your smart phone or to have other proof of funds ready to satisfy the officer's concerns.


Misrepresentation is sometimes referred to as immigration fraud. The consequences can be quite severe if you are caught misrepresenting yourself at a Canadian border or port of entry. Canada Border Services Agency officers have extensive experience recognizing false documentation and can often tell when a person might be lying. Those who attempt to provide false information are often caught.

Warrant for Arrest

People who try to cross the border with an active warrant out for their arrest are most likely to be detected and found inadmissible to Canada. However, the repercussions often extend beyond a simple refusal of entry. Common procedure is for the Canadian border officer to immediately contact the American Police force and notify them that the individual they are searching for is currently at the Canadian border. This often results in the immediate arrest and transfer of that individual to the jurisdiction where the warrant is active.

Gang Ties

Sometimes CBSA officers will operate under the suspicion that a traveller to Canada might have gang ties. If you are found to be a member of an illegal street gang or are involved with organized crime, this can be adequate grounds for being inadmissible to Canada. This inadmissibility operates regardless of the financial resources and valid reason for visiting Canada. For example, in 2011 famous hip hop artist "The Game" was denied entry to Canada and detained at the border for alleged gang ties. This happened despite having 2 Canadian concerts organized.

Admitting to Illegal Drug Use

Naturally, having an illegal drug possession or trafficking conviction on your record is grounds for inadmissibility into Canada. However, even if you have a clean record and a border officer suspects you might be an illegal drug user, they might ask you some questions about your history. If you admit to using illegal drugs in the past, you might be denied entry at the border.

Health and National Security

Canada has very strict laws on medical inadmissibility. Some of the reasons an individual might be considered medically inadmissible are:

If a border officer suspects you might have a medical condition that would make you inadmissible to Canada, you might be required to undergo or provide results from a medical examination.

Other Reasons

The above list is by no means exhaustive, but it does outline some of the more common scenarios. The fact is, if a border officer has sufficient reason to believe that you are a risk to Canada, hiding the truth, or not complying with proper procedures; then you could be found inadmissible and refused entry.

Denial of Entry to Canada 2024

Once someone has been denied entry into Canada from the U.S., they will receive written correspondence about the decision as well as guidelines on what to do or not to do next. In general, the worst thing someone could do in this situation is attempt to re-enter Canada again. He or she will most likely be caught and be banned from the country for up to 3 years. Another bad idea is trying to argue or convince the border officer that you should in fact be allowed entry and a mistake has been made. This can very quickly escalate into a scenario where you are seen as violating procedures. The Canada Border Services Agency officer has the final say on your entry into Canada.

If you wish to overcome your inadmissibility, the soundest advice is to apply using the appropriate procedures through the appropriate channels. Securing the assistance of a Canadian Immigration lawyer or consultant can help you focus on what is needed to successfully enter Canada. In many cases a U.S. citizen (American) can simply request a "withdrawal of admission" if they are refused entry at the border. Going to a different border location or port of entry and simply trying again is also something you should never attempt under any circumstances.

Just because you have successfully entered Canada before doesn't mean you won't have issues the next time you try to cross the border. Every trip over the border has the potential to be seen in a different light depending on the present circumstances and your attending border officer. Sometimes temporary visitors to Canada from the U.S. will attempt to exit and re-enter to avoid maximum visit durations. For example, if you are U.S. citizen that successfully entered Canada 5 months ago and wish to exit and re-enter to receive another 6 month visa, you have to consider that you are essentially "starting over" again. You may be screened for factors that the previous officer didn't consider: proof of funds, medical issues, proof of ties to the U.S., etc. Even if you are already in Canada and wish to re-enter in this way it is best to be prepared for any contingency and have the appropriate documentation ready. This not only applies to U.S. visitors to Canada, but to Canadian Permanent Residents as well. If a Canadian Permanent Resident has been convicted of a DUI or some other charge since their last entry into Canada, it could still result in inadmissibility.

Even something as simple as not having a return ticket to the U.S. can create an issue at a port of entry. Having a solid date of exit from Canada in writing will often be enough to satisfy a border officer that your intensions to comply with the time limits imposed on your Temporary Resident Visa are legitimate. Quite often travelers will have a return ticket even if their exit date hasn't yet been decided.

If you are denied entry into Canada for whatever reason, it is possible to obtain more detailed information by requesting a record of your file from the Global Case Management System (GCMS). The GCMS has all the information on the procedures followed by the border officer when processing your denial of entry. In general, unless you strongly feel that the proper procedures were not followed, the information found in the GCMS probably won't be of much help to you.

When you do get screened by a Canada Border Services Agency officer, your profile will be retrieved from the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) database. The CPIC database continues to improve and provide a more comprehensive source of background information of travelers to Canada. The updated version of CPIC gives officers access to Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) records, FBI criminal history at the national level, and even criminal history at the state or county level. It will also most definitely provide details of any active arrest warrants, no matter the state in which the warrant was issued. In all likelihood, a criminal inadmissibility to Canada will be detected. If a charge was dismissed or expunged from your record, it's a good idea to bring court documents with you that show this in writing. This will help to satisfy the officer that the charge received a positive outcome and that you are not a risk to Canada.


A new procedure for visitors from visa exempt countries who visit Canada is the requirement of an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA). This new eTA requirement does not extend to U.S. citizens at the moment. Once the eTA system is brought into effect in March 2016, people who travel to Canada by air must present their eTA to the officer if they are indeed from a visa exempt country. The list of visa exempt countries is updated regularly on the Citizenship and Immigration Canada website. To check if this status applies to you, follow this web link. If you apply for an eTA and it is denied due to, for example, a criminal inadmissibility, this essentially means that you are banned from visiting Canada. If you want to fly to Canada, are from a visa exempt country, and have been denied an eTA, we can help you apply for a Temporary Resident Permit or Criminal Rehabilitation. Contact us today.

Automatic Rehabilitation (Deemed Rehabilatation)

A common misconception is that if you wait long enough after a criminal conviction in the U.S., eventually you will be able to enter Canada. This is not the case. The only condition in which automatic rehabilitation applies is when you received a single misdemeanor and completed the conditions of your sentencing. That means that after paying fines, completing probation, doing a program, or finishing any other requirements of your sentence, you may then wait 10 years and enter Canada. Due to the automatic rehabilitation period starting at the end of the completion of your sentence, the more likely time frame after conviction is more than 10 years.

If you would like to enter Canada and are not sure if you meet the specific conditions of automatic rehabilitation, it would be best to seek legal help and submit a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP) or Criminal Rehabilitation application.

How to Avoid a Denial of Entry

The best principle to follow when avoiding a denial of entry into Canada is simple: be informed and be prepared. Inform yourself or seek help from a Canadian Immigration lawyer so that you know exactly what your U.S. charges equate to under Canadian law. Find out what the conditions are for submitting a Temporary Resident Permit or Criminal Rehabilitation application. Gather the necessary documentation to satisfy the questions and concerns of the officer screening you for entry.

If you are in the midst of completing aspects of your sentencing, find out what your options are from a legal professional. Even if you have completed your sentence, find out what you need to prove this to the officer at the border so that you can avoid complications or a denial of entry. Never assume that because you have a valid reason to come to Canada or that you have plenty of financial resources for your stay that it exempts you from inadmissibility.

So, I've been Denied Entry to Canada. What Now?

If you find yourself in this situation, it can be frustrating. You may have a very solid reason for wishing to visit Canada, whether it is to visit friends and relatives, or for business duties. As mentioned before, if you have been denied, the two most sensible options are to either apply for a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP) or a Criminal Rehabilitation application. By going through the proper channels and following the correct procedures, you will maximize your chances of successfully entering Canada. A TRP will give you special permission to enter Canada if granted and is a great solution for those who want to travel to Canada for a temporary period of time. A Criminal Rehabilitation application will essentially remove any restrictions on Canadian travel due to criminal inadmissibility, but it will take more time to process once submitted to a Canadian Consulate (from 3 to 12 months on average).

If the reason for your denial of entry to Canada was related to another reason outside of criminal inadmissibility, the best way forward is to prepare proof to satisfy the border officer's concerns. For example, if the officer believed you didn't have the financial resources to visit Canada, bring along bank statements and access to an online account. When being invited or supported by someone in Canada, bring along a letter from that person or other details as to why and how they are going to provide for your stay. If you were suspected of wanting to remain in Canada beyond the period authorized for your stay, bring documentation that proves you have strong ties to the U.S. This might be a rental lease, a letter of employment, or a mortgage.

Being denied entry to Canada at an international airport and being sent on a flight home is an especially frustrating experience. You should never book another flight until you are prepared to overcome your inadmissibility to Canada. Attempting to enter the country again under the same conditions will lead to harsher penalties against you and a lack of understanding from the officer screening you for entry. Find out what you need to do to solve the problem before repeating the same mistake.

If this has happened to you, contact our team to find out about your options and how to overcome your inadmissibility.