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Drink, Drive, Get Barred From Traveling to Canada

Drink, Drive, Get Barred From Traveling to Canada
Jackie Reddy

From misdemeanors like DUI convictions to more serious felonious offenses, all crimes matter for those looking to visit or settle in Canada. However, cases are considered on an individual basis, with both border officers at the nation’s airports and land crossings able to access the same information.

For international travelers seeking to enter, visit or settle in Canada, minor crimes and misdemeanors may seem just that, but as Tharshini Nakeswaran of Swift Passport Services explains, petty offenses can and do matter to border agents when processing arriving passengers.

For those convicted of driving while under the influence (DUI), all offenders are liable to be punished under Canadian law. “A DUI may not necessarily be a violent offense, but you are still inadmissible if you’ve had one DUI or multiples DUIs regardless of time,” clarifies Nakeswaran.

For those who are still able to enter Canada with this kind of crime on their record, gaining entry in one instance doesn’t necessarily mean that they won’t be refused entry at some point in the future. As Nakeswaran explains, “…the simple answer is, the fact that this individual was able to enter Canada before doesn’t negate the fact that the person was still inadmissible in the first place.”

Any kind of crime, she adds, matters and could potentially deem a passenger inadmissible. But on the other hand, Nakeswaran adds, serious felonious convictions don’t necessarily indicate that the passenger will be unable to enter Canada.

The test which is applied by the Government of Canada in deciding whether to approve or deny your application, amongst other considerations, is whether the benefit of allowing you admission to Canada outweighs any possible threat or risk to the Canadian population. Your rehabilitation efforts must be noteworthy and your justifications to enter Canada should contribute to the economy of Canada,” she says.

There’s also a common misconception, says Nakeswaran, that it is somehow easier for travelers to enter the country by land rather than air.

An officer at the airport has the same information available at his disposal just as the officer at a land border. Therefore, this is not some sort of a loophole to avoid being inadmissible into the country,” she states.

For those arriving at the border, Nakeswaran also offers a cautionary word about the visa application process, which, she says, is not instantaneous. Most border officers, she says, “…will notify the individual to apply to the Consulate and wait for an answer, and do not appreciate travelers clogging the border with such applications. It is only done on a case by case basis.

[Featured Image: Shutterstock]

View Comments (9)


  1. JAGorham

    September 16, 2019 at 6:45 am

    This is nothing new, and has been in place for decades. Similar rules apply for many European countries. Drunk driving is considered a serious offense in many countries, and is treated as such for visitors and immigrants.

  2. topman

    September 16, 2019 at 9:15 am

    Definitely nothing new – this has been in effect for many years and includes crewmembers. I believe the difference between visiting Canada and most Euro countries is that the US shares the data with Canada.

  3. John Portland

    September 16, 2019 at 10:11 am

    There are helpful comments describing actual experiences in the Flyertalk forums. It is troubling that this article appears to quote someone who offers professional services for a fee and does not disclose this potential conflict or quote others to provide useful information about recent actual experiences.

  4. Listerone

    September 16, 2019 at 6:10 pm

    Too bad the US Government doesn’t have a similar policy. It seems as if any old criminal is allowed into the US because to deny him/her entry would be “xenophobic” according to “human rights” lawyers.

  5. Dublin_rfk

    September 17, 2019 at 3:26 am

    As an independent and sovereign country Canada has the right and the will to set their entrance policies. NOW if another country would just enforce it’s current laws!
    PS: It’s not just DUI’s. Being convicted of ANY misdemeanor crime in another country can get you banned!

  6. Tailgater

    September 17, 2019 at 10:37 am

    I was completely inspected arriving in Vancouver on Norwegian. All kinds of personal questions (Have you ever been arrested, what for, when, etc.) and more questions about my reasons, etc., for wanting to visit. Then, a complete breakdown of my belongins, going though every single item looking for personal illegal drugs, About a 1/2 hour inspection process before told, “You’re good to go.” Quite insulting as I had never been so “unwelcome” upon arriving. I now have reservations about ever returning to Canada.. Ironically, afterwards walking to my Vancouver East Hastings Hotel, I navigating through the city’s huge drug infested/homeless population with some flagrantly tooting meth or cocaine on the public sidewalks. Total homeless/clochards and thousands of them. Yet, getting off a cruise ship I got treated as a suspect? Why would I want to go through it again and not even be sure if I would “pass?” If you have a DUI arrest (not a conviction) you better reconsider trying to enter Canada. I’m not sure if just an arrest (not conviction) will get you entry into Canada.

  7. Transpacificflyer

    September 17, 2019 at 8:20 pm

    Conversely, visitors to the USA who have minor infractions for marijuana use or who admit to having smoked weed, can be banned for life. Every country has its rules.

  8. skidooman

    September 21, 2019 at 6:02 am

    Euh… yes.

    Canadians know very well that US Border agents have access to their records and have been known to routinely deny entry to Canadian citizens bases on these records. So why expect Canada to do anything less?

    In fact, there was real concern that people working in the pot industry, now legal in Canada, would see the US deny them entry.

  9. NavSTL


    September 21, 2019 at 7:18 pm

    @Listerone huh? Getting arrested for DUI absolutely does generate an ineligibility to travel to the U.S. Being “any old criminal” will usually result in a discretionary refusal by CBP or the visa officer, and being a very serious criminal will often result in a permanent ban.

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