A recent Traffic Q in The News Tribune posed the question "Can they stop you from going into Canada because you have a DUI on your record?" The answer was yes, for United States citizens who are taking ferries or attempting to drive into Canada. If you have a DUI on your criminal record (or any other minor criminal offense, such as shoplifting), you will be required to complete additional paperwork in order to gain entry to our neighbor to the north, and you may be required to wait a significant period of time or simply turned away.
According to the Washington State Department of Transportation, foreign nationals with a single minor crime (including DUI) may apply to be given a one-time Temporary Resident Permit (TRP) and will be permitted to enter Canada. However, the TRP may only be used one time. If US citizens with such infractions on their record wish to enter Canada again, they must visit a consulate and pay a "rehabilitation" fee of $200.00 CAD. (This applies to DUI offenses, for more serious crimes, the fee is $1,000.00 CAD.) However, Americans must wait five years to apply for the rehabilitation fee. This policy applies to any transportation method used to enter the country, including on ferries or as the driver or passenger of a motor vehicle. It is important to note that if you are denied "rehabilitation", you will not be refunded this fee.
According to Harkiran Rajasansi at the Canadian Consulate, the policy is not randomly enforced. Every person who attempts to enter the country will be checked, every time they attempt to enter.
Clearly this regulation could poses significant restrictions for all citizens, but particularly for residents of states such as Washington that share an international border, as many residents frequently travel north for work or recreation.
Do you have a DUI (or other minor offense) on your record and are considering visiting Canada? The Canadian government provides detailed information as to who may be deemed "criminally inadmissible" for entry under Canadian immigration law. You may visit or call us and we will provide more detailed information on obtaining temporary permits.