Will a DWAI Conviction Bar Entry to Canada?

Recently, the rules surrounding DWIs, DUIs and DWAIs have changed in Canada, ushering in a new era of more aggressive enforcement. One of the most common questions our office receives is if a conviction for a DWAI will bar entry to Canada. The short answer is yes. A DWAI is treated the same way as a DUI at the Canadian border and there is no guarantee of being granted entry into the country.   

This fact usually sparks a lot of concern, and also a fair amount of confusion, as a DWAI and a DUI are very different offenses in American criminal law. While it is true that New York criminal law recognizes a significant distinction between DUIs and DWAIs, this is not the case from the Canadian perspective.

When an individual attempts to enter Canada, he or she is subject to Canadian law. In order to determine the seriousness of an offense on a criminal record when an individual attempts to enter the country, a Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) Officer will equate the offense to its closest Canadian counterpart. Under Canadian law, there is no offense called a DWAI — there is only a DUI. Consequently, a border official does a conversion of the DWAI offense to its closest equivalent in Canadian law, which is a DUI. As a result, when traveling to Canada, a DWAI will be treated as a DUI at the border.

The ultimate result is that for the first 10 years after completing the imposed sentence (ie., probation, fines, etc.), an individual with a DWAI is criminally inadmissible to Canada. Your only recourse is to apply for rehabilitation after five years with the Canadian Consulate in the United States.  

If you possess a DWI, DUI or DWAI on your record and would like to visit Canada, but believe you may be inadmissible, be sure to contact Berardi Immigration Law to set up a consultation with our Canadian immigration attorney today!

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