Nov. 9, 2016

Too often, people learn about Canada’s “criminally inadmissible” immigration policy at the border, said Heather Healy, manager of the Flight Attendant Drug and Alcohol Program, an FAA-funded substance abuse prevention program – and that can be too late.

Regardless of the reason for visiting, if the border background check reveals a criminal act committed outside of Canada, which violates Canadian law, business travelers and flight crews could be denied admission, warned Healy.

The list of offenses that determine criminal inadmissibility includes driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Canadian authorities interface with the U.S. National Crime Information Center, and have access to the FBI criminal database, so they can check a person’s record, and in the eyes of Canadian authorities, it makes no difference if an arrest led to a conviction.

If denied admission because of a DUI, a traveler’s options depend on the time elapsed from the completion of the sentence or probation period, not the arrest date.

  • If it has been 10 years or more, Healy said, “You’re automatically deemed criminally rehabilitated,” and the border agent welcomes you to Canada.
  • Between five and 10 years from the completion of a sentence or probation, travelers can apply for “criminal rehabilitation,” which documents that someone is “no longer a public safety threat in Canada and costs up to $1,000, said Healy.
  • For those whose sentence or probation ended less than five years ago, Canadian border officials can offer a one-time free temporary resident permit, “assuming you don’t have a more serious crime, like manslaughter, on your record,” said Healy. The permit, which costs $200, is good for up to a year, and you can enter and leave Canada as needed during the approved period. A traveler can apply for a permit at a consulate or at the border, but a traveler’s ability to use this option at the border is at the discretion of the border official involved, noted Healy.

Healy suggested that flight crews concerned about whether or not they will be admitted into Canada, and those who have multiple or more serious acts on their record, “should contact a Canadian immigration attorney to get a letter that interprets those acts for the border patrol, which can improve your chances for getting a temporary resident permit.”

Learn more about Canada’s rehabilitation program for travelers.