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How does an OWI conviction affect travel to Canada?

| Jul 5, 2021 | OWI

If you’re deciding whether or not it’s worth fighting your operating while intoxicated (OWI) charge, it’s important to understand all the ways it could potentially affect your life and career. One consequence of having an OWI or other drunk driving-related conviction on your record for Michiganders is that it can keep you from crossing the border into Canada – whether for vacation or work.

Travel to Canada has been highly restricted for more than a year due to the government’s strict quarantine regulations. However, it will eventually open back up, and you may want or need to go there.

What does Canadian law require?

Canada takes impaired driving very seriously. It’s considered comparable to a felony offense. If you’ve been convicted of an OWI in the last five years, Canadian law can prevent you from entering the country. 

If your conviction was more than five years ago (and you haven’t gotten in any further legal trouble), you can apply for something called “criminal rehabilitation,” which will allow you to enter the country. Once ten years have passed, the Canadian government considers a person to be “rehabilitated by time” and allowed to enter without any kind of special permission.

What other options are there?

If you need to enter the country for what are considered exceptional circumstances, like perhaps the serious illness of a loved one, before that five-year period is up, you may be able to obtain a temporary resident permit on compassionate grounds if you’re willing to pay $200 in Canadian Dollars. These permits may also be granted based on humanitarian or national needs.

Depending on your situation, you may be able to avoid an OWI conviction. If you’re dealing with international travel restrictions because of an OWI you had in the past, it may be worthwhile to find out if that conviction can be expunged from your record. Either way, the right legal guidance can make all the difference.