Legal Matters is a regular column intended to address general legal concerns. Since every client walks in the door with a different set of circumstances, you should not rely on this column to provide specific legal advice. If you are in need of specific legal advice, please consult with an attorney; he or she will provide advice that is unique and tailored to your legal needs.
With greater frequency, Americans are denied entry into Canada as a result of having been charged with Driving While Ability Impaired (DWAI).
In New York, DWAI is a violation for driving with a blood alcohol content of .06–.07 percent. Although the charge is only a violation in the U.S., it is a more serious offense in Canada. As a result, Americans are often caught off guard when they are turned away at the border for what they believed was a minor infraction.
Frequently, a person charged with the more serious offense of Driving While Intoxicated (DWI), driving with a blood alcohol content of more than .08 per cent, will plead to the lesser offense of DWAI. These people are typically unaware that the violation will cause collateral immigration consequences. Even where an alcohol-related offense is subsequently dismissed, the charged person may still have difficulty entering Canada.
If you have been convicted of DWAI and need to travel to Canada, consider these options: (1) If 10 years have passed since the conviction, you are generally deemed rehabilitated and can apply for entry; (2) If five years have passed since your conviction and you can show that you have been rehabilitated, you can apply for streamlined entry; (3) If you need a one-time entry before your five-year period expires, you can apply and purchase a Temporary Resident Permit through a Canadian consulate.
The post-conviction entry process can be time consuming and costly; as always, it’s much easier and cheaper to hire a designated driver.