You Can’t Enter Canada If You Have a DUI

For the majority of Americans, crossing the border into Canada is simple. You show your passport, answer a few questions, and head into the country.

But you might have a more difficult time with a criminal background – even a minor misdemeanor. The border patrol may tell you you’re not allowed to enter and turn your around.

A DUI is one of those crimes that can make you inadmissible to Canada. So, if you have a DUI, does that mean you’ll never be able to visit our northern neighbor? Not quite.

Today, we’ll give details about the criminal rehabilitation process and what you can expect before entering Canada. Let’s go!

Can Anyone With A Passport Enter Canada?

To enjoy international travel, you must carry proof of citizenship and identity. For most people, this is a passport, either a passport book or a passport card.

A passport book is more expensive than a passport card but must be used for international air travel. A passport card is acceptable when entering a foreign country only via land or sea.

However, just because you have filled out the paperwork, submitted it to the U.S. government, and received your passport doesn’t mean you’ll be accepted at the border.

Americans with criminal backgrounds, including credit card fraud, DUI, shoplifting, vandalism, or weapons violation, won’t be allowed to enter Canada without undergoing a waiting period.

The Canadian flag blowing in the wind with a beautiful mountain range in the background.

What Is Criminal Rehabilitation In Canada?

Canada has a criminal rehabilitation program that allows Americans with criminal records to enter the country.

It’s a long and tedious process that requires you to fill out the imm1444e and attain your Canadian entry waiver. It can take months to gather all of the necessary paperwork.

Americans who may need to complete this program include people who were convicted of an offense in Canada, convicted of an offense outside Canada but the violation would be considered a crime within Canada, or committed an act outside of Canada that is regarded as a crime under the laws of the country where it occurred and would be punishable under Canadian law.

What Crimes Require A Waiting Period To Enter Canada?

Someone must enter the criminal rehabilitation program if the misdemeanor is minor, such as failure to appear in court, or a serious offense, like drug trafficking.

Other crimes that require this waiting period include indecent exposure, sexual assault, identity theft, resisting an officer, child pornography, hate crimes, property crimes, solicitation, kidnapping, forgery, hit and run, white collar crimes, careless driving, tax evasion, and computer crimes.

This list isn’t exhaustive, though. You can find more crimes requiring a waiting period on this website for Federal Pardon Waiver Services.

A book open that shows a page with the title DUI driving under the influence.

Who Is Eligible For Criminal Rehabilitation?

Your sentence, probationary period, or fine must be completed at least five years ago to be eligible for criminal rehabilitation.

You cannot have had any other convictions since then, either. You must show that you are “rehabilitated,” thus criminal rehabilitation.

It’s important to note that Canadian law and American law are different. Therefore, the crime on your record will be evaluated based on how it would be treated in Canada.​

How Long Does the Criminal Rehabilitation Process Last?

Unfortunately, the criminal rehabilitation process can last for months.

Similar to gathering the necessary paperwork to obtain a passport, you’ll have to fill out forms and start the process long before you want to travel. And if you make an error, it will take even longer.

Important Information About What You Can’t Bring Into Canada

If you have a clear criminal history, there are still important things you should know about entering Canada.

RVers should especially know what you can and can’t bring into the country since you’re toting around a home on wheels.

The border patrol has the right to search your property, and you don’t want to delay your entry. 


If you travel with a firearm, you must declare the weapon to an officer when you arrive at the border. Don’t try to hide this.

Present the proper paperwork and answer all questions honestly. The officer may check to make sure it’s safely stored and will verify that it’s the same weapon listed on the paperwork.

You must have a purpose for bringing a firearm into Canada, such as hunting, taking it for repairs, or using it as protection against wildlife. You can also simply go from one location to another if you’re taking a direct route.

In addition, you must complete Form RCMP 5589: Non-Resident Firearm Declaration and pay a $25 CAD fee. To learn more about transporting a firearm across the border, visit the Canada Border Services Agency website.

Even if you’re traveling only in the US, it’s important to know: Can You Carry a Gun Across State Lines?

A gun sitting on a paper that says "certificate of firearms license"


Like firearms, you must declare any animals, including pets, at the border patrol station. The officer can detain the animal and prevent entry if you don’t.

You’ll need a valid rabies vaccination certificate when traveling with a dog. The dog must also appear in good health.

When traveling with a cat, you’ll need a valid rabies vaccination certificate and a veterinary certificate that is issued on clinic letterhead, signed by a licensed veterinarian, identifies the animal, and states that the cat has been in the U.S. since birth or for at least six months before arriving in Canada.

You’ll also need to ensure you’re traveling with pet food correctly. The product must be commercially packaged and from the U.S.

If you dump your Pedigree dog food into a plastic bin, you’ll need to dispose of it before crossing the border since it’s not still commercially packaged.

When you cross the border, your pet must be with you to transport pet food. 

Food Products

The criteria for what you can and can’t bring into Canada changes, so staying up-to-date on the latest information is essential before traveling.

Because of bird flu outbreaks, poultry products from the U.S. must be retail packaged and labeled as a “Product of the USA.”

If you buy food in bulk at Costco and divide it into freezer bags, you must dispose of that chicken or eat it before arriving at the border.

Other food products restrictions include baked goods, eggs, fish and seafood, fresh produce, and meat products. Baked goods cannot have meat ingredients, eggs must be retail packaged and labeled as “Product of the USA,” potatoes must be commercially packaged, and meat must be labeled as “Product of the USA.”

Certain fish and seafood products require a permit or are prohibited, so if you’re traveling with these products, check out the restrictions on the Canadian government website.

a screenshot of the website that shows the rules for bringing food into Cananda.

Know the Canadian Regulations Before Trying To Cross the Border

Whether you have a previous DUI or are traveling with your furry friend, you must know Canadian regulations before heading north.

Your vacation or road trip could end before it even begins. These restrictions keep everyone safe, so speak politely, behave nicely, and answer truthfully when approaching a border patrol officer.

They’re just doing their jobs and not intentionally making your entry difficult. Have you ever experienced a problem when trying to cross into Canada?

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