Can DUI Affect Permanent Residency in Canada?
There are likely to be over a million people living in Canada on permanent residency status. While not citizens of Canada - they cannot vote, hold office or get a Canadian passport - these people still must abide by the laws and rules of the country. Including, of course, a DUI.
DUI - driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs - is considered a criminal charge in Canada, one that can result in fines, suspensions, jail time and a criminal record. But while that might be the situation for citizens, permanent residents face a bigger, more complex issue: deportation.
DUIs, PR Status & Deportation
DUIs Can Get PR Holders Deported
In June 2018, Canada passed new legislation - Bill C-46 - which was meant to update both the cannabis and alcohol limits for drivers in light of the legalization of cannabis for recreational use in Canada. DUIs are now considered a serious crime.
As such, the laws for DUIs became stricter and tighter for all, including for permanent residents or temporary residents, such as those on a study visa, work permits, and even those on tourist visas.
According to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, Section 36 (1) states that "permanent resident or a foreign national is inadmissible on grounds of serious criminality for: (a) having been convicted in Canada of an offence under an Act of Parliament punishable by a maximum term of imprisonment of at least 10 years, or of an offence under an Act of Parliament for which a term of imprisonment of more than six months has been imposed."
In essence, because DUIs are now punishable by sentences of up to 10 years, it is considered part of the IRPA. Therefore, permanent and temporary residents could lose their status, become inadmissible with their visa or application, and be deported from Canada. This can apply to those living in Canada for several years or first-time DUI offenders.
You Can Also Be Stopped Entering Canada
The law also affects those applying to enter Canada.
If you have been convicted of a DUI before entering Canada (in your country of origin), you may be inadmissible to enter Canada, as it is a criminal offence.
However, while that might be common for many countries (denying entry to those with charges or records), Bill C-46 also mentions that "permanent residents who are convicted abroad or who an officer believes has committed an impaired driving offence outside Canada will now be inadmissible for serious criminality. This means loss of PR status with no right of appeal...will no longer be eligible for deemed rehabilitation" and those that "previously deemed rehabilitated will no longer be so; they become inadmissible again."
Overall, that means that if you entered Canada with a DUI, which was passed because of a criminal rehabilitation pardon, your visa and status might be inadmissible again.
What To Do If You're Charged With A DUI
Remember, because you have been charged with a DUI doesn't mean that you'll be convicted of one. Only if you have been convicted of a charge will a record appear in your name, resulting in you potentially losing your visa and status.
As such, there are some options available to you to contest the charge:
Contact a DUI lawyer that can help you with your case. Make sure that you hire someone that has experience in DUI cases, particularly with permanent residents (https://www.dunlapcriminaldefencelawyer.com/impaired-driving/).
In many situations, DUI tests can be read wrong, with faulty machines or incorrect police reports. With a lawyer by your side, you can build a case for your defence, helping you avoid fines, jail time and deportation.
You can also speak to an immigration lawyer regarding your status and charge. They can guide you on what to do next.
Apply for Criminal Rehabilitation. If you have been convicted of a DUI outside of Canada, you can apply for "criminal rehabilitation", meaning that you have passed the eligibility criteria of a visa, and it has been at least five years since you completed your sentence or committed the crime.
Be Aware, Be on Guard & Get Help
Don't risk your life in Canada by consuming alcohol or cannabis and getting behind the wheel. You risk losing your visa and status, finding yourself unable to return to Canada in the future. If you have been charged with a DUI, then it is advisable to seek legal counsel immediately.