Travel Advice: Entering Canada After A DWI

Q. Three of us couples are planning to take an Alaskan land and cruise tour. The trip begins in Seattle and ends in Vancouver, Canada. One member in our group has had a DWI, and I have read that people with DWIs are being turned away at the Canadian border. What are the rules? Is there a statute of limitations? Would they not let our friend off the ship, and we would just have to watch him sail off to Shanghai? If they let him off, could he stay in Vancouver a few days to tour?

A. Indeed, anyone with a criminal record, including one for drunken driving, may be barred from entering Canada.

I hope you are planning well ahead. Your friend may need to apply for a special waiver — for any travel purpose and any length of time — and Canada could take six months or longer to decide.

If your friend's offense occurred more than 10 years ago, he is "deemed rehabilitated" and may enter Canada, according to an e-mail from Jacinthe Roberge Binovec, consul and immigration program manager at the Consulate General of Canada in Detroit. The Detroit office is responsible for such applications.

If fewer than 10 years has passed since the offense and all its attendant punishments were meted out (any fine, sentence, probation, loss of driving privileges), your friend could apply for a Criminal Rehabilitation or a Temporary Resident Permit.

"To be eligible for rehabilitation, five years must have passed since the completion of sentence (including probation) for the most recent conviction," Binovec wrote. "If an individual is not eligible for Criminal Rehabilitation and does not qualify for Deemed Rehabilitation, they may apply for a Temporary Resident Permit. The submission must include evidence of compelling, humanitarian and compassionate grounds or Canadian national interest grounds justifying the issuance of the permit." I doubt a vacation qualifies.

You can download the "Application for Criminal Rehabilitation" at Scroll down to "Visas and Immigration" and click on the "criminal and other inadmissibilities" link. Then click on "approval of rehabilitation," and you will find more information and the forms you need: "Application for Criminal Rehabilitation," the "Document Checklist" and the "Fee for Immigration Service." All can be downloaded to your computer for printing.

The processing fee is $200 and is nonrefundable no matter the outcome of the request. If your application must be reviewed at the ministry level, it could cost another $800.

The process is onerous, requiring letters of recommendation and court and police documents. But a trip to Vancouver — and the ability to enter Canada — could be worth the effort.

Discuss this issue with your travel agent and cruise line before anything is booked.