If you plan to travel abroad and have been arrested and/or convicted of Driving Under the Influence (DUI) in the United States, you should be aware that your criminal history can create unexpected problems, beyond what you may have imagined. Every country has its own regulations, which differ widely from country to country, not only as to the letter of the law but the manner in which the laws are interpreted by immigration officials. Our DUI lawyers in Phoenix provide a brief overview of how a DUI could affect your international travel plans.
Because of our long shared border with Canada, travel between the two countries is common. If you plan to travel to Canada, you should know that our neighbor to the north has some of the toughest restrictions on admission of anyone with a criminal history—and that includes a DUI conviction—even one charged as a misdemeanor.
Nevertheless, with advance planning, you may be able to obtain permission to enter Canada by one of the following means:
If an American citizen needing to enter Canada with a DUI cannot wait ten years to obtain a Rehabilitation Permit, a Temporary Resident Permit can sometimes solve the problem and gain your permission to enter the country. This is good for one entry only. The Temporary Resident Permit will need to be renewed for any subsequent trips to Canada.
You may petition the Canadian Government for the forgiveness of a prior DUI conviction if five have passed since you completed your sentence, including payment of fines, DUI school, community service, probation, and any other penalty to which you were sentenced. If you are approved under Canada’s Streamlined Rehabilitation process, you will be able to cross the border without the need to reapply for permission each time.
This is often the best option for most visitors to Canada with a single misdemeanor DUI in the distant past. In many of these cases, Canada will lift the DUI restriction after ten years if. The Deemed Rehabilitation requires that you demonstrate that ten years have passed since you completed all DUI penalties, including jail time, fines, and probation and there have been no repeat offenses. A Deemed Criminal Rehabilitation permanently lifts any restriction on entering the country.
If you plan to travel to Canada, consult an attorney well in advance of your expected travel date to determine if you qualify for any of the permits listed above.
Mexico may be unpredictable, due to the frequency with which laws change. Usually, one misdemeanor DUI will not keep you out; however, a felony conviction could be grounds for exclusion. Mexico denies entry to those with a record of a “serious crime.” While currently DUI does not appear on the embassy’s list of serious crimes, the list is not exclusive, and permission to enter Mexico is at the discrimination of an immigration officer.
The European Union does not make a DUI a prohibited offense, so you should not face restrictions traveling to much of Europe—those countries that are currently EU members. For the time being, that includes the United Kingdom; but that may change once Brexit (British withdrawal from the EU) is complete in a couple of years.
Asian countries that may give you trouble with a misdemeanor DUI conviction include Japan, China, and Malaysia. These countries require you to disclose a DUI arrest or conviction. In many Asian countries, hiding information is considered a worse offense than the DUI itself.
The opposite may be true, however, when you for a visa to a predominately Muslim country. Because alcohol consumption is forbidden under Islamic Law, having a drunk driving record will likely be viewed very negatively. Your permission to enter the country may be at the discretion of the immigration officer, and reporting a DUI record could prevent you from obtaining a visa to these countries.
In Australia and New Zealand, you will likely be able to be admitted, as long as you were not sentenced to a year or more in prison for DUI.
To get the most accurate information and avoid surprises at the border when you are traveling, contact the consulate of the country or countries you hope to visit to learn their policy toward DUI charges and convictions. You may be required to go through a fairly complex procedure and fill out complicated paperwork, which can take some time. If you have upcoming international travel plans, working with an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Phoenix can help to ensure that the required paperwork is processed correctly and completed well in advance of your travel dates.