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CANADA – Law change makes drunk driving a serious offence, with potential implications for some foreign national visa applicants

An amendment to the Criminal Code in Canada has doubled the maximum prospective punishment for drunk driving (‘DUI’ – Driving Under the Influence) from five years to ten years.

As this offence is now classed as “serious criminality” in Canada, a foreign national who has a prior DUI (even committed outside Canada) seeking to enter the country, may now be inadmissible as, for example, a business visitor or worker.


Previously, according to the Canadian Criminal Code, DUI carried a maximum prospective punishment of five years’ imprisonment and was therefore classified as “ordinary criminality”.

This meant that a person with a prior DUI would be deemed inadmissible to Canada but that, after ten years from the conclusion of any sentence, they could be “deemed rehabilitated“ and would once more be admissible to Canada.


Under the recent amendment, DUI is now an offense with a maximum prospective punishment of ten years and is therefore reclassified as serious criminality.

This means that a person with a prior DUI, even committed outside Canada, can no longer be deemed rehabilitated and may remain inadmissible to Canada as a visitor or worker.

This applies equally to a first-time traveller to Canada with a prior DUI, and to someone who has previously been deemed rehabilitated and thus has been able to enter Canada.

Similarly, foreign nationals who are permanently resident in Canada and have been convicted of DUI are now at greater risk of being deported.

Action Items

  • Prospective travellers to Canada with prior DUI convictions, and their employers, should seek case-specific advice from an immigration specialist.

This alert was prepared using information provided by Kranc Associates.

DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this immigration alert has been abridged from laws, court decisions, and administrative rulings and should not be construed or relied upon as legal advice. If you have specific questions regarding the applicability of this information, please contact Peregrine © 2021 Peregrine Immigration Management Ltd.