Planning a Canadian hunting or fishing trip? An old DUI or other blemish on your record could pose a serious hurdle.
Are you shopping the winter outdoor shows for a hunting or fishing trip north of the border? If you have a DUI on your record, you could find yourself turned away when trying to enter Canada.
If you have committed an offense in the U.S. that is a crime in Canada, their immigration policy may deem you inadmissible. Even if you received a diversion you got that may be considered an admission of committing the offense.
How would the Canadians know about a DUI? After 9-11, the United States Government began sharing access to our criminal databases with with Canada. As you are trying to clear customs, the immigration officer can look up your record. If there is something on your record in the states the officer can see it.
What are your options if you have something on your record?
At this point, I need you to pay close attention. I AM NOT AN ATTORNEY. I'm not qualified to give legal advice, therefore, THIS IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE! Consult a qualified Canadian attorney before making a decision on how to proceed. That said, here's what I gathered from a few websites.
The Canadian Immigration web page isn't perfectly clear about what, specifically, might make you inadmissible. If you haven't had your record cleared or suspended, there are three potential pathways to entry. The first way is to be deemed rehabilitated by the immigration officer; or be approved after applying for rehabilitation; or receive a temporary resident permit. Gaining one of those approvals for entry depends on the time since, and nature of, your offense.
The shortest path to entry is to be "deemed rehabilitated."
That same immigration webpage states that;
You may be deemed to have been rehabilitated if at least ten years have passed since you completed the sentence imposed upon you, or since you committed the offence, if the offence is one that would, in Canada, be an indictable offence punishable by a maximum term of imprisonment of less than ten years.
Note the word, "MAY" in that sentence. Another part of the immigration website implies you ARE deemed rehabilitated if the offense would result in a sentence of less than ten years in Canada and it has been at least ten years since completion of any sentence.
Personally, I think you are taking a risk if you have something on your record and try to get into Canada without taking some precautions. Are you willing to gamble your trip on an immigration officer deeming you "rehabilitated?" Lose that bet and you are denied entry and sent home.
For about $500 a Canadian immigration attorney will, if you meet the criteria, write a letter of opinion making your case for being deemed rehabilitated. This is a way to ensure you get over the border. Assuming nothing else shows up on the background check (another $50 requirement) you should have your letter in about a month. Show that letter to the immigration officer and you should be good to go.
If the attorney says that's not an option for you because of the nature of the offense or other circumstance, they may help you apply for criminal rehabilitation. As long as it has been at least five years since completion of any sentence, this might be your option. Here's the downside - the application and approval process might take up to a year, and could cost around $3,000.
If you don't qualify for criminal rehabilitation, your last option is a temporary resident permit. The Canadian Immigration webpage implies you need a very good reason to enter the country, and probably a very good lawyer, to receive a Temporary Resident designation, and entry into Canada. I suspect these are most likely to be granted to professional athletes and entertainers who have money and people. A bear hunt is probably not a good enough reason. Then again, for enough money, a lawyer might take your case.
If you're contemplating a hunting or fishing trip to the Canadian wilderness and have something on your record, you need to get busy to make sure your trip isn't ruined by your past; or at least start saving money to buy your way into our northern neighbor. It could be worth it.