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Upcoming trip or layover in Canada? A DUI may make you inadmissible.

With spring and summer approaching, this means busy tourist season for Canada, especially with the snow now all gone.  Approximately 18 million tourists are expected to be welcomed to the country.  At this time of year, our Firm often sees a spike in calls from people who are booked for trips, such as cruises with a stop at a Canadian port of entry, concerned about the impact of a prior conviction on their ability to enter Canada. Driving while intoxicated offenses (“DUIs”) in the USA are a common scenario.  While DUI convictions are sometimes only traffic offenses in the USA, they are regarded much more severely in Canada and always viewed as a “felony” conviction (also known as an indictable offence in Canada).

Many other convictions, in fact, which are categorized as a misdemeanor in the United States, hold a greater gravity in Canada, which does not differentiate misdemeanors and felonies. Therefore even a disorderly conduct offence can give grounds for inadmissibility to Canada.

So how does a person get that connection flight or cruise to Canada if they have a DUI on their record from many years ago?  Visitors can still proceed with a vacation by taking the right steps towards admissibility: If they plan ahead, they can apply for either a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP), or a Criminal Rehabilitation.  Each of these carries different requirements legally.

A TRP will allow the individual to temporarily enter Canada if Canadian immigration officers agree that the reason to enter Canada outweighs the public safety risks the individual poses on the Canadian society, and that the crime must be minor, as determined by the officers. TRPs have an expiry date; therefore visitors must apply for them again if they wish to visit the country past the expiry date of the permit.
Criminal rehabilitation (or a “Rehab”), is a more permanent solution to inadmissibility. It involves demonstrating to the Canadian government that the applicant has been “rehabilitated” from their prior conduct and no longer poses a risk to Canada.  Usually, the passage of more time is critical to applying for a Rehab.  In order to be eligible to apply, the date of completion of the sentence, in most cases, must be at least 5 years old.  However, in some situations, if an individual has a conviction that occurred 10 years ago, and that this is the only conviction on their record, they will be considered “Deemed Rehabilitated” by the Canadian government, and therefore will not need to apply for rehabilitation. We usually still recommend a letter explanation for presentation at the border in Deemed rehab cases.

The process of being granted rehabilitation, or a TRP, is needed even in cases where the traveler is not planning on visiting Canada, but who has a flight with a layover in the country. Indeed, most visitors will be asked to go through customs when arriving by plane, no matter their final destination. However, in cases of flights coming from countries other than the United States and Canada, in destination of the United States, visitors may not need to go through customs.

Take a look at the chart below to see if you need to go through Canadian customs if you have a connecting flight at one of these sample airports.

If you are on a connecting flight, do you need to go through Canadian customs at these airports?
Airport Location International-US flights US-International flights International-International flights
Toronto Pearson International Airport Mississauga, Ontario YES* YES YES
Vancouver International Airport Richmond, British Columbia NO YES YES
Montréal–Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport Dorval, Quebec DEPENDS ON THE AIRLINE** YES YES
Calgary International Airport Calgary, Alberta YES YES YES
Edmonton International Airport Leduc, Alberta YES YES YES
Ottawa Macdonald–Cartier International Airport Ottawa, Ontario YES YES YES
Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport Winnipeg, Manitoba YES YES YES
Halifax Stanfield International Airport Enfield, Nova Scotia YES YES YES
Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport Toronto, Ontario DEPENDS ON AIRLINE*** YES YES

* There are exceptions, such as the NEXUS & CANPASS programs.
** If the airline offers the option of automatically transferring your luggage from one flight to another, visitors can proceed via the connecting flights corridor, which avoids Canadian customs.
*** If visitors are planning on connecting a Porter flight to a Jet Blue flight (or vice versa), they can follow the domestic connections corridor and avoid Canadian customs.

Canada Reuniting Families:
The Parents and Grandparents Program may Help

When choosing to relocate to Canada, immigrants may be separated from their families back home.  This has become far more common under the Trump Administration in the USA, whereby out of status migrants are looking to come to Canada in order not to be deported to their home countries; often, these undocumented U.S. residents now have a family in the U.S.A. which means that the deportation will wreak havoc on many, including young children who will see one of their parents be sent away.  Our Canadian Law Group’s Chair, Véronique Malka, spoke to an audience of family and immigration lawyers on March 14th in Canada, to give her unique perspective of the impact of these deportations that she and her team see, almost daily, in their NY City office. She spends countless “white nights” thinking of creative ways to help her clients go to Canada legally to start their life again as a family.

One of those ways may involve the Parents and Grandparents sponsorship program, which was created in 2016. It allows parents and grandparents of Canadian citizens and permanent residents to join their children and grandchildren in the country. This program is highly popular among families with grandparents or parents that are now alone in their home country, or those whose children need help taking care of their own children and family.

The program traditionally received around 95,000 entries annually, but only invited 20,000 to apply for the program in total. Not all applicants could directly apply for sponsorship, as only a select “first come first serve” pool of applicants would be allowed to do so. This means that approximately 75,000 entries would not be selected to apply each year, and that applicants would simply need to wait for the next year.

On March 21, 2018, the Canadian government released a statement announcing several modifications to the Parents and Grandparents program, now allowing everyone to apply, i.e. no limit to the number of applications. This announcement, officially discontinuing the practice of “inviting” potential applicants to apply, may play a significant role in reuniting families.  Moreover, the processing times have now been lowered, and, much like all other sponsorship applications, the Canadian government strives to review the applications faster, and more efficiently.  Between 2011 and last year, Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) reduced the sponsorship backlog for this program by 80%.

We hope that this news will allow more foreign nationals to be reunited with their children and grandchildren, and establish themselves fully in Canada, their new home. For more information, contac or

Crossing the U.S. Canada Border in 2018: What Documents do you Need?

Prior to 2009, crossings between Canada and the United States could be done via oral declarations of citizenship, or by presenting unofficial documents, which consequentially led to the interception of 129,000 fraudulent documents, and the apprehension of over 118,340 individuals at several United States land and sea ports of entry. Due to this, the United States government decided to abolish this informal practice with Canada, as well as with Bermuda and Mexico. This program, establishing specific rules and procedures for border crossings, is called the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), and serves as a guide for the required documents for entry into the United States.

Since 2017, with talk of “Extreme Vetting” of border applicants under President Trump’s new Administration, people often ask us if the Identification requirements have changed in order to travel between the US and Canada.  Here is a quick overview of what travelers can expect for 2018:

Going from Canada into the USA:

List of all WHTI-approved travel documents:

  1. U.S. or Canadian Passport
  2. Green Card
  3. U.S. Passport Card –not valid for air travel
  4. U.S. or Canadian Enhanced Driver’s License –not valid for air travel
  5. NEXUS Card *
  6. U.S. Military Identification Card (when travelling on official orders)
  7. U.S. Merchant Mariner document (when traveling on official maritime business)
  8. American Indian Card (Form 1-872) –not valid for air travel
  9. U.S. or Canadian birth certificate or other proof of citizenship (For minors under the age of 16)

* The NEXUS Card is a Trusted Travelers Program which allows frequent U.S.-Canada visitors to cross the border faster by avoiding the long lines at the customs. NEXUS holders can simply scan their cards at airports, or pass through the fast NEXUS line at ports of entry on land and at sea ports.

When crossing the border by car, the American customs uses x-ray technology near inspection booths called Radiation Portal Monitor System, or RPM, to read any type of energy passing by, and also identifies the detected materials. This is often used to prevent the entry of drugs, arms, and other illegal items. However, this also means that visitors must be incredibly careful not to bring items that might set off the RPM at the border.

The United States government is also now applying the Visas Mantis security check, created to prevent espionage or military disruption in the United States. The process involves extreme technological vetting if a visitor’s purpose of traveling to the United States is to conduct a visit, work, study, or research, touching on the following fields:

  1. Conventional Munitions
  2. Nuclear Technology
  3. Rocket Systems
  4. Chemical, Biotechnology and Biomedical Engineering
  5. Remote Sensing, Imaging And Reconnaissance
  6. Advanced Computer/Microelectronic Technology
  7. Materials Technology
  8. Information Security
  9. Laser And Directed Energy Systems Technology
  10. Sensors and Sensor Technology
  11. Marine Technology
  12. Robotics
  13. Urban Planning

Going from the USA into Canada:
When travelling to Canada from the United States, visitors must make sure that they are adequately prepared to cross the border. Although United States citizens require a passport to fly or transit through a Canadian airport, they still do not need one when entering Canada on land or by boat. However, since the implementation of WHTI in the United States, the Canadian Border Services Association (CBSA) has begun accepting the same documentation listed in the WHTI, and limiting the documents allowed for crossing the border, to facilitate round trips between the two countries.
List of all CBSA-approved travel documents:

  1. U.S. or Canadian Passport
  2. Permanent Resident Card (U.S. and Canada)
  3. Visas (eTA, TRV, Transit Visa)
  4. Consent letter from children for children with parents sharing custody
  5. U.S. Passport Card –not valid for air travel
  6. U.S. or Canadian Enhanced Driver’s License –not valid for air travel
  7. NEXUS Card *
  8. U.S. or Canadian birth certificate or other proof of citizenship (For minors under the age of 16)

U.S. citizens wishing to enter Canada by land or boat and that do not have a U.S. passport need to carry proof of their citizenship, such as a birth certificate, certificate of citizenship (or naturalization), or a Certificate of Indian Status. They also need to carry a photo identification from an official U.S. state or federal entity, such as a driver’s license.

The process of clearing customs differs widely on both the border office, as well as the method of arrival of the traveler. Indeed, even if a person coming from the United States is only going through Canada because of a connecting flight to another country, it is very likely that they will have to go through Canadian customs; most people require a visitor visa, a transit visa, or an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA), which are required for almost all visitors.

Visitor Visas:
A temporary resident visa is an official document stamped on the passport, which allows temporary entry into Canada for brief visits. You can apply for a visitor visa online, on paper, or at the Canadian border, by bringing all the required materials of the application.

Transit Visas:
These visas are required for any visitor coming from non-visa-exempt countries who is traveling through Canada to another country, and whose flight will stop in Canada for less than 48 hours. You can apply for a transit visa online or on paper.

Electronic Travel Authorizations (eTAs):
An eTA allows people from visa-exempt countries to temporarily enter Canada when travelling by air. The eTA is an electronic process directly linked to the visitor’s passport. It is valid for up to five years or until the expiry date on the passport; if expired, visitors can always apply for a new eTA.

Visitors should always fill out an eligibility form to find out which visa they should acquire in order to enter the country.

There are, however, extremely rare instances when visitors will not have to apply for a visa or eTA in case of a layover in Canada. This only happens when the visitors are traveling to or from the United States with valid U.S. documentation, and a valid passport from Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, or Taiwan.  These visitors must also arrive during business hours of the preclearance area of the airport, be boarding on their second flight the same day they arrived in Canada, not leave the airport, and be traveling with either Air Canada, Air Canada Rouge, Air China, WestJet, Cathay Pacific, China Southern, Philippines Airlines, Jazz Air, Sky Regional Airlines Inc., Air Georgian, or Hainan Airlines. If arriving from the United States, visitors can only participate in the program if landing in Calgary International Airport, Toronto Pearson International Airport at Terminal 1, or Vancouver International Airport.

In most cases, however, tourists traveling between the United States and Canada should always be prepared to travel, with the right documents in hand. If you are unsure of the application process for Canadian immigration, or if you need help in gathering the right documentation for an upcoming trip, feel free to contact the Chair of Canadian Law Group and Canadian immigration attorney, Véronique Malka, for assistance


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