The highly debated Bill C-46 is finally enacted in Canada, amending the country’s Criminal Code and instigating a wave of changes in other areas of the law. In particular, the amendments increase the penalties for impaired driving offenses, pushing the maximum sentence from five to 10 years. Consequently, for immigration purposes, an impaired driving charge more commonly known as a DUI is now elevated to “serious criminality” status, which could prove a barrier for non-Canadians.
Many of those who are concerned are permanent residents who could face the risk of deportation if they commit a single DUI violation. As of this moment, the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is looking into ways to mitigate such “disproportionate immigration consequences”.
But it’s not only permanent residents that may be impacted by the new rules. Foreign nationals who intend to immigrate to Canada will find that any impaired driving conviction – in Canada or abroad – may bar them from entering the country altogether.
Prior to the amendment of the law, a foreigner who had been convicted of DUI was inadmissible to Canada, but they could have a chance to enter the country 10 years after they had completed their sentence. This concept is called “deemed rehabilitation.”
However, deemed rehabilitation does not apply to serious criminal offenses. Since impaired driving is now considered a serious offense as of December 18 2018, individuals who are convicted of this crime on or after that date can no longer have deemed rehabilitation. This means that they would remain inadmissible to Canada even after a long time has passed.
In addition, the country’s immigration laws prohibit foreign nationals from appealing their inadmissibility if it is based on serious criminality.
Two potential ways remain for foreigners hoping to enter Canada. One is by applying for criminal rehabilitation – a process that takes an average of 18 months to complete and involves a government fee. This fee is set to increase from $200 to $1,000 (CAD), due in large part to the changes taking effect.
The faster alternative is to apply for a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP), which allows inadmissible individuals to enter Canada for a short period of time and for a justified reason.
However, even a TRP application may prove very difficult for those with a DUI conviction. This is because the conviction now comes with the stigma of serious criminality.
Canadian immigration officers have much discretion when assessing the entry of foreigners, especially those who are applying for criminal rehabilitation or a TRP. It is possible that the “serious” status of the conviction can lead to an immigration officer refusing an applicant’s entry. Furthermore, even temporary resident permits that are already issued may be cancelled anytime based on an officer’s assessment.
It should be noted that all these potential consequences may ensue even if a foreign national has only had one impaired driving conviction (on or after December 18), and even if it was considered a light offense in their own country.
Because of this, it is advisable for non-Canadians to consult with an experience immigration lawyer. You can start by talking to us at Richards & Jurusik for up-to-date assistance. Give us a call today at 716-970-4007