International Travel and DUI convictions
If you have travel plans, this article has important information for you about international travel and DUI convictions. You might wonder what countries can you travel to with a DUI on your record, or what countries you cannot visit with a DUI. You should “know before you go”, as it makes sense to learn about restrictions for persons with a DUI on their record before leaving the country. You will find this page organized by specific countries and regions, and with specific advice, below. This page was written by a DUI Specialist Orange County, and we encourage you to contact us with updates or new information (see the bottom of the page).
There are almost as many restrictions that exist as countries, as each country has the right to set their own laws and rules regarding who they allow entering their borders and boundaries. This article has information on some, but not all, of the nations around the world, and their policies regarding DUI. As some of the top Orange County DUI attorneys in California, and in the USA, our firm gets asked most often about entry to Canada with a DUI, but every country on the planet has specific entry requirements and policies on DUI convictions.
Entry Into the United States with a DUI.
Under the U.S. Code, specifically the USA Immigration Naturalization Act (INA), which contains the United States’ immigration laws, a “crime involving moral turpitude” (or the admission of the acts that constitute such a crime) is a ground for inadmissibility to the United States and can result in removal from the United States. Generally, in order to involve “moral turpitude”, a crime must have an intent requirement. Clear examples are murder and theft. Most theft crimes, even petty theft, grand theft, shoplifting, embezzlement, or burglary, are crimes of moral turpitude, as they have an intent to steal. In contrast, certain other crimes do not have an intent requirement.
As defined in most state laws, including in California, DUI (driving under the influence) charges mean that a person was “driving with a certain blood level of alcohol or other intoxicating substance above that legally permissible under the law“. Usually, there is no reference to intent.
As a result, an ordinary DWI, OWI, or DUI conviction is not considered a crime of moral turpitude, unless it is combined with an aggravating factor. Nevertheless, although it may not result in your removal it may limit or hinder your ability to return to the United States after returning to your home country. An H1-B visa holder with such a record may find that when they are interviewed at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate overseas, they will likely get a stamp on their H1-B.
A related problem potentially is that the INA is very strict on drug charges, or for offenses involving drugs. Drugs and weapon charges are per se grounds for exclusion, or denial of admission or deportable offenses. A drug DUI currently is not a problem, but could be, depending on the facts of the case or changes in policy in the future.
Under a rarely used section of the INA, those that suffer from certain medical conditions can be excluded from admission to the U.S. One of those medical conditions is alcoholism. To show chronic alcoholism, however, you would need to show more than a single DUI, and evidence of a repeated problem.
The only foreign country with which the US shares its full electronic crime database is Canada.
Visiting Europe with a DUI
All countries in the European Union (EU) have one uniform policy, which makes it easier to predict what will happen when entering individual member countries in Europe.
- The Netherlands
- Czech Republic
- The United Kingdom (at least until the “Brexit” exit vote from the EU is complete).
The European Union does not make a DUI a “prohibited offense”. That means if you have a DUI on your record, you are allowed to enter any member country in the European Union and can travel freely between member nations without being impeded.
Specific travel to Ireland and the United Kingdom with a DUI record
Almost all of the countries above, which are all part of the EU, are also bound by the separate Schengen agreement, which has been incorporated into European Union law by the Amsterdam Treaty in 1999. It allows anyone the signatory countries to travel freely to other listed European countries, provided the visa holder is granted entry and approval when arriving in the European Union (“EU”).
However, Ireland and The United Kingdom have opted out of the Schengen Agreement. The United Kingdom is part of the EU for now, but even before they joined, did not consider a DUI to be a “criminal offense”. (They consider it to be a misdemeanor, but in the UK, only “criminal offenses” were excludable).
Information and Sharing of Criminal Records Data Throughout Europe
Any denial to one of the European Union countries will be shared on the Second Generation Schengen Information System II (“SIS II”) under Title IV of the Treaty establishing the European Community. The SIS II Regulation sets forth the conditions for issuing alerts on the refusal of entry or stay for non-EU nationals.
International Travel and DUI convictions, and the effect of terrorism are a real concern in the way screening is handled. All across Europe, the post 9/11 terrorist threats have caused the United States, the EU, and its Member States, and the International Police Organization (Interpol) to step up their efforts to establish more effective mechanisms for cross-national criminal information sharing. In the last few years, much has been accomplished by means of mutual legal assistance treaties (MLATs). Criminal justice information including individual criminal history records are created, updated, and continually shared to police, judicial authorities, prison officials, and other agencies. These are called in the United States called “rap sheets” (an acronym derived from “record of arrest and prosecution”).
Travel to Countries in Asia with a DUI conviction:
Some countries in Asia that have a problem with any misdemeanor conviction are China, Malaysia, and Japan.
Thailand is not a problem, nor is Indonesia, South Korea, or Borneo. In Central Asia, travel to India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, or any of the countries in the Middle East or North Africa or Sub Saharan Africa nations do not list a DUI conviction as a problem that would bar entry. International travel and DUI convictions do require disclosure if asked, however. It seems like all the countries listed will require one to disclose any such convictions/arrests and the issuance of a visa could, at least theoretically, be negatively affected by any disclosures.
In many countries, it is the lying about or the hiding of information that is a worse offense than the underlying offense.
Travel to the Middle East with a DUI
The UAE (Dubai and & Persian Gulf countries) – Cultural aspects of a DUI conviction:
In addition to a criminal record and good conduct screening, in a conservative Muslim society, having a drinking record might be viewed negatively. As discussed above, the decision of approval of your entry to a country might be left to the discretion of the immigration officer. Thus, reporting a DUI or DWI record may actually endanger your business visa application for these countries. The best advice is to contact the consulate or embassy of the country you intend to visit in this region and find out if it is a problem under current regulations and laws.
In Turkey, there is no prohibition based upon DUI.
Entering Qatar With a DUI
When applying for a Qatar work visa, one of the required documents is a Police Clearance Certificate, sometimes referred to as a “Good Conduct Certificate” or a “Criminal Record Check for Overseas Employment”. It is a requirement of the State of Qatar from all expatriates (non-citizens) intending to do business in Qatar. Most likely, you will need to apply for such document before entering, in order to obtain your residence permit after arrival in Qatar. As such:
The State of Qatar Business Visa Requirement:
[“Non-U.S. Citizens: Your police clearance certificate should be attested from the following authorities in your country:
i. Ministry of Foreign Affairs in your home country;
ii. Embassy of Qatar in your home country.”]
Therefore, having a DUI criminal record might be a problem — it may induce a denial of a business visa in Qatar.
Entering the country of Iran with a DUI
Iran has a particular problem with an entry for U.S. citizens, in that both Iran and the United States of America do not have any diplomatic relations, and Iran has not since 1979 had any treaties, agreements, or diplomatic communication with the United Kingdom, Canada, or the U.S.A. This means that you will not be able to get a Visa issued in the United States, as there is no Iranian Embassy or Iranian Consulate in the USA.
However, you may obtain a visa, even as a United States Citizen, in any other embassy or consulate in the world where Iran has relations. Iran also does not share criminal conviction information for the same reasons. Iran does have a “good conduct” screening, and in a conservative Muslim society, admitting to a drinking and driving conviction if asked might be seen as a negative. As discussed above, the decision of approval of your entry to a country might be left to the discretion of the immigration officer. Thus, reporting a DUI or DWI record may endanger your business visa application for these countries.
Travel to Africa with a DUI on your Record
There is no prohibition to Northern African Countries (although Egypt and Morocco have especially thorough screening). Tunisia is not a problem.
With sub-Saharan countries within Africa, a DUI would not prohibit you from visiting most African nations.
Entering South Africa with a DUI or other Criminal Record
In South Africa, a DUI on your record is not typically a problem or a bar to entry. However, a felony DUI could present a problem.
U.S. citizens (U.S. passport holders) visiting the Republic of South Africa for ninety (90) days or less for tourism/business purposes do not need visas. As a result, you would not be scrutinized or interviewed as part of the entry process into South Africa, or any earlier visa application solely for tourism.
However, for people who require a visa prior to arriving in South Africa, such as employment or work visas, or immigration visas, a disclosure must be made on the application form.
You may be denied entry into South Africa if you did not disclose a material fact at the border even though it was not asked (deception by silence, Immigration Act 1999)
Another consideration is whether or not you are entitled to deny a criminal history and answer “no” to the question about prior criminal convictions. The answer to that on any visa application depends upon two things:
- What you were convicted of; and
- What, if any custodial sentence resulted.
South Africa, like much of the Commonwealth of the United Kingdom, follows the Criminal Procedure Amendment Act 65 of 2008 which lists the number of years that must elapse before a person seeking to enter can “deny: a conviction.
Most convictions will fall off after either 5 or 10 years, but some convictions, especially those involving sex offenses involving children, including sex trafficking, and child molestation offenses, will never fall off, no matter how long of a time period lapses.
CANADA — Travel to Canada with a DUI: Drunk Driving and Refusal of Canadian Entry
Canada is a problem for people with a DUI conviction. The U.S. Department of State states officially regarding entering Canada with a DUI conviction:
“Americans with a DUI record must seek a waiver of exclusion from Canadian authorities before traveling to Canada, which requires several weeks or months to process.”
Canada considers any criminal conviction to be an “offense” warranting enhanced scrutiny upon entry into the nation. Canada considers driving while under the influence (DUI) to be a severe criminal offense and restricts anyone with a DUI or DWI from entering the country. If you have been convicted of DWI or DUI (Driving While Impaired or Driving Under the Influence) within the last ten years, you may be denied entry. Understanding these consequences and trying to overcome them, is a complicated matter, but depends on whether the DUI is recent or older, and whether or not it was a one-time offense or not.
It’s the Canadian Criminal Code definition of impaired driving which is used to determine the severity of your conviction — even if it was a misdemeanor under local law, it may be considered more serious by Canadian standards, and in most cases is a felony under Canadian law.
A DUI is considered a felony in Canada
Canadian law considers impaired driving to be a serious offense and this attitude is also held by most Canadians. Canada basically treats any DUI as a felony, as it is a felony in all provinces in Canada.
Routine screening upon entry into Canada includes the question, “Have you ever been convicted of a crime?” If you have been convicted of impaired driving – even if no collision was involved – you may be denied entrance.
Even with no other criminal violations. Think carefully. Don’t lie about any convictions, regardless of how ‘trivial’. This is especially true if you’re entering Canada from the U.S. As mentioned above, Canada is the only country that shares complete, unfiltered information with the USA databases. Increased cooperation between Canada and U.S., as part of post-911 security measures, means that the border agent could already have access to criminal records. Lying or forgetting about a conviction could get you barred from entry into Canada for many years.
You have three options if you have a DUI and want to visit, work, or study in Canada
Option 1: Apply for a temporary resident permit. Applying for a Temporary Resident Permit allows you to suspend your criminal inadmissibility for a finite period of time (TRPs are good for a maximum of 3 years). In order to get a TRP, you must have compelling reasons for wanting to come to Canada. In other words, the benefits of your entrance and stay in Canada must prove to outweigh the safety and health risks to Canadian society and your TRP application must clearly, specifically communicate a justifiably significant reason for your entrance. Some examples of good reasons would be business conferences and networking events, meeting with Canadian clients or companies to start or continue economic relationships, or a very important family event such as a funeral or a wedding.
Option Two: A Canadian Criminal Rehabilitation Certificate. A Canadian Criminal Rehabilitation Certificate is granted by the Canadian Parole Board and declares you rehabilitated. This option is eligible for those persons that have more than five years since their conviction (although it can technically be granted with less than five years from the conviction).
Option Three: Wait. Under Canadian law, if you have only one criminal offense on your record and the terms of your sentence were completed more than 10 years ago, you may be deemed rehabilitated by the passage of time. A letter from a Canadian lawyer serving as a legal opinion may help you, although it is not required. You should carry all court documents with you (and a legal opinion letter if you like) when you travel to avoid any confusion or refusals at the border.
Entering Canada with a DUI by paying and purchasing a Temporary Resident Permit.
It is still possible to visit Canada if you have a DUI, but you have to pay a $200 fine as part of purchasing a temporary resident permit. It is also possible to forego the fine by getting a temporary resident permit to visit Canada if you have served no jail time and have committed no other acts that would prevent you from visiting Canada.
However, Canada states that this permit is only issued in extreme circumstances, and is entirely up to the discretion of the passport control officer. It also requires a $200 (Canadian) fee. The temporary resident permit is meant to allow entry for exceptional circumstances, which would include reasons of national interest or on strong humanitarian or compassionate grounds.
A Canadian Criminal Rehabilitation Certificate for DUI Convictions.
A person with a conviction may be deemed rehabilitated and be eligible for entry after a certain period has expired from the completion of the sentence imposed (which would include any driving suspension) on the conviction. Depending on the offense, this period may be as short as 5 years or as long as 10 years. If a person cannot qualify for deemed rehabilitation, they may apply for criminal rehabilitation.
The good news is that Canada will lift the restriction after ten years if you do not repeat the offense and get the charge expunged. While the DUI charge will always be on your driving record, it can be erased from your criminal records after ten years. Once it is gone, you will be able to travel across borders again.
A person may not apply for criminal rehabilitation for 5 years following the original conviction (note the difference with deemed rehabilitation where the period begins with the completion of the sentence). After this five-year waiting period (assuming the person has not been convicted of another offense) Americans (for example) can apply for “criminal rehabilitation” by submitting the following:
- An application form IMM 1444E
- A passport size photograph
- A copy of your passport data pages
- An FBI police certificate
- A state police certificate
- Copies of court documents indicating the charge, section of law violated, the verdict, and sentencing
- Proof of completed sentences paid fines, court costs, ordered treatments, etc.
- Copies of the text of the law describing the offense.
- Detailed explanation of the circumstances surrounding the offense.
- Three letters of reference from responsible citizens.
- A non-refundable processing fee of $180 USD
Further information can be found on the Immigration Webpage for Canada.
Entering Mexico with a DUI:
Foreigners with recent (in the past 10 years) drunk-driving criminal convictions are generally refused entry at the border when trying to travel into Mexico. Mexico’s Immigration Act section 37 may consider any foreign drinking and driving charge or conviction as an Indictable offense (similar to a felony), as such:
Article No. 37(5), states:
“The Department of the Interior shall be able to deny foreigners entry into the country or a change in their immigration category or status in any of the following cases:
i. International reciprocity does not exist;
ii. Domestic demographic equilibrium so requires;
iii. The quotas referred to in Article 32 herein do not allow such entry or status change;
iv. It is deemed that such entry or status change would be harmful to the economic interest of Mexican citizens;
v. The foreigner in question has violated domestic laws or has negative references from abroad
vi. The foreigner in question has violated this Act, the Regulations thereto, or other applicable administrative provisions, or does not comply with the requisites set forth in same;
vii. The foreigner in question is not deemed physically or mentally sound, in the opinion of the public health authorities; or
viii. Other statutory provisions so stipulate.”
Entering Australia with a DUI
Many US Citizens or Residents with a DUI visit Australia, and some even apply to work in Australia.
“Official immigration department policy as stated in character check reference requirements is that a person would be refused entry if they had a criminal conviction that entailed a custodial sentence of a year or more.” (See immi.gov.au/media/fact-sheets/79character.htm).
Australia can deny you entry if you have a DUI with a sentence of one year jail or prison time, or longer. That makes it, under Australian Immigration Law, an “aggravated felony”, and you can be excluded from entering.
Most DUIs do not have a one year or longer sentence, but certain multiple offense felony DUIs might have a sentence that fits that criteria.
Note that in Australia you cannot apply for an ETA electronic visa that is linked to your passport if you have a recent DUI. In other words, you are not eligible for a visa waiver if you have any issues with prior convictions. (Note that your mileage may vary, as there are internet reports of others having a DUI conviction and being approved for an ETA visa).
For persons applying to work in Australia, you will need to apply for a Subclass 400 Temporary Work Visa. Information on applying for a work visa and what qualifications are required are found on the official Australia Visa website.
Note that with Australian immigration forms and disclosures, it is important, to be honest – you would be allowed to enter with a DUI, but if you have anything that is untruthful on your form, including not disclosing convictions, you may be excluded from entering for falsifying information on the forms.
Entering New Zealand with a DUI
New Zealand doesn’t consider a DUI to be an aggravated felony. The sentence is important, however, and you would need to worry about DUI sentences of 12 months or more in jail within the last 10 months or any convictions where you were sentenced to 5 years or more in prison.
Under section 7(1) of the New Zealand Immigration Act, the country will not grant you a visa or permit if:
- You have been convicted and sentenced to imprisonment for 5 years or more (this applies even if any of your offences have later been taken off the record);
- In the past 10 years you were convicted and sentenced to imprisonment for 12 months or more;
- Currently, you have a removal order from New Zealand in force against you;
- You have been deported from any country, including New Zealand;
- You have been involved in terrorist activities, or belonged to or supported any organisation involved in terrorist activities
- It is believed you are likely to commit – or to assist others to commit – criminal or drug offences, or an act of terrorism, in New Zealand;
- It is believed you are likely – due to any international circumstances – to be a danger to New Zealand’s security or public order;
- It is believed you are associated with an organisation or group that has criminal objectives or is engaged in criminal activities and for that – or any other reason – you’re considered to be a threat to the public interest or public order of New Zealand.
International Travel and DUI convictions: The Best Advice
I travel a lot, and the best advice I ever received was the following:
If in doubt, contact the embassy, or consulate, of the country or countries you will be visiting and ask them outright.
Most countries have multiple consulates in the US, which are easy to find and may be local to you. Almost every country has an Embassy in the USA in the District of Columbia, Washington DC. You can find out about International Travel and DUI convictions and entry policies from the source.