California, US

Jul 05 2018

Changes to Sentencing for Impaired Driving will Increase Inadmissibility to Canada


The situation

Bill C-46, which will increase the maximum term of imprisonment for driving while impaired, received Royal Assent and will take effect on December 18, 2018.

A closer look

  • Bill details. Effective December 18, 2018, the bill will increase the maximum term of imprisonment for driving while impaired from not more than five years to not more than ten years.
  • Effect of lengthier sentencing. Due to the change in the maximum sentencing provision, impaired driving will now be categorized as “serious criminality”, which affects the scope of inadmissibility under Canadian immigration law.
  • Background. Currently, a foreign national with a single impaired driving conviction in Canada or abroad is inadmissible to Canada for ‘regular’ criminality. Regular and serious criminality can be overcome in the short term by applying for a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP) or in the long term by applying for criminal rehabilitation. In the case of the TRP, if the crime is categorized as ‘regular criminality’, the foreign national is more likely to have it granted. Additionally, under the current law, foreign nationals with a single impaired driving conviction will be deemed rehabilitated after 10 years have passed since the completion of the sentencing component of the offense and will no longer need a TRP.


Effect of ‘serious criminality’ determination:

  • Temporary residents. By categorizing impaired driving as ‘serious criminality’, a foreign national who has been convicted of driving while impaired, or a similar offense, will no longer be automatically deemed rehabilitated 10 years after the completion of the sentence. The foreign national will only have the option of applying for criminal rehabilitation or a TRP.
  • Permanent residents. A finding of serious criminality makes a permanent resident inadmissible and may result in loss of PR status. If the person is sentenced to a term of imprisonment of six months or more, the right to appeal the loss of status is gone and a permanent resident can be removed from Canada.
  • Inadmissibility classification. Foreign nationals with pending applications for permanent residence, who have been convicted of driving while impaired, or similar offenses, under the new classification, may now be inadmissible to Canada.  The inadmissibility of the main applicant may also affect the admissibility of the accompanying dependents. The inadmissibility may be cured by filing with an approved application for criminal rehabilitation.
  • Possible retroactive application. It is possible that current temporary or permanent residents who have committed such a crime and who have previously been deemed rehabilitated because of the passage of time, may become inadmissible to Canada.  Fragomen will provide updates as information is confirmed on this topic.


Looking ahead

The Canadian government has yet to release program directives regarding the application of Bill C-46 and impact on foreign nationals and permanent residents in Canada who were previously deemed rehabilitated. It is also unclear at this time whether the current policy of immigration officers allowing U.S. nationals with one driving under the influence offense to be admitted to Canada with a TRP (but with a waived fee) will continue.

Foreign nationals who have a conviction for impaired driving, or related matter, who wish to enter Canada should consider applying for permanent criminal rehabilitation and consult their legal advisors.

This alert is for informational purposes only. If you have any questions, please contact the global immigration professional with whom you work at Fragomen or send an email to