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Student Visas and Criminal Records


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Getting information regarding my problem is more important than privately reserving my shameful secret in my already-anonymity, so:

I was accepted to a Canadian university and would like to attend, but I am an American and, well, I kind of have a bit of a criminal record. Nothing too serious; just a couple of minor misdemeanor blemishes. The thing is, one of these "misdemeanors" was a DUI conviction. From my understanding, Canada takes DUI offenses rather seriously (and who can blame them for doing so?), as they are felonies there. This DUI offense happened about six years ago, and I am truly embarrassed by it, as well as remorseful. But what happened, happened. My question is: Will I be given a student visa with this on my record? I know that people have been refused even basic entry to Canada for short vacations with DUI convictions on their record. In short, I am extremely anxious and concerned about this.

Any and all insights, advice, suggestions, information, etc. would really help me out. I appreciate it in advance. Thanks, and I hope everyone's application cycle is going well!

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If you were actually convicted, then Canada will view it as a crime and it's highly likely that they will refuse your request for a student visa. You should consult the details on the Citizenship and Immigration Gov't of Canada site, which says in order to be eligible for a student visa...

  • You must be a law-abiding citizen with no criminal record and not be a risk to the security of Canada. You may have to provide a police certificate.


I'm not sure if there are exceptions to this, so you should just call them directly and ask, and also call the International Student Centre at your prospective uni and ask them too (I'm sure they've encountered this same issue before). Your question can probably be definitively answered in one or two well-placed phonecalls.

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As long as five years have passed since completion of your criminal sentence, you may apply for a waiver to enter Canada. Even George W. Bush had to get a waiver to enter Canada because he had an drunk-driving charge from the 70's. It may take 6-12 months to get the waiver, so you will need to consider this when deciding to accept an offer from a Canadian university (particularly if you plan to enter in the fall). For more information on this waiver, check out the following site: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/information/applications/rehabil.asp

I hope this helps and good luck!

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There's also a possibility you have already been 'deemed rehabilitated' if five years have passed since you completed your sentence (which, as I understand it, includes the length of license suspension so you'll be cutting it close.) Most US misdemeanors, even gross misdemeanors, are automatically deemed rehabilitated in 5-10 years after sentence completion. Though it would depend on your actual conviction (increased time if you blew over a .15 or were involved in an accident etc). It might be unlikely you have this option available if you have a couple of misdemeanors though...

If you want applying for individual rehabilitation, which is probably your best option, start TODAY because there is a long waiting period. You may be able to speed this up my paying an expedited fee or something... But you will again be asked to give details regarding the initial offense, proof you completed all sentences (including any suggested treatment/education), and three letter from 'responsible citizens' verifying that you are now the type of person they should let into Canada. Also the general fee for applying for this can be up to $1000.


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