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An impaired driving charge can put your immigrant status in jeopardy.

One of the responsibilities of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is to ensure that they do not allow anyone into the country who poses a risk to public safety. If you’ve immigrated – or are intending to immigrate – to Canada, it’s important to understand that any mishap with the law can put your immigrant status at risk.

This applies to criminal convictions in Canada or in another country, regardless of whether you’re already living in Canada, and even whether you’ve already gained permanent residence.

What offenses can affect immigration status?

Canadian law states that immigrants convicted of a “serious criminal offense” could face deportation or inadmissibility to the country. Up until recently, such offenses were defined as:

  • Crimes involving theft and property
  • Crimes of a highly violent nature – including murder, manslaughter and assault
  • Drug-related crimes

However, recent updates to the law now include any type of impaired driving offense as constituting serious criminality.

What does this mean?

The new impaired driving law is extremely strict and punitive on immigrants. Anyone with any impaired driving conviction on their record in any country can permanently lose their opportunity to live in Canada. This applies even if:

  • It was your first offense
  • You did not cause an accident
  • You did not injure anyone

The importance of avoiding conviction

It’s worth understanding that being arrested for impaired driving will not automatically result in your removal from the country. An arrest or criminal charge is not the same as a conviction. In order to lose your immigrant status, you will need to be found guilty. Therefore, it’s incredibly important to take all necessary steps to avoid a conviction.

Immigrants facing criminal charges need a two-fold legal approach

Most of us assume that if we’re accused of a crime, we should seek the help of a criminal defence lawyer. However, for an immigrant facing criminal charges, consulting with an immigration lawyer to navigate the situation is equally important.

While a criminal lawyer will understand the ins and outs of criminal law – and how to create a strong case in your defence – they will not understand the relevant immigration laws that could have critical impacts on your case. For instance, your criminal defence lawyer could advise you to admit to certain facts in order to strike a plea deal, without realizing that this admission could negatively impact your immigration status.

Your immigration lawyer can work with you and your criminal lawyer to devise the best possible strategy to protect your status in Canada. They can advise you on how to speak with law enforcement. Additionally, if you are convicted, they can appeal to the Immigration and Refugee Board on your behalf. Your immigration attorney can serve as a vital advisor if you’re facing trouble with the law.