Getting a DUI will make your life harder in multiple ways, but we rarely consider the impact it can have on your ability to travel abroad. Sure, the potential for injury to you and others, astronomical fines, marks on your record, and possible jail time should be big enough to deter you from drinking and driving, but to top it off, some countries may bar you from entering their borders for as many as 10 years. The last thing you want is to book your dream vacation, arrive at the country’s border, and be turned away because of your DUI. If you have a DUI on your record and you’re planning a trip to these seven countries, even if you are only backpacking and not driving, you may be denied entry or be required to provide special documentation.
Mexico takes a harsh stance against DUI convicts. Foreigners with drunk driving convictions within the past 10 years are generally refused entry into Mexico. This is because the country’s immigration laws consider a DUI an indictable offense, similar to a felony, and felons are prohibited from entering. Mexican border guards have, however, been known to let travelers pass through with very little scrutiny, so while you could always risk it, don’t be surprised if you’re turned away.
2. United Arab Emirates
Since the Emirates adhere strictly to Muslim scripture, wherein the consumption of alcohol is a sin, their stance on DUI’s is predictably harsh. No specific laws prevent travelers with a DUI from entering any Emirati country, but alcohol-related offenses are frowned upon and may make entry more difficult. Your success really depends upon the strictness of the individual immigration officer.
As a US citizen, entering Iran is already pretty difficult. Trying to enter with a DUI is even more so. Since there are no Iranian embassies within US borders, Iran does not have access to your criminal record. However, you must undergo a “good conduct screening,” during which they will ask you about your history with drugs, alcohol, and related convictions. Admitting to a drinking and driving conviction will likely result in the immigration officer denying you entrance. Similar to the UAE, it ultimately depends upon the individual officer and on what you decide to disclose.
4. China, Japan, and Malaysia
In contrast to Iran and the UAE where total honesty might not be the best policy, it’s in your best interest to disclose your DUI when entering China, Japan, or Malaysia. These countries conduct extensive background checks, and lying about past misdemeanor charges or a criminal background is actually worse than revealing it. For your best chance at entry, contact the US consulate to determine the best course of action. Usually, that means applying for a free travel waiver.
Canada is sneakily one of the most difficult places for US citizens with a DUI to travel. Impaired driving is considered a felony in Canada, and anyone with a DUI is restricted from entering the country for at least five years. Once the five years are complete, and if you have an otherwise clean criminal history, you can pay a $200 fine or apply for criminal rehabilitation to be allowed entrance into Canada. If you’re patient, you could also simply wait 10 years after the conviction to be deemed “rehabilitated by time.” Further details of Canada’s DUI laws can be found here.
6. South Africa
While misdemeanor DUI’s are not a problem in South Africa, a DUI classified as a felony could present serious problems. You will be expected to voluntarily disclose any criminal record at the South African border, even if not asked specifically. Failure to do so is called “deception by silence” and will result in your immediate refusal. If you do disclose your situation and are denied — again, depending upon the judgment of the immigration officer — you can return to the country once the conviction has left your record.
Traveling to Australia is relatively easy for US citizens, but they still must obtain an electronic visa. The visa application includes passing a character test, meaning the applicant must have no substantial criminal record, no convictions, and no association with anyone involved in criminal conduct. For those with a history of criminal misconduct, Australia can permanently prevent you from entering the country. If you do have a DUI, your best bet is to apply for a travel waiver.