Great White North

Q: I recently had a friend who was driving to a Canadian hunting trip. He was denied entry into Canada because he had a DWI on his MN driving record that was 10 years old. He lost his nonrefundable deposit on the trip. Is there a process to pre-check if you are banned from entering Canada before you plan a trip? Are passengers also excluded from entry if they have a record? What type of legal offenses get a person on the exclusion list? Does the United States have a similar exclusion list? If so how can Justin Bieber enter the U.S.?

A: The U.S. State Department's web site notes that our neighbors to the north are very serious about driving while under the influence of alcohol.

"Penalties are heavy, and any prior conviction (no matter how old or how minor the infraction) is grounds for exclusion from Canada," the State Department warns.

That doesn't mean, however, that Americans with a DUI on their record are forever deemed hosers by the Canadian authorities and can never visit The Great White North. It just takes some advance planning.

Getting across the border involves seeking advance approval for "rehabilitation" from Canadian authorities "which requires several weeks or months to process," according to the State Department.

Any number of criminal offenses can put a foreigner on Canada's unwelcome list. If it's a crime that in Canada carries a sentence of less than 10 years, the person is deemed rehabilitated if 10 years have passed since the completion of the sentence and the person has been law-abiding during that time, according to the Canadian government's website.

Five years after the completion of a criminal sentence (including probation), a would-be visitor can apply for rehabilitation. That's true even for crimes that carry sentences of more than 10 years in Canada. Again, it's about the right to APPLY for rehabilitation, and the Canadian authorities will determine if the person leads "a stable lifestyle" and is "unlikely to be involved in any further criminal activity."

The reader wondered if "passengers" with a DUI are also prohibited from Canada. They are.

As to whether the United States has a similar inadmissible list, not exactly. Visitors with a single DUI aren't excluded, although multiple misdemeanors of any type or even a single "recent" misdemeanor can keep someone out, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Drug crimes (including convictions for possession) and crimes of "moral turpitude" can also keep someone out of the U.S.A. A waiver can be sought from a U.S. consulate.

Finally, the reader wants to know why Justin Bieber is allowed to visit the United States. In Ask Us Guy's opinion — and this would be true even if the Biebs had a spotless criminal history — he should never have been allowed to enter the United States, or a recording studio for that matter.

Q: Is there a follow-up required on the Mankato airport question from a couple of weeks ago.

A: Yes, a retired engineer made a worthy point about the column focused on operations at the Mankato Regional Airport. The column mentioned that the airport's facilities are built and repaired with federal dollars contributed by "the nation's taxpayers."

"The article could lead one to think that the federal dollars come from the taxes we all pay to the federal government, when, in fact, those federal dollars mostly come from airport user taxes, that many of us pay when we buy a commercial airline ticket!!!" the engineer wrote.

True enough. The ticket taxes and taxes on aviation fuel provide the bulk of the funding for those airport grants, so the subsidy comes from a specific segment of taxpayers — the ones who fly and ride on airplanes.

Contact Ask Us at The Free Press, P.O Box 3287, Mankato, MN 56002. Call Mark Fischenich at 344-6321 or email your question to; put Ask Us in the subject line.

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