I am an international student, caught with a drinking/driving charge.  What should I do?

Police Car LightsFirst of all, as an international student, you have an implied condition that you will abide by all Canadian laws.  When you are charged with a criminal offence, you actually breach that implied condition to your study permit.  However, because you should receive all of the Canadian legal benefits, such as the presumption of being innocent before you’re found guilty at the end of your due process, Citizenship and Immigration Canada will wait until the criminal justice system carries out its due procedure before taking any legal action.

In many cases, international students, or even temporary foreign workers want to deal with the issue as soon as possible as they’re scared and embarrassed that they got themselves into trouble.  When they go to criminal court without a lawyer, they will then meet a duty counsel provided by the court.  Again, in many cases, such duty counsel may not ask for their immigration status, but look at their charge sheet provided by the Crown’s office.  For a “simple” and/or “first charge,” they may recommend that the student plead guilty to reduce a sentence in a form of a fine (payment) or a probation.  Unfortunately, this decision is considered a criminal conviction to an indictable offence in Canada, which creates a criminal inadmissibility issue for international students, or temporary foreign workers.  As a result,  Citizenship and Immigration Canada asks Canada Border Services Agency to begin a removal procedure under section 44 of Immigration Refugee Protection Act based on section 36 of the same Act.

In any criminal proceeding, before making any decisions, you must immediately advise your criminal lawyer or duty counsel of your immigration status and seek immigration advice.  A quick, easy way out in a criminal proceeding may actually cause problems surrounding your immigration status that may not be solved before you are physically removed from Canada.

If you have any individual questions or concerns, please contact our office for more customized consultation for your unique situation.  Please note that this posting is for general information only and is not to be considered binding or official legal counsel since situations will vary and can be complicated. The content in this post is current as of the day of entry. Due to the changing nature of Immigration law, the information in this entry may or may not still be applicable.

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