Skip navigation

Blog: How a drink driving ban could affect you travelling abroad

Airport terminal signA drink driving conviction could jeopardise a person’s chances of working, studying, or even travelling abroad, writes motoring lawyer Jeanette Miller.

If convicted for a drink driving offence you face a minimum 12 months ban from driving and a hefty - maximum £5,000 - fine.

But unlike penalty points the conviction is classed as a criminal record.

And this means it could also jeopardise a person’s chances of working, studying, or even travelling abroad on holiday or working in certain countries.

So which country has the harshest immigration policy?

Australia

If you wish to visit Australia, either as a tourist or on business you need a pre-arranged Electronic Travel Authority (ETA).

While these are usually granted automatically, there can be delays if you have a criminal record, such as being convicted for drink driving.

In certain cases your application may be referred to the Australian High Commission - the Australian Embassy in London.

It is also worth noting that if you have a criminal record you may have to apply for a police certificate which can take up to 49 days. 

All Australian Visa applicants will have to satisfy the ‘character test’ which is set out in Section 501 of the Migration Act 1958.

And a person will not pass the character test if they have a substantial criminal record.

However, while it may delay your application, it is very unlikely that a conviction for a drink driving offence will prevent you from obtaining a visa to enter Australia. 

USA

If you have ever been arrested - even if the arrest did not lead to a conviction - or if you have a criminal conviction including drink driving, you must apply for a visa.

If you have ever been arrested and/or have a criminal conviction you will be required to provide documents relating to your situation in support of the application.

In cases where the arrest resulted in a conviction, the individual may be permanently ineligible to receive a visa, and in order to travel a waiver of the permanent ineligibility is required.

Applicants are required to furnish an Association of Chief Police Officers Police Certificate issued within six months of the date of the visa interview.

Information on obtaining the police certificate is available from the Association of Chief Police Officers’ Criminal Records Office website.

You will then have to have a face-to-face meeting with the U.S Embassy in London to seek eligibility for a visa.

It can take between 90 days and six months for the visa to be approved.

Canada

Canada sets out all kinds of criteria to demonstrate an offender has been rehabilitated before they may enter the country.

You can apply for a temporary at the Canadian Embassy in London and a determination is made by a Canadian immigration officer on whether the charge/conviction makes the offender “inadmissible” to Canada under the country’s Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

You may be allowed to travel to Canada if:

China

The online application form asks you to give details of any criminal record in China or any other country.

There is no official guidance as to what extent previous convictions would be taken into account.

But the Chinese visa service said going to prison for six months for drink driving would probably be okay because “drink driving isn’t that serious”.

Anecdotal evidence from forums seems to say that minor offences are OK.

However, I am not sure that a drink driving offence resulting in a six-month prison sentence is at all minor!

My advice

If travelling abroad and you are worried that your motoring conviction could result in your being refused entry, always check the specific country’s policy.

Declare any criminal convictions you may have in your application and before travelling, despite how minor you may feel it is.

Motor lawyer Jeanette Miller, is a senior partner at Geoffrey Miller Solicitors, a UK firm specialising solely in defending drivers who face prosecution for motoring offences. She is also a member of the Association of Motor Offence Lawyers.




Jeanette Miller

Jeanette Miller

Motor lawyer Jeanette Miller is the managing director of Geoffrey Miller Solicitors, a UK firm specialising solely in defending drivers who face prosecution for motoring offences.

View more from Jeanette



Most popular articles


Compare car insurance

You could find a great deal in minutes

Compare Car Insurance

Blogs

Our blogs get people talking. Read all the latest from our contributors in the new blog section.

Blogs