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How a drink driving ban could affect you travelling abroad

A drink driving conviction could jeopardise your chances of working, studying, or even travelling abroad, writes motoring lawyer Jeanette Miller.

Older driver being alcohol breath tested

If convicted for a drink driving offence you face a minimum 12-month driving ban 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 your chances of working, studying, or even travelling abroad on holiday in certain countries.

So which country has the harshest immigration policy?


Road sign in 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's 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's unlikely that a conviction for a drink-driving offence will prevent you from obtaining a visa to enter Australia.


Driving in USA

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

You'll need to have relevant documents relating to your situation when applying for a visa.

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

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

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

You'll then 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.


Majestic mountain in 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 resident permit at the Canadian Embassy in London.

A Canadian immigration officer will determine 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:

  • You're able to satisfy an immigration officer that you meet the legal requirement to be deemed rehabilitated.
  • You have applied for rehabilitation and were approved.
  • You were granted a record suspension.
  • You have a temporary resident permit.


Lights in Shanghai

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 also okay.

Jeanette Miller's advice

If travelling abroad and you're 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.

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Jeanette Miller

Jeanette Miller

Lawyer and legal blogger Jeanette Miller is managing director of motoring law specialists Geoffrey Miller Solicitors.

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