How serious is a DUI conviction? Well, among other things, it can get you barred from entering some countries, including our neighbor to the north….. as President Bush discovered.
Under Canada’s laws (Section 19(2)(a.1) of the Immigration Act), anyone who has been convicted of drunk driving is a member of an "Inadmissible Class" and his entry into the country would be a criminal and deportable offense. Period. This is a lifetime ban: President Bush’s 1976 conviction in Kennebunkport, Maine, would render him personna non grata. Same for Vice-President Cheney’s two DUIs in Wyoming.
However, Canadian law permits a person with a DUI on his record to be admitted into Canada if he has been successfully "rehabilitated". This requires applying for, and being granted, a "Minister’s Permit of Rehabilitation" from the government — but not until five years after all of the terms of the sentence have been completed (if there is a three-year probation, as is common, then it will take at least eight years). The government reviews the application, along with accompanying evidence, and applies a "rehab checklist" in deciding whether the individual has truly rehabilitated himself and should be permited to enter the country. This checklist includes evidence of genuine remorse, acceptance of responsibility, change in lifestyle, and stability in employment and family life.
As for President Bush’s little problem, the Canadian government decided to bypass all of this and simply granted him a special "pardon" permitting this unrehabilitated drunk driver into the country….for a limited period of time.