A new method for the direct synthesis of imines from alcohols and amines is described where hydrogen gas is liberated. The reaction is catalyzed by the ruthenium N-heterocyclic carbene complex [RuCl2(IiPr)(p-cymene)] in the presence of the ligand DABCO and molecular sieves. The imination can be applied to a variety of primary alcohols and amines and can be combined with a subsequent addition reaction. A deuterium labeling experiment indicates that the catalytically active species is a ruthenium dihydride. The reaction is believed to proceed by initial dehydrogenation of the alcohol to the aldehyde, which stays coordinated to ruthenium. Nucleophilic attack of the amine affords the hemiaminal, which is released from ruthenium and converted into the imine.