DUI or Driving Under the Influence (of drugs or alcohol) carries harsh penalties, but the consequences are even more dire if you are not a citizen of the United States.
Many immigrants think that a DUI offense cannot affect their immigration status, but the truth is that criminal convictions, especially crimes of moral turpitude — which includes DUI, may be enough basis for removal, denial of entry, denial of application of citizenship, and other immigration consequences.
Any non-U.S. citizen charged with DUI needs an experienced immigration attorney to help them manage the immigration-related implications of a conviction.
Consequences of DUI for Green Card Holders
Can a person legal permanent resident status be deported because of a DUI offense? Well, the short answer is YES. Your green card or LPR status cannot protect you against removal from the U.S., especially if you’ve committed a criminal offense, such as a DUI.
While one misdemeanor DUI may not put you at risk if being deported, multiple DUIs or a felony DUI can. The common charges associated with a DUI offense such as criminal damage, endangerment, having children in the car, or driving under the influence of drugs can also render you deportable or inadmissible to the United States.
Green card holders and LPRs with DUI convictions could be tried in immigration court. If the judge determines that your offense matches any of the grounds for deportability, you can have your green card taken away.
Moreover, those with their green card applications still pending approval may find that a DUI on their record can make the entire process longer than usual.
Consequences of DUI for Current Visa Holders
If you’re in the United States on a valid visa, a DUI arrest could bring severe consequences your way. Both the federal government and immigration authorities take DUI offenses very seriously. Many DUI offenders have had their visas revoked by the State Department and were either deported or required to re-apply.
Even if you did not end up having your immigrant visa revoked, a DUI offense could still create problems for you once you leave and then re-enter the United States. A crime on your record could subject you to increased customs scrutiny when reapplying for a visa or, worse, become a ground for inadmissibility and bar your entry into the U.S.
According to U.S. Immigration laws, people who have committed crimes of moral turpitude may be ineligible for admission to the United States. Multiple DUI offenses and DUI with aggravating factors typically involve moral turpitude and can make you inadmissible to the U.S. after having left.
Consequences of DUI for Undocumented Immigrants and DACA Recipients
Those who are in the U.S. without immigration status are already in a very vulnerable position, and a DUI on their record will only put them in a tighter spot. In many parts of the country, immigration officers have been making arrests and deporting people who are both undocumented and with prior DUI.
If you’re a DACA recipient or applying for one, committing a DUI offense could likely cost you your DACA status. DACA is a discretionary benefit. Any convictions can affect your DACA eligibility and put you at risk of deportation.
Because of the grave consequences of DUI, it’s critical for DACA recipients with DUI charges to work with a DUI attorney who is experienced in mitigating the immigration consequences of driving under the influence.
Consequences of DUI on U.S. Citizenship Application
As a green card holder, the most natural next step is to apply for a U.S. citizenship. But since one of the primary requirements for naturalization is “good moral character,” a legal permanent resident with a DUI charge will generally have a harder time obtaining citizenship than others.
In many states, naturalization is usually denied if the applicant has a DUI or DWAI type conviction within the past five years. For a better shot at getting approved, wait until at least five years since your conviction has passed and you have established a clean record before applying for citizenship.
Note, though, that even after five years, a DUI charge can still delay your application for naturalization because the USCIS will likely require you to provide court documents about your conviction/arrest and study the circumstances surrounding it before coming up with a decision.
Get Legal Help
Any criminal conviction, not just DUI, can have extensive and lasting immigration ramifications. Handled improperly, a DUI charge can lead to deportation or – worse – cost you your U.S. citizenship.
To ensure that the immigration consequences of your DUI, or any criminal offense, is given full consideration and does not jeopardize your chances of permanently living and working in the United States, contact an experienced criminal and immigration lawyer for advice.
About the Author
Andrea Williams is the Community Manager at The Law Offices of Alcock & Associates P.C., a premier law group in Arizona that provides legal services to clients involved in Personal Injury, DUI, Immigration and Criminal cases. She enjoys cooking, reading books and playing minigolf with her friends and family in her spare time.