Can a DUI affect your immigration status?


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Tag Archives: immigration

Can a DUI affect your immigration status?

Can a DUI affect your immigration status?

Can a DUI cause immigration problems?

A common question for persons that are in the United States on a Student Visa, a Work Visa of any kind, or a Family or other visa, is whether or not a DUI will affect immigration status.

If you have qualified for any type of visa to enter the United States of America, then you have already been checked by the USCIS to qualify you for the visa.  That required that you submit information to be checked against the FBI Department of Justice criminal records reports.

For some types of visas, you also have a requirement to resubmit fingerprints and data and disclose any convictions during renewals.  It is understandable that someone that is arrested, or convicted, for a DUI here in California would be concerned about the status of their visa or petition.

What types of crimes cause immigration problems?

The Immigration and Naturalization Act is part of the United States Code.  That sets what categories of crimes could affect immigration status, by making certain crimes a problem.  The law states that for crimes that are prohibited, you can be:

  • Excluded from admission into the United States of America;
  • Ineligible to obtain visas issued by the USCIS; or
  • Offenses that are deportable, which will cause you to be kicked out of the country.

As broad categories, the Federal INA makes convictions of the following types of crimes a problem:

  1. Crimes of moral turpitude;
  2. Crimes of violence;
  3. Crimes involving terrorism;
  4. Crimes involving transportation, sales, or creation of narcotics; or
  5. Crimes involving firearms.

Note that a crime of moral turpitude is defined as one that gravely violates the normal standards of the community.  Theft or embezzlement crimes are usually crimes of moral turpitude.

You will note that drinking and driving is not listed here.  Drinking and driving doesn’t generally fit any of the categories of crimes that pose an immigration problem.

However, the facts of a DUI case are important.  There are certain enhancements that can make a DUI more serious, that may be a problem, or other crimes that can occur along with a DUI that might match one of the above.

Can a DUI affect your immigration status by being a problem offense?

Under a separate, rarely invoked section of the Immigration Act, someone can be excluded from admission for having a medical condition, and alcoholism is considered in caselaw as a medical condition.  While that is so rare as to be unlikely, for persons that have multiple DUIs, the USCIS could make an argument that a person with a second time DUI, a third time DUI, or a felony fourth DUI or more suffers from alcoholism as a medical condition.  That could make that person excludable from entering the USA.

Can a DUI affect your immigration status?

The answer, like much of law, is shrouded in shades of grey, and is highly dependent upon the facts.  But in general, a DUI is not the type of crime that can affect any type of immigration visa (subject to the disclaimers and caveats for special situations above).

Contact Us. If you have questions about immigration and a DUI, please contact us anytime.  We are happy to help.