By Alary E. Piibe, May 2, 2017
|DUI’s are bad. And immigration law has little tolerance for them. The level of danger depends on the severity of the DUI conviction, the number of DUI convictions, and the immigrant’s status in the U.S. (documented or undocumented).
DUI’s can be considered a Crime Involving Moral Turpitude (CIMT)
CIMT’s can make you ineligible for certain immigration benefits: green cards, citizenship, and more. Also, CIMT’s can be a ground for deportation/removal. Generally, a first-time single DUI is not a CIMT. However, if the DUI occurred while driving on a suspended license, then it could be a CIMT. Also, DUI’s involving an accident, property damage, or injury to a person could be considered a CIMT. Whether a DUI is considered a CIMT depends on your state’s DUI laws: how they are written and how you are charged.
DUI involving drugs, not alcohol
If the DUI occurred while under the influence of a controlled substance, it can also be considered a “drug related” conviction. Controlled substance violations can carry even more serious immigration consequences.
A record of multiple DUI convictions, or even arrests without conviction, could have several impacts. First, it may be seen as a pattern of “habitual drunkenness” or a substance abuse problem; these findings can affect various types of cases, discussed below. Second, this type of record could be used as a discretionary factor against you.
Green card holders (lawful permanent residents)
A DUI which is a CIMT will trigger deportation/removal proceedings if it occurs within five years of getting your green card and carries a sentence of one year or longer. After five years have passed, then it will take a second DUI CIMT to trigger deportation/removal, regardless of sentence for either one. Some people may be entitled to certain relief that would allow them to keep their green cards, but if the DUI is “drug related,” then there may not be any chance.
Applying for naturalization (citizenship)
Naturalization applicants must demonstrate good moral character for a period of five years immediately preceding their application (or three years if the green card was obtained through a U.S. citizen spouse). A DUI CIMT or a drug-related DUI during this time could ruin your good moral character. Moreover, you will lack good moral character if you served more than 180 days in jail for any DUI during this time. You are also ineligible to naturalize while you are still on probation for any DUI offense. Finally, a record of multiple DUI’s and/or arrests will raise the spectre of “habitual drunkenness,” which also is a basis for denying naturalization.
Applying for green cards, temporary visas, DACA and other immigration benefits
A DUI CIMT makes you “inadmissible” to the U.S., which is a bar to green cards, temporary visas, and other benefits. In some cases, you may be eligible for a waiver but this will cost you additional time, expense and effort. A drug-related DUI could make you inadmissible, with no waiver available. Additionally, a record of multiple DUI’s could make you inadmissible for suspected substance abuse problems. Finally, any DUI is a bar to DACA benefits.
Temporary visas can be revoked
A simple DUI– and even a DUI arrest– can and will likely result in your temporary visa being revoked by the Department of State. Although you can remain in the U.S. for the remainder of your I-94 period, once you leave the U.S. then you must return to your home country for an interview for a new visa, and possibly a medical exam to establish that you do not have a substance abuse problem.
Due to its criminal nature, a DUI arrest or conviction could put you at greater danger for detention by ICE while officers determine if you should be placed into deportation/removal proceedings.
Consult an experienced immigration attorney who can advise you about the immigration consequences if you have any DUI-related activity.