Can I immigrate with a DUI?

Driving under the influence (DUI) is illegal in the United States, and unfortunately, many persons seeking to immigrate have been arrested or charged with a DUI.  The penalties for a DUI vary by state, which means that certain DUIs will have more immigration consequences than others.  For example, in California, one DUI conviction typically will not have an adverse affect on your immigration status.


Whether a DUI will have more serious consequences depends on whether it would be deemed a crime involving moral turpitude (this is a term of art that requires your attorney to engage in a case-specific analysis).  Each case is unique.  In general, a DUI is deemed a misdemeanor offense and would not be considered a crime involving moral turpitude.  This may be true even if you have had more than one DUI.  However, in certain cases, a DUI could result in deportation or make you inadmissible to the United States.  For example, a DUI conviction in some states (e.g., Arizona) could constitute a crime involving moral turpitude if the person charged with the DUI had a certain mental state (e.g., driving under the influence with the knowledge that you are prohibited from doing so). 

Below are some of the ways that a DUI can affect noncitizens.


1.      A green card holder (legal permanent resident) who is convicted of driving under the influence could be placed into removal proceedings.

2.      Someone who does not have a green card, but who is seeking to apply for a green card or a nonimmigrant visa, may be inadmissible if that person committed certain crimes (e.g., child endangerment) in addition to being convicted of a DUI.

3.      A nonimmigrant (e.g., student, tourist, etc.) who is convicted of a DUI then seeks to adjust status by marrying a United States citizen likely will be subject to Section 212(a) of the INA.  If the DUI conviction is classified as a crime of violence or a crime involving moral turpitude, the intending immigrant could be denied admission to the United States.  This could result in deportation proceedings if the person is no longer in valid nonimmigrant status.

4.      A DUI can also affect persons applying for citizenship, in certain circumstances.  Though one DUI conviction does not necessarily prevent someone from becoming a United States citizen, such a conviction could lead to a finding of inadmissibility due to some other ground, such as alcohol or drug abuse.  That is, someone classified under the law as a habitual drunkard could be barred from becoming a citizen.  Importantly, however, one or more DUI convictions, without more, does not render someone a habitual drunkard absent a determination by an independent medical professional that the person is a habitual drunkard.

When a person receives a DUI, his or her fingerprints and photographs are registered in a national database accessible by immigration agencies such as USCIS.  Therefore, whenever someone with a DUI applies for an immigration benefit, the adjudicating agency will know about the DUI.  That is why it is very important for criminal attorneys and immigration attorneys to take extra precautions when assisting noncitizens who have been convicted of a DUI.  An attorney representing persons with DUI convictions (or other crimes) should be familiar with the applicable criminal laws and the immigration consequences of each crime.  A good attorney will attempt to negotiate an agreement with the government that would prevent the crime from being rendered a “conviction” for immigration purposes.

In practice, a DUI typically becomes part of the record by the time that the noncitizen is in immigration court.  Because a DUI conviction cannot be challenged directly in immigration court, denying the existence of the conviction may be more harmful to the noncitizen’s case.  Under the Trump Administration, immigration judges and immigration authorities have become especially strict onalcohol abuse and driving under the influence of alcohol or a controlledsubstance. 


If you have been convicted of a DUI or other crime, make sure to hire best immigration attorney in USA who will put in the extra effort and time to performing the proper legal analysis and ensuring that your rehabilitation efforts are extensively documented.  An immigration judge or adjudicating officer at USCIS will appreciate persons who establish a strong system of accountability for their actions, especially if the DUI is recent.


If you would like specific information about the potential immigration consequences of your DUI or other crime, do not hesitate to contact our law firm for a free consultation.