How A DUI Can Affect Your Immigration Status


Individuals who are not citizens of the United States must undergo extensive background checks before they are admitted, while they are applying for adjustment of status and after they have been granted lawful presence. If they are convicted of a crime such as DUI, there can be significant consequences.

Nature of Immigration Process

A person must have a legally valid reason to immigrate to the United States. In some cases, this is based on a relationship between an immigrant and an American citizen or legal permanent resident. In other cases, a person immigrates based on employment with an employer in the United States. There are also cases in which a person is granted asylum, protected status or treatment as a refugee based on conditions in the individual’s home country. 

Criminal Behavior

For all immigrants, immigration status can be put at risk if the immigrant commits a crime while in the United States. Criminal behavior can prevent a person from being admitted into the country if he or she has not already been so. It can cause a person to be removed from the country once he or she is in the United States legally. It can also cause a person to be refused the ability to become a citizen in the United States. 

Crimes Involving DUI

The first thing for an immigrant to realize is the nature of the DUI charge against him or her.  This category usually includes alcohol or drugs, including illegal street drugs, prescription drugs and over-the-counter drugs. The charge may be referred to as a DWI in some states, which stands for driving while intoxicated. 

There are often various categories of DUI, ranging from different seriousness in the eyes of the courts. Each case is unique. While one type of DUI may not have immigration consequences in a certain context, it may in another. A simple DUI may be a misdemeanor, first-time offense. This type of DUI may not have as significant an impact on a person’s immigration status as a more serious DUI. More serious DUIs may involve an accident that resulted in injury or death of another, a very high blood alcohol content, reckless driving or a longer history of DUI convictions. 

Potential Impact on Immigration Status

A DUI conviction can have an impact on a person’s immigration status in a number of ways. This includes:

Finding of Inadmissibility

If a person is seeking an immigrant visa or nonimmigrant visa, he or she can be denied admission based on a DUI conviction under limited circumstances. This includes if the DUI was a result of a crime involving a controlled substance, if the sentence for multiple DUIs was for five years or more, if it is considered a crime involving moral turpitude or if the conviction supports the contention that the defendant is a habitual drunk. 

Effect on Employment

In some cases, a DUI conviction may cause a person to lose his or her job. This may be because driving is involved in the position, court time causes too much absence from work or the conviction is contrary to the employer’s policy. If an immigrant’s status is based on employment, this can cause him or her to lose the visa. 


In some circumstances, a DUI conviction can result in a person being deportable. Individuals who are convicted of an aggravated felony, a crime of moral turpitude, a crime of violence or crimes that have a combined sentence of a requisite period of time may be deportable. A person can be deportable if the conviction involves a controlled substance based on federal law.


If a person wants to adjust status from a permanent legal resident to a citizen, he or she goes through the naturalization process. This process requires the applicant to show that he or she has good moral characters for at least five years before he or she submits the application for naturalization. Additionally, if the DUI resulted in probation, the individual is not able to naturalize until after his or her probation is completed. 

Discretionary Benefits

In some cases, immigration decisions are based on a discretionary basis when there is no actual entitlement to the benefit. In these cases, any criminal convictions may be considered when making these decisions. 

Legal Assistance

An immigration lawyer can provide advice and recommendations on how to minimize the impact of a DUI charge. He or she may make suggestions on ways to prove good moral character or may suggest waiting for a certain amount of time after a conviction occurs before applying for additional benefits.

If you have any additional questions or queries contact us at (954).944.2799 or email info@DSALegalGroup.com

Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact an attorney. 

Source: HG