[The Serious] Immigration Consequences of a DUI

When a person who is not a citizen is convicted of DUI, this conviction can have a serious effect on his or her ability to be admitted to the United States or remain in the United States.


If a person has not yet entered the United States, his or her primary concern will be whether a DUI can make him or her inadmissible, meaning that he or she will not be able to acquire a visa or a green card. Laws regarding inadmissibility deal with when a person is barred from entering the country with an immigrant or nonimmigrant visa. However, inadmissibility laws also deal with re-entry, such as when an immigrant is initially granted lawful status, travels to another country and then seeks to come into the United States again. There are several laws that affect whether a person is admissible or not, including:

Commission of a Crime of Moral Turpitude

One way that a person is considered inadmissible is if he or she commits a crime of moral turpitude. This type of crime is usually considered a serious offense that goes against social norms. Often, crimes of violence are considered crimes involving moral turpitude such as murder, assault or rape. On its own without any aggravating factors, one DUI does not generally fall under this umbrella. 

Committing a Crime Involving a Controlled Substance

The United States takes a hard stance against drugs and includes the commission of a crime involving a controlled substance as a ground to deny admissibility. Sometimes even if a person admits to violating a criminal substance law and has not been convicted, he or she can still be considered inadmissible. Since some DUI convictions are based on being under the influence of a drug, this provision may be implicated depending on the particular circumstances.

Crimes Involving a Sentence of Five Years

A person is also considered inadmissible if he or she has been convicted of two or more crimes that resulted in a sentence of five years or more. While a single DUI does not usually include a sentence of this term, multiple DUIs when added together may. The suspended portion of a sentence may be included in the calculation. 

Addiction Status

Another ground for inadmissibility is if the immigrant has a drug or alcohol addiction. Multiple DUI convictions may support a determination to this effect. 

Being convicted of multiple DUI offenses or when aggravating factors are present may be enough to make a person inadmissible depending on the particular circumstances involved in the case. 

Deportable Consequences

After a person receives lawful immigration status and is admitted to the United States, he or she may be deportable, or removable in immigration terms, if he or she commits certain crimes. His or her green card can be taken away or he or she can otherwise be stripped of lawful status, resulting in him or her being taken out of the country and barred from re-entry for many years. A person can be considered deportable in the following circumstances:

Conviction of an Aggravated Felony

If a person is convicted of an aggravated felony, he or she can be deportable. This type of crime is usually considered serious in nature any involve such crimes as murder, rape, trafficking, obstruction of justice, using false documents, forgery and other crimes. There is a long list of offenses that are listed in this category. The relevant determination is how the crime is classified under immigration law and not whether the crime was considered a misdemeanor or felony under state law. Additionally, some crimes must have resulted in a conviction of one year or more in order to qualify as an aggravated felony. In the determination of whether an immigrant was convicted of an aggravated felony, the immigration court can consider cases in which the immigrant’s sentence was deferred even if it would not be considered a conviction under state law. If a case was expunged, the court can still consider it as a conviction.

Commission of a Crime of Moral Turpitude

Like with admissibility, the immigration officer can consider a crime involving moral turpitude. The officer looks at any such crime committed within five years of admission and for which the sentence was one year or more. The officer can also consider whether there were two separate crimes involving moral turpitude. 

Offenses Related to a Controlled Substance

Another possibility is if the individual commits a crime involving a controlled substance.
An immigration lawyer can discuss the potential ramifications of being convicted of a DUI and how it may impact the person’s ability to enter or remain in the country.
Source: HG

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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.