How Getting Charged with a DUI can Affect My Chances of Getting a Green Card?

When applying for a US permanent resident aka green card, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will want to know whether or not the person applying has been implicated in any criminal related acts, other than getting traffic tickets. Here, we are going to talk about how getting charged with a DUI can affect an individual’s chances of getting a green card.

What’s a DUI?

In the United States, DUI stands for ‘driving while under the influence.’ While this mostly means, driving under the influence of alcohol, it can also include drugs, which is also known as DWI or OWI in some states. (In Iowa, it is OWI, or Operating While Intoxicated.)  When it comes to cases of DUI, the facts may vary from person to person. For instance, in a simple DUI, the driver may have been pulled over by the police and got a high breath result. But, more often than not, a DUI involves reckless driving which can result to an accident, bodily injury and even the death of another person. These factors may also lead to criminal convictions, and is exactly what will be considered by the USCIS during the application process.

What’s a Conviction?

A conviction means that the court has found a person to be guilty, or the person has entered a ‘nolo contendere’, or ‘plea of guilty’. Additionally, the court will also sentence the person convicted to some sort of penalty or punishment that will be decided by the court. Whether the person serves the sentence that’s handed out to them or the sentence is suspended does not make a difference once a person has been convicted. That’s because in the US, the federal immigration law, as given in, Immigration and Nationality Act (I.N.A.) Section 101(a) (48) (A), 8 U.S.C. Section 1101(a) (48) (A) has its own definition of what is to be considered as a conviction.

Will a DUI Make Me Inadmissible?

People who have been convicted of crimes involving moral turpitude are usually inadmissible. But, there is no set definition for moral turpitude, and decisions are handled on a case-by-case basis. Mainly, for any crime to considered a crime involving moral turpitude, it has to be committed with intent. Keeping that in mind, DUIs do not require intent, so they are typically not considered a crime involving moral turpitude. That said, if a DUI was committed along with another offense, such as, reckless driving or the use of illegal drugs, or either by driving without a valid driver’s license, while having a child on board or which resulted in someone getting injured, it can be a different story. For example, driving while under the influence while having a child in the car will be seen as a disregard for safety of others, and thus, will supply the intent required for calling it a crime involving moral turpitude.

In other cases, DUI involves the use of illegal drugs, or prescription drugs that are not taken pursuant to doctor’s orders, which is also a separate grounds for inadmissibility.  In cases where the DUI stems from addiction to drug use, the USCIS could also ask for a medical report, and will consider you inadmissible on grounds of public health. For a person who is seeking a permanent residence in the UK it is crucial not to attempt to conceal the conviction, because the USCIS will find out sooner or later and deny your application. In this situation, it would be wise to hire a qualified immigration attorney who can guide you through the legal process.


Contact the Law Office of Raphael M. Scheetz if you have any further questions.


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