Will My Green Card Be Denied Because of My DUI?

Driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol is a serious crime. If you have a DUI on your record, you may be wondering how it will affect your green card application and whether you will be approved for your green card.

Drunk driving, by itself, is usually not grounds to deny an applicant a green card.  However, in certain circumstances, drunk driving can result in inadmissibility on health-related or criminal-related grounds. 

When considering whether your DUI will disqualify you on health-related grounds, it is important to note that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) treats alcoholism and alcohol use disorders (abuse or dependence) as a physical or mental disorder. Applicants with a physical or mental disorder will only be inadmissible if they exhibit harmful behavior associated with their disorder that has posed or is likely to pose a threat to the property, safety, or welfare of the alien or others.

During your green card application process, you will be medically evaluated for disorders, including alcoholism, and any associated harmful behavior. Driving a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol does qualify as an associated harmful behavior. Therefore, if you are evaluated and found to be an alcoholic or have an alcohol use disorder, the DUI in conjunction with the disorder may amount to a health-related ground for inadmissibility.

If you fail to report alcohol-related driving incidents during your medical evaluation, the incident will likely be revealed in your criminal record anyway. In such a case, an immigration officer may require a re-examination if you have a significant criminal record of alcohol-related driving incidents, including:

  • One or more arrests or convictions for alcohol-related driving incidents while your driver’s license was suspended, revoked, or restricted at the time of the arrest due to a previous alcohol-related driving incident.
  • One or more arrests or convictions for alcohol-related driving incidents where personal injury or death resulted from the incident.
  • One or more convictions for alcohol-related driving incidents where the conviction was a felony in the jurisdiction in which it occurred or where a sentence of incarceration was actually imposed.
  • One arrest or conviction for alcohol-related driving incidents within the preceding five years.
  • Two or more arrests/convictions for alcohol-related driving incidents within the preceding ten years.

After the re-examination, the immigration officer may find you inadmissible on health-related grounds.

The second way a DUI may affect your green card application is based on criminal-related grounds for inadmissibility. If the DUI is categorized as a crime involving moral turpitude, you will be deemed inadmissible. A crime involving moral turpitude (“CIMT”) generally involves conduct that violates accepted moral standards. Driving under the influence, by itself is not a CIMT, nor will multiple convictions of driving under the influence amount to a CIMT. 

However, the Board of Immigration Appeals (“BIA”) has found DUIs to be crimes involving moral turpitude when the DUI was coupled with knowingly driving on a suspended or revoked license. The BIA has ruled that a person who drives while under the influence and knowing that he or she is prohibited from driving, commits a crime that is contrary to accepted moral standards. Thus, the element that transforms a DUI into a CIMT is the offender’s knowledge that he does not have the privilege to drive. It is the deliberate and knowing disregard for the law that brings the offender’s conduct outside the confines of accepted moral standards and subjects the applicant to criminal-related grounds of inadmissibility. 

At the Law Offices of Vaughan de Kirby, we know how important it is for you to get all the information necessary to qualify for your green card.  Our San Francisco attorneys can advise on the effects of a DUI on your application and admissibility. Call us today at 415-221-2345 for more information.  

Vaughan de Kirby
California Immigration Attorney

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