Getting a DUI can affect your immigration status in many ways, depending on the circumstances of the DUI, where you are in the visa application process, and the rules in place at the time. For example, first-time DUIs or charges where nobody got hurt may not make you lose your visa. But if it’s your second (or third) time getting a DUI or you have a prior criminal record, the immigration authorities may decide you’re ineligible for your visa. Sometimes, that may mean you’re immediately deportable. In other cases, you may be allowed to stay until your visa expires but not be able to return to the United States. Because these laws are very nuanced and subject to change, it’s essential to talk to a seasoned attorney with criminal defense and immigration experience.
Veitch Ault Defense understands the unique challenges faced by immigrants charged with DUIs in the United States. Our respected Washington DUI attorney helps people defend themselves against charges like reckless driving and driving while intoxicated. At our firm, we believe whatever is worth doing is worth doing well. Our legal team works together to provide the most effective support for clients facing DUIs and potential immigration consequences.
Can a DUI Impact the Immigration Process?
Picking up a DUI can impact your ability to get or keep your visa. Likewise, if you are applying for a visa or a change in status, a DUI might inhibit this process.
For example, if the incident involves severe property damage, injuries, or death, immigration officials may decide you are ineligible to apply for a visa. If that happens, you may have to wait a certain number of years before reapplying. During that time, if you are in the United States illegally, the Immigration and Nationality Act may further restrict or prevent you from reapplying for entry. But exceptions may apply, such as if you are an asylum-seeker.
How Does a DUI Affect Someone’s Immigration Status?
How a DUI impacts someone’s immigration status depends on the circumstances and the type of visa they have. The immigration authorities usually consider the situation leading to and arising from the DUI. For example, a first-time offense that does not involve damage to people or property may not merit significant action. But if someone gets a second or third driving under the influence charge and causes serious injuries, the immigration officials may take additional action.
The type of visa you have also dictates the impacts a DUI might have on your immigration status. For example, someone with a non-immigrant visa (like for work or school) may become inadmissible or deportable. Likewise, those with or applying for a green card (or permanent resident card) may become ineligible or have it revoked.
Non-Immigrant Visa Status
You may have a non-immigrant visa if you are in the United States as a student, worker, or visitor traveling to see your friends or family. Non-immigrant visas let someone stay in the United States temporarily for a specific purpose and period of time. For example, if you are a seasonal worker, you may have a non-immigrant visa to stay here over the summer. Or, if you’re a student, you may have permission to be in the United States during the semester.
If you get a DUI while in the U.S. temporarily, you may lose your visa entirely. If that happens, you may be subject to removal. Or, in other cases, you might be allowed to stay here for the remainder of your visa but denied reentry after you leave. Additionally, if you overstay your visa, you may face additional consequences.
Furthermore, this DUI may impact your future eligibility to apply for visas to stay in the United States. Sometimes, this ineligibility goes away after a certain number of years. But sometimes, this is not the case. It depends on the circumstances and the laws in effect at that time.
A DUI might prevent someone from re-entering the United States if they leave the country, even temporarily. For example, under the Immigration and Nationality Act, someone might become inadmissible if they commit serious crimes or have a mental or health condition that poses a risk to others.
Depending on the circumstances, the United States authorities might decide that the DUI (or multiple DUIs) puts others in danger. Based on this and other factors, they might prevent someone from entering the country, even if they already have a green card or another type of visa.
Green Card Status
Getting arrested for or convicted of a DUI may impact your green card status. For example, if you are applying for a green card, it may cause a delay in the application process while the authorities review the evidence. If this is your second or third DUI, or the incident involves serious injuries or property damage, it may cause the immigration officials to deny your application.
If you already have a green card, it is also possible for a driving while intoxicated charge or conviction to cause you to lose your permanent resident status. There’s less of a risk of this occurring if it’s your first DUI. But if you have other convictions on your record or the driving under the influence charge is a felony, it may seriously impact your green card status. In short, a DUI can delay and even cause rejections of green card applications. And if you have a permanent resident card and pick up a DUI in Washington State, it may mean you’re ineligible for this type of visa. If you have a green card and are worried a drunk driving charge might cause you to lose it, consider hiring a trusted criminal defense attorney. They can help limit the impact of the incident on your immigration status by preparing a well-reasoned defense.
If someone has already completed the naturalization process, they may not lose it if they pick up a DUI down the road. The only exception to this is if they improperly gained citizenship in the first place. But if someone is in the process of applying for naturalization, getting a driving while intoxicated charge can make this more difficult.
People seeking to become naturalized citizens must prove they meet the government’s definition of good moral character. Under these criteria, one of the things the person must show is that they’ve gone five years without committing a serious crime. Convictions in this category might include vehicular homicide, manslaughter, or a drug law violation.
Likewise, if a United States court requires a person to serve 180 or more days in prison because of one or more convictions, the person may be ineligible for naturalization. So, if someone receives a DUI conviction that involves severe physical or property damage, immigration officials may decide they no longer meet the good moral character standards required to become naturalized.
Can an Illegal Immigrant Be Deported for Getting a DUI?
Sometimes, getting a DUI may jeopardize the person’s ability to legally stay in the United States. Under the United States laws, one of the ways someone becomes deportable is if they commit a crime of moral turpitude. While the definition of this is vague, it might include some types of DUI charges that are shocking, reckless, or pose risks to the community. By way of example, let’s say someone without a valid driver’s license drinks alcohol, gets behind the wheel, and causes a multi-car accident. In this case, the immigration authorities might decide this constitutes a crime of moral turpitude.
Another way someone can become deportable is if the DUI causes them to become inadmissible and they overstay their visa. An example might be if a student with a temporary visa gets a serious DUI conviction, causing them to become ineligible for their visa. Once their visa expires (or, in some cases, sooner), they become an inadmissible alien, meaning they can’t come back once they leave. But if they stay past the deadline to leave, immigration authorities may deport or remove them.
How to Challenge a DUI’s Consequences on Your Visa Status
One way to limit the impact of the DUI on your visa status is to challenge the charges in court. Limiting the consequences (and, if possible, getting your DUI charges reduced) may help you protect your immigration status. Ways to defend yourself against the charge include asserting your rights during the arrest, following the court’s instructions, and hiring a seasoned criminal defense lawyer.
Veitch Ault Defense: DUI Defense Attorneys for Immigrants
Getting a DUI/DWI charge can be a scary experience for anyone, especially if it might cause them to lose their visa or be deported. You can help fortify yourself against adverse consequences by acting swiftly to protect and assert your legal rights. Hiring a respected King County DUI attorney may be the best option in your situation.
At Veitch Ault Defense, we leave no stone unturned when fighting for our clients. Past clients facing DUIs praise Robert Ault for his calm, caring nature and ability to fight for favorable outcomes. He has been practicing law for nearly two decades and has successfully defended over 1,000 DUI cases. If you are charged with a DUI and worry it might impact your immigration status, call 425-312-6753 or contact us today to schedule a consultation.