Can a Charge or Conviction for Driving Under the Influence (DUI) Stop Me From Getting a U.S. Green Card?

U.S. green card applications are adjudicated on a range of eligibility requirements that analyzes the applicant’s profession, family status, criminal background amongst many other factors. Particular crimes on your record can be the basis for a U.S. green card denial.

Can a DUI conviction prevent you from obtaining a green card? The answer to this question depends on the type of felony the person is convicted of.

Is a DUI Classified as a Crime of Moral Turpitude?

A crime of moral turpitude is defined as one done with reckless or evil intent to permanently deprive the owner of his or her property, and crimes where there was intent to harm someone, for example, sexual assualt or assault with a dangerous weapon, are generally considered crimes of moral turpitude. Additionally, U.S. law takes any charge where drugs are involved very seriously. If you were ever charged with possession or drug trafficking you have a high chance of being ineligible to enter the U.S. Drunk driving is not considered a crime of moral turpitude as there is no intent to harm. Even multiple offenses will not cause you to be denied, unless it appears to demonstrate that you have an inadmissible medical condition, such as alcohol addiction. However, a DUI could be considered moral turpitude if there were aggravating factors, such as impaired driving with a suspended or revoked license.

Someone applying to obtain a lawful permanent residence in the U.S. must be “admissible.” When an applicant has a prior conviction for an offense considered to be a crime of moral turpitude, that person may be deemed to be “inadmissible.” If the applicant falls within one of the inadmissibility grounds, he or she will need to file a waiver of inadmissibility in order to be granted legal permanent residency.

In most states, Driving Under the Influence (DUI) is categorized as a simple or aggravated offense. Normally, a simple DUI charge or conviction will not prevent someone from obtaining a green card. The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) and Federal Appeals Courts have held that a conviction for a simple DUI is not a crime involving moral turpitude.

Aggravated DUI Offenses

On the other hand, a conviction for an aggravated DUI could become a hindrance to receiving legal permanent residence. Aggravated drunk driving will most likely be considered a crime involving moral turpitude.

A DUI Crime Can Be Categorized as an Aggravated DUI for a number of Reasons, including:

  • Driving with a suspended license
  • Driving with a child in the car regardless if the child is in a car seat
  • If the driver has previous offenses

The classification of a crime as a “petty offense” will also affect your green card eligibility. A crime is considered a petty offense if the maximum possible consequence for the crime is less than a year in prison, and if the offender’s actual sentence was under six months of jail time.

If a conviction for aggravated DUI falls within the petty offense exception, no waiver of inadmissibility is required. However, if it does not fall within the petty offense exception, a waiver of inadmissibility is required.

Immigration officers can determine if the applicant merits the favorable exercise of discretion. This means that the officer, as a matter of discretion, could eventually deny an application for adjustment of status or an immigrant visa for a DUI conviction.

Ask an Immigration Attorney to Help You

If you believe you qualify for immigration benefits despite a DUI charge or conviction, contact Gambacorta Law Office at 847 443 9303 and our team of attorneys will do their best to help you obtain a lawful permanent resident status.