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DUI Convictions and Immigration Status

Over the last few decades, the issue of DUI enforcement has affected various spheres of American society, including the immigration process. With regard to immigration, three potentially negative outcomes may arise:

– Inadmissibility
– Deportation
– Disqualification from naturalization

The problem with DUI convictions is that most states classify them as a criminal offense. Despite the fact that a considerable amount of DUI cases involve nothing more than a breathalyzer reading, the statutes that govern drinking and driving make it a criminal act.

Criminal convictions can result in a determination of inadmissibility for immigrants requesting visas or legal residence in the U.S. A DUI could be considered a crime of moral turpitude by immigration officials, which is grounds for inadmissibility.

The same moral turpitude clause of U.S. immigration law could create legal problems for green card holders. Similar to inadmissibility, a crime of moral turpitude could result in a recommendation of deportation, removal, and a bar on re-entering the U.S. for a number of years.

Finally, permanent residents who are seeking the maximum immigration benefit possible, U.S. citizenship by means of naturalization, could lose this opportunity. The law states that no crimes of moral turpitude should be perpetrated in the five years preceding the date of application for U.S. citizenship.

The reality of DUI as it applies to U.S. immigration is that it should not be a problem in most cases. Although the definition of moral turpitude can be particularly broad, immigration officials are more concerned with aggravated felonies and other circumstances that can exacerbate the outcome of a DUI.

Let’s say an immigrant is stopped at a roadblock coming back from a Fourth of July picnic, and a breathalyzer test shows him or her to be slightly over the limit. If he or she is convicted of no other infraction but DUI, this can hardly be considered a grave offense of willful moral turpitude. The chances of this immigrant facing deportation or inadmissibility would be very low.

For help with immigration-related issues, turn to KS Visa Law in San Diego. We are a leading immigration law firm specializing in family law, naturalization, and green cards. For a free immigration consultation, call our office at (858) 874-0711 today.

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