Applying for US Citizenship with a DUI on Your Record

When you’re applying for US citizenship, a DUI on your criminal record is not an automatic disqualification. Even so, the DUI may have an impact on the outcome of your application, depending on your circumstances—and the discretion of your immigration officer. The offense will mainly come up as a reflection of your character. How exactly does that work?

Applicants looking to become naturalized US citizens must demonstrate their “good moral character.” To determine whether you hit or miss the mark, the officer at US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will mainly look at the last five years of your life, although conviction for specific crimes may be considered regardless of when they were committed. While DUI is generally not considered a violent crime, it’s possible for the officer to deny your application based on the idea that your conviction reflects bad moral character.

What exactly is good moral character? While the concept is highly subjective, it gives immigration officers some flexibility to decide who is fit for naturalization. For a more specific measuring stick, you can look to the DUI statute in the state where you were convicted. Oftentimes, the statute assumes a driver did not intend to drive while intoxicated. The language in other statutes can be less forgiving: they might use terms like “evil intent,” “reckless,” or otherwise indicate that the driver knowingly endangered other people. These subtle details can actually affect your citizenship application.

For most people, “good moral character” means you meet the same standards as other average citizens in your community. If you’ve been a productive member who hasn’t broken the law, the question of your character can have a straightforward answer. As someone with a DUI on record, you won’t seem like a spotless candidate, but there’s still hope. USCIS will likely take a closer look at the facts of your DUI. Different questions may include:

  • Was it your first and only DUI?
  • How impaired were you while driving?
  • Were you simply pulled over at a DUI checkpoint, or was there an accident?
  • Was anyone hurt in the accident?
  • Were there children in your car?

USCIS will weigh these facts carefully before making a decision about your application. You may be able to sway the decision in your favor by showing good behaviour in every other aspect of your life. For instance, you could emphasize a history of community service, a record of hard work at your place of employment, or a strong dedication to your family and children.

It’s crucial that you never hide or lie about your DUI conviction. If you do, USCIS will find out in the background check, and the consequences will be severe. If you’re concerned about your application to become a naturalized US citizen, the best thing you can do is contact an attorney before you file.

Regardless of your citizenship or immigration status, you have a right to be defended against a criminal DUI charge. In particular, unlawful immigrants should consult with an attorney before pleading guilty to such an offense. The attorneys at Rotella & Hernandez have extensive experience in both immigration and DUI law. Whether you need legal representation for a DUI charge or assistance with your citizenship application, call us for assistance. We will go above and beyond to protect your rights.

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