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The last thing you want to do if you are applying for citizenship is get a DUI. Even if you're in the country legally on a visa or green card, immigration officials may deport you or downgrade your status on the basis of a criminal conviction, especially for a felony.
Here's what you need to know about a how a DUI conviction could affect your immigration status.
If you are a foreign national, a DUI might not necessarily lead to deportation. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) generally considers a number of factors with regard to the penalties faced by an immigrant to the U.S., and deportation is generally reserved for aggravated felonies like battery, theft, filing a fraudulent tax return, and failure to appear in court.
Of course, if your DUI is charged as a felony, you could run the risk of deportation. A DUI could become a felony if you have had prior DUI convictions, had an extremely elevated blood alcohol concentration, had children in the car, were driving on a suspended or revoked license, or caused death or injury in a car accident.
Even if you do not get deported, your immigration status could be altered after a DUI conviction. If you're a legal permanent resident, you could be deported or detained during removal proceedings, or be barred from becoming a naturalized citizen in the future. Refugees and asylees could be deported after a criminal conviction, even if they would be in grave danger in their home country, and a conviction may result in the inability to obtain legal permanent resident status.
Non-citizens with temporary lawful status (including individuals with nonimmigrant visas and those with temporary protected status) could lose that status and be removed from the country for any felony conviction or two or more misdemeanor convictions. And because undocumented immigrants are not authorized to be in the U.S., any criminal offense can result in deportation.
In some legal proceedings, like immigration or deportation proceedings, even an expungement of a DUI may still be considered as proof of a prior conviction. To know for sure how a DUI will affect your immigration status, contact a local DUI attorney today.
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.