Will a DUI Stop Me From Becoming a U.S. Citizen?

The United States truly is the land of opportunity, and most immigrants who come to the U.S. embrace the concept of becoming a citizen of this great nation; they don’t want anything to jeopardize it.

Given the location of Orange County and its proximity to the Mexican border, we regularly represent clients who are permanent residents (green card holders) from Mexico and neighboring countries who have been arrested for driving under the influence. We have DUI clients from other countries as well.

Whether a DUI defendant is a lawful permanent resident, or planning to apply for U.S. citizenship in the near future, a recent DUI arrest can certainly cause them to worry about their ability to become a naturalized citizen.

For starters, to become a naturalized citizen, the applicant must prove that he or she is a person of “good moral character,” especially in the five years before applying.

If you have a recent DUI on your record, it is possible that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will deny your application because they believe you are not a person of good moral character. However, such a decision is not automatic in all DUI cases.

What does ‘good moral character’ mean?

The U.S. immigration laws do not have a clearly defined meaning for “good moral character.” Usually, courts interpret it to mean adhering to the moral standards of our society. For an applicant, that could simply mean proving that you’ve been a productive member of the community and that you haven’t broken the law.

With a recent DUI on your record, USCIS can use that against you. When your application lands on USCIS’s desk, the agency will immediately want to know about the facts of your DUI. They will want to know:

Each person’s situation is different, therefore, there is no “on size fits all” approach to naturalization applicants who have DUIs on their record. It’s very fact specific.

Should you include a DUI conviction on your N-400 application? Yes, absolutely. If an applicant omits information, such as criminal charges or a conviction on their application, they can face severe consequences. Besides, the DUI will turn up on the applicant’s background check.

While a simple misdemeanor DUI (first offense) should not affect the naturalization process, a DUI could jeopardize a person’s permanent resident status, especially if it’s a drug-related or felony DUI. Of course, the best thing to do in the face of DUI charges is to try and avoid a conviction in the first place.

Protect your future and contact the Law Offices of Virginia L. Landry, Inc. for a free consultation!

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