Can a DUI Lead to Deportation?

California is proud to have a large and diverse immigrant population, many of whom obtain California driver’s licenses. Once immigrants obtain their California driver licenses, they are expected to adhere to and abide by the state’s traffic and insurance laws, some of which prohibit driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Whether you are applying for a green card (lawful permanent resident status), or are already a green card holder, being convicted of DUI (or several drunk driving convictions) can impact your stay and your future in the United States.

Under certain circumstances, a DUI can either prevent you from obtaining a green card, or it can cause you to be removed (deported) from the United States. If you’re already have a green card, a DUI can bar you from becoming a U.S. citizen.


In California, DUI stands for “driving under the influence” of alcohol or drugs, including lawfully prescribed drugs, or drugs bought over-the-counter. A DUI does not automatically place a green card holder in removal proceedings; it all depends on the severity of the case and the immigrant’s criminal record history.

A simple first DUI may not lead to removal proceedings, but if someone else was injured or killed, or if the permanent resident has multiple DUIs, or if there’s another aggravating factor, the DUI could lead to removal proceedings. If you’re an immigrant who was arrested for DUI, it may or may not affect your immigration status.

You may face removal proceedings if any of the following is true:

  • You have prior DUI convictions.
  • Your current charge is a felony DUI.
  • Your DUI was drug-related (drug cases often lead to removal).
  • You have a record of previous felony convictions.
  • You have committed crimes of moral turpitude (e.g. assault, sexual assault, domestic violence, fraud, theft, child abuse).
  • A child was in your vehicle at the time of the offense.
  • Anyone was injured or killed because of the DUI incident.
  • You have committed a violent crime in the U.S.

If this is your first DUI offense, and you do not have a criminal record history and there were no aggravated factors present, you should not face removal proceedings. However, if you have multiple DUIs, or if your DUI was considered serious; for example, you caused a serious injury accident, you could be deported and you could be barred from returning to the U.S. for a long time.


If you are applying for a green card, or already have one and was recently arrested for DUI in Orange County, contact the Law Offices of Virginia L. Landry, Inc. We can provide the hard-hitting defense you and your family need!

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