Will a DUI Affect My Green Card?

Orange County has a large immigrant population, especially because it’s so close to the Mexican border. Because there are so many non-U.S. citizens in the area, we are frequently asked by Green Card holders, “If I’m convicted of DUI, can it affect my permanent resident status?” This is a valid question indeed!

In a nutshell, the consequences of a driving under the influence(DUI) conviction are serious enough for a U.S. citizen, but for a non-U.S. citizen, they can be much worse depending on the facts of the case. The exact implications of a DUI conviction depend on the seriousness of the DUI and the Green Card holder’s criminal history (if any).


In California, DUI refers to driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or both, and this includes lawfully prescribed medications. So, anyone, including a Green Card holder can be convicted of DUI, even if they’re driving under the influence of a medication. In some states, such as Texas and New York, DUI is called driving while intoxicated or DWI.

“Can a DUI affect a Green Card?” Yes, it is possible, however, the facts of each DUI case vary greatly. For example, a DUI can involve drugs or alcohol or both. It can involve speeding, property damage, a serious accident, bodily injuries, or even death. Sometimes, one DUI incident can lead to multiple criminal charges.

If you’re a permanent resident (Green Card holder) and you’re arrested for DUI, an immigration judge will consider the above factors, including your criminal history. Immigration judges handle DUIs on a case-by-case basis, so the outcomes vary.


If you have a Green Card it won’t protect you from removal proceedings. You’re only protected if you legally become a U.S. citizen. Ultimately, a DUI can place you in removal proceedings, but it’s not guaranteed. If you face DUI charges, your case will be brought to the attention of an immigration judge who will decide if you are deportable.

The following situations can trigger removal proceedings:

  • A drug-related DUI.
  • A prior marijuana conviction.
  • A felony DUI.
  • Multiple misdemeanor convictions before the DUI.

“Can a DUI affect my ability to become a U.S. citizen?” In order for you to become a naturalized U.S. citizen, you must show that you are a person of “good moral character” and if you have a DUI conviction within five years of applying for citizenship, the DUI could definitely complicate things.

If you’re facing DUI charges and you’re a Green Card holder, our advice is to contact our office for help fighting your DUI. The best way to avoid removal proceedings is to avoid a DUI conviction in the first place.

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