If you are a permanent resident of the United States (i.e. you have a “green card”), you might be wondering whether a DUI charge will impact your citizenship application. The short answer is: maybe. Here’s what you need to know as advised by a Los Angeles DUI Lawyer.
DUI and Citizenship.
In order to become a naturalized citizen of the United States, you must first be a lawful permanent resident (LPR) for a certain period of time. An LPR is also known as a “green card” holder. Generally speaking, you must be an LPR for five years before you can apply for citizenship (with some exceptions).
But what is the affect of DUI charges on citizenship? Can you still become a naturalized citizen? Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. There are a number of factors that will come into play, including the severity of the charge, the outcome of your court case, and whether or not this is your first offense.
A First Offense DUI Is Not an Automatic Bar to Citizenship.
If this is your very first offense and you plead guilty to or are convicted of driving under the influence, this will not automatically bar you from becoming a naturalized citizen. However, it is important to note that DUI is considered an “aggravated felony” under immigration law. This means that if you are convicted of a DUI, you could be placed in removal proceedings (i.e., deported).
Of course, even if you are placed in removal proceedings, this does not mean that you will be deported automatically. An experienced immigration attorney will be able to help you navigate the process and fight for your right to remain in the United States.
A Second Offense DUI Could Lead to Denial of Citizenship Application.
While a first-offense DUI would not necessarily lead to denial of your citizenship application, a second offense could. If you are charged with drunken driving within those five years and subsequently plead guilty or are convicted, this could serve as grounds for denial when you apply for citizenship.
Specifically, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), “those who have been convicted of two or more crimes involving moral turpitude, other than purely political offenses” may be denied citizenship. USCIS has held that DUIs can qualify as crimes involving moral turpitude—so if this is your second offense, it’s important to consult with an immigration attorney as soon as possible to discuss your options and assess the risks involved in proceeding with your citizenship application given your criminal history.
In short, if you are facing DUI charges and are also in the process of applying for U.S. citizenship, it’s important to consult with an experienced immigration attorney who can evaluate your particular case and advise you on how best to proceed given the facts involved and the applicable law. Depending on the circumstances surrounding your arrest(s), pleading guilty or being convicted of DUI could negatively impact your chances of becoming a full-fledged U . S . citizen—but again, every case is different, so it really pays (literally)to get professional help early on in order to maximize your chances of success.