A DUI (driving under the influence) is a serious criminal offense in the US. The laws relating to DUIs are different in each State and can be charged as misdemeanours or felonies depending on the circumstances. For example, the violation can be charged as a felony DUI if a person is injured, the alcohol level is beyond a certain blood alcohol content, when other laws are violated in combination to driving under the influence, and/or if minors are present in the vehicle.

The US government views DUI offenses as a potential health related ground for visa denial, which may lead to further complications upon arrest than other criminal charges.

Conditions of a Visitor Visa

When the border control officer grants you entry to the US as a temporary tourist or business visitor, they have determined that you intend to enter the country for the sole purpose of engaging in legitimate activities relating to business or pleasure, rather than to engage in any unlawful or criminal activities.

Getting Arrested for Driving Under the Influence

A US citizen convicted of a DUI may be required to complete rehabilitation programmes, get their licenses suspended, pay hefty fines, and/or be imprisoned. As a foreign national, the consequences can be dearer. It may have a significant impact on your ability to re-enter the country in the future, and your long-term eligibility for lawful immigration status, in addition to the consequences of dealing with the potential criminal conviction.

  1. An Arrest May Lead to Revocation of Your Visa

Getting arrested for driving under the influence also grants the Department of State the authority to revoke your visa while you are still in the US. An exception has especially been created for DUIs because the US government views DUI offenses as a potential health related ground for visa denial. It is important to note that it is the arrest, rather than the conviction or admission, which may trigger the visa revocation. You do not need to be convicted of the DUI for this to take effect.

  1. You May not Have to Immediately Leave but You May not Be Able to Re-Enter

Revocation of your visa does not necessarily mean that your status as a visitor is revoked. You may still stay in the country until the end of your intended visit date and as specified in the admission stamp on your passport.

However, you may not be able to re-enter the US in the future on that same visa. The visa waiver programme, which applies to UK citizens intending to enter the US as temporary tourists or business visitors, does not apply to individuals who have been arrested and/or convicted of specific crimes, of which there are many. If you have been arrested or convicted of a one of the many offences that cause inadmissibility, you must obtain a visa from the US consulate in your country before you travel to the US. If you do not know whether your criminal record makes you inadmissible, seek advice from a qualified attorney.

If this does apply to you, you may be referred to an embassy-approved physician for an evaluation to determine whether there is a health-related ground for inadmissibility. The physician will report their findings to the US Consulate to determine whether a new visa can be issued.

Even if you are not notified that your visa has been revoked after your arrest, or your case is later dismissed, the arrest must be declared if you wish to re-enter the US. When you are arrested, your fingerprints and photograph will be taken upon admission to the relevant station, which are registered on the national database. It is, therefore, advisable that you seek the advise of an immigration attorney in any case.

  1. You may be Punished for a Crime and You May Not be Able to Leave

You are subject to all the laws and potential punishments that apply to US citizens convicted of a DUI. Depending on the State you were arrested in, you may be charged with the crime of driving under the influence, be imprisoned while awaiting trial, released on bail, and/or tried in a criminal court. Depending on the State you were arrested in and the circumstances, you may be charged with a fine, imprisonment, and/or other penalty and be required to remain in the US pending the outcome of your case.

It is recommended that you hire both criminal law and immigration law attorneys to advise you on the proceedings in the State in which you were arrested. There may be different consequences if you enter a guilty/non-guilty plea, and if your charge is suspended or dismissed. If your charges are not dismissed, you will generally have an obligation to answer for the charge in court and/or hire an attorney to answer in court on your behalf. Failing to answer for the charge may bar you from re-entry to the country. Being charged with a DUI may lead to deportation, denial of admissibility into the US, and denial of citizenship. This would largely depend on the specific circumstances of your case and may be aggravated if other violations are present.

  1. You May be Restricted from Obtaining an Immigrant Status in the US or from Visiting Other Countries

Even if your case has been dismissed or resolved, being arrested for a DUI can be a major barrier if you wish to work and/or become a US citizen in the future. Notably, becoming a naturalised citizen of the United States has a ‘good moral character’ requirement. You will also likely have to declare the arrest or be restricted from entering other countries.

Davies Legal Immigration

At Davies Legal, we represent clients in connection with all types of immigrant and non-immigrant visa applications and have an exceptional success record in arguing matters of admissibility. We offer competitive fixed fee billing and an assurance that your case will be handled only by your designated, fully licensed US immigration attorney. Call now for advice on how we can assist you with your US visa application and obtain a free no obligation quote.

Published: 7th November 2019