Will a DUI Affect My Permanent Resident Application?

Filing for your “green card” in the United States can be a stressful process in even the best of circumstances. Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol (commonly known as a DUI) is a serious crime that can drastically affect you and other people’s lives. This is doubly true if you are applying for permanent residency in the United States. 

While only an experienced immigration lawyer who has reviewed your entire case can give you proper advice, there are a few important points we can highlight that may be relevant to your green card application. Keep reading to learn more about how being charged with a DUI could affect your permanent resident application. 


The Short Answer

There really is no short answer. Having a DUI will affect each case in a specific way; and this will depend on multiple factors and vary based on your specific jurisdiction.

Generally speaking, a first time DUI (with no additional charges of manslaughter or hit-and-run) will not significantly impact your green card application, result in deportation or get your application denied. However, green card holders who are close to their ten year renewal period (or two year if your green card is conditional), should speak with an immigration lawyer about the DUI charge. This is because you normally have to provide an updated list of any criminal charges and convictions when you renew your application.

Also, if an undocumented person is convicted of a DUI and received active jail time, there is a greater chance that ICE will place them in removal proceedings (or deporation).There are also specific applications, such as DACA applications, where a single DUI is considered a significant misdemeanor and will make one ineligible for DACA status.

A DUI conviction can affect your “good moral character” requirement when applying for citizenship later down the line. Having multiple DUI convictions could also jeopardize your green card status and place you in removal proceedings.


DUIs and Admissions

Under federal immigration law, certain “crimes of moral turpitude” can bar you from entering the United States. Therefore, people who are inadmissible from entering the U.S. are thereby automatically ineligible for a green card. Normally, DUI offenses are not considered “crimes of moral turpitude”, but some courts have ruled that certain aggravated DUI offenses do count as grounds for inadmissibility.

USCIS only approves green card applications for people who display “good moral character”. For example, the Immigration and Nationality Act states that “no person shall be regarded as a person of good moral character” who is, or was:

  • Confined in a penal institution for 180 days or more.
  • Previously convicted of crimes with a total jail sentence of five years or more.
  • A person who has given false testimony for immigration benefits.
  • The perpetrator or any of the statutorily noted aggravated felonies.
  • A habitual drunkard.


In general, you need to show “good moral character” over a period of five years but obviously the longer you can show this, the better. Having a DUI on your record can impact how officials view your claim of “good moral character”.



Whenever you are involved in a criminal charge, it is wise to consult a lawyer in order to understand your options. This is even more true if you have a green card, or are in the process of applying for one. The Dominguez Law firm specializes in immigration law and can draw on their years of experience to study your case and give you quality advice on how to proceed with your specific situation. Contact us today for a free consultation.

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