A few posts ago, I talked about whether a DUI conviction can lead to deportation. Another question that I’ve had asked on a related topic was whether a DUI conviction can affect admissibility and naturalization.
As with issues of deportation and removal, the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) is the federal law that governs issues of admissibility and naturalization.
According to Section 212 of the INA, aliens who are ineligible to receive visas or obtain admission into the United States are those who commit crimes involving moral turpitude, crimes involving controlled substances, multiple convictions resulting in imprisonment of five years or more. Generally, DUIs are not crimes of moral turpitude because there is no guilty intent. If, however, a DUI is coupled with another crime, driving on a suspended license for example, it may be considered a crime of moral turpitude if they knew their license was suspended. Many DUIs involve drugs rather than alcohol. If the drug that causes the DUI is listed on in the Controlled Substance Act, it may be a crime for which someone would be denied a visa. A list of the drugs in the Controlled Substance Act can be found here. Lastly, while a DUI rarely results in jail time, if it does and the time served amounts to five years or more when couple with time served for another crime, a person may not be eligible for a visa. Eligibility to become a permanent resident depend on an alien’s ability to get a visa, therefore the same standards as above will apply.
Section 316 of the INA sets forth the requirements for naturalization. According to Section 316, a person who applies for naturalization must be of “good moral character.” Several types of crime may be an automatic bar to a determination of good moral character. Those crimes, which may be the result of a DUI, include, but are not limited to, crimes involving moral turpitude, crimes involving controlled substances, or crimes that resulted in incarceration of 180 days or more. Other than those crimes, moral character is subjectively determined on a case-by-case basis. One of several factors which may affect a determination of moral character may a DUI conviction, even if the DUI did not involve any aggravating circumstances.