You may think a DUI is not a serious crime that will be erased from your record in no time. You may consider it such a minor misdemeanor that it should not be an impediment to your road towards naturalization or US citizenship. You may be wrong. In fact, if you get convicted for a DUI in the process of applying for US citizenship, your eligibility will considerably have to suffer. You may need to wait five years after that to become eligible enough.
Your specialized immigration attorney will tell you that one of the most important requirements for eligibility is that the applicant proves he is of good moral character, especially throughout the past five years before applying. A misdemeanor like a DUI, DWI, DUID or OWI on your record, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will most likely deny your application on the basis that you lack the required good moral character. However, the decision is not made in automatic manner, and you will need the help of a very good and seasoned immigration attorney to at least get another shot at applying.
One of the legal backdoors for this issue is that no US legal guidelines exist to reference or define what a good moral character means. According to many courts, it would just mean a person that lives and measures up by the standards of the average US community they live in. In most cases, a good moral character will be only shown by providing proof that you have been a good member of your community or you haven’t broken the law.
With a DUI, you are in danger of being proven wrong, but do not despair, some cases are actually easily solved. The first thing an immigration official will need to know will be the circumstances of the DUI arrest. If this was your first one and you were not too impaired while driving there might be some actual chances to get this slipped through. Some aggravating circumstances may include the presence of children in the car, the existence of serious injuries to others. Actually, each personal situation is different, which is why there is no actual automatic decision.
Are there any ways to outweigh this incident? Your attorney will be able to prove, with evidence, that you have behaved well in every other aspect of your life since being in the US. So try and help them provide evidence that you have been a good employee, you have been involved in community social and religious actions.
One word of warning here: if you had an earlier DUI conviction and you think it might not get discovered, you are wrong. So, make sure to include your conviction as part of your N-400 application. The N-400 form specifically asks about any criminal convictions or charges, and if the applicant is found to have purposely omitted a DUI conviction or charge, then the consequences will quickly become much more severe. In any case, the DUI information will turn up during the background check.
Applying for naturalized citizenship with a criminal record could potentially jeopardize your permanent resident status so make sure you discuss every aspect with an immigration attorney.