The Consequences of a DUI Conviction
for Those on Student Visas or Work Permits
A U.S. Citizen, who has
previously been convicted of drunk driving, will be barred
from entering Canada. But what of a foreign national who is
convicted of drunk driving, while living in the States? A
foreign national (a.k.a., alien) is someone who is a citizen
of a different country, living in the U.S. as either a
student (e.g. under an F-1 Student Visa), or a work permit
(e.g. under a TN NAFTA Work Permit; or an H1-B1 Work Visa).
For those aliens, the consequences could be even more dire.
Under the Immigration and Nationality Act, 8 U.S.C. 1227,
the statute clearly outlines who is subject to deportation:
Crimes of moral
turpitude. Any alien who (I) is convicted of a crime
involving moral turpitude committed within five years
(or 10 years in case of an alien provided lawful
permanent resident status under section 1255(j) of this
title) after the date of admission, and (II) is
convicted of a crime for which a sentence of one year or
longer may be imposed, is deportable. 8 U.S.C. 1227(2)(A)(i)(I)-(II).
If, for whatever reason,
the alien is not deported for their first conviction, a
later section of the Immigration and Nationality Act states
that multiple convictions at any time will subject the alien
convictions. Any alien who at any time after admission
is convicted of two or more crimes involving moral
turpitude, not arising out of a single scheme of
criminal misconduct regardless of whether confined
therefore and regardless of whether the convictions were
in a single trial, is deportable. 8 U.S.C. 1227(2)(A)(ii).
For those aliens who are
applying for entry into the US or are renewing their visas,
an earlier section of the Immigration and Nationality Act,
will prohibit a person convicted of a crime involving moral
turpitude, from ever being authorized for the appropriate
In general. Except as
provided in clause (ii), any alien convicted of, or who
admits having committed, or who admits committing acts
which constitute the essential elements of (I) a crime
involving moral turpitude (other than a purely political
offense), or an attempt or conspiracy to commit such a
crime…is inadmissible. 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(2)(A)(i)(I).
The common theme is the
key phrase "crime involving moral turpitude". Unfortunately,
there is no exhaustive list of crimes that involve "moral
turpitude". However, the US Department of State has
published a Foreign Affairs Manual, issued to their
officers, that provides extensive guidelines on what to
consider. (Cited as 9 FAM 40.21(a). See
www.state.gov/documents/organization/86942.pdf for the
full text of the manual.) The early sections of this manual
defines a "crime involving moral turpitude", as one
involving "fraud; larceny; and intent to harm persons or
things." (9 FAM 40.21(a)N2.2 Defining "Moral Turpitude").
Drunk driving and even reckless driving are specifically
outlined in the Foreign Affairs Manual as crimes that do
not, in and of themselves, qualify as crimes "involving
moral turpitude": Crimes committed against governmental
authority, which would not constitute moral turpitude for
visa-issuance purposes, are…(6) Drunk or reckless driving".
(9 FAM 40.21(a) N2.3-2b). However, the reading of this
section should be very carefully scrutinized. Drunk driving,
by itself, may not be considered a crime "involving moral
turpitude". But, if it is combined with another crime that
is s considered, then the whole incident may be a "crime
involving moral turpitude". For example, if a person is
convicted of drunk driving and making a false representation
(i.e. providing false information to a police officer), that
case will be considered a crime "involving moral turpitude".
(See 9 FAM 40.21(a) N2.3-1).
The U.S. Department of Justice (U.S. DOJ) has also held that
multiple drunk driving convictions, may also be considered a
"crime involving moral turpitude". In the Arizona case of
re Jose Luis Lopez-Meza, the U.S. DOJ Bureau of Immigration
Appeals found that because Mr. Lopez-Meza knew that his
license was previously suspended due to a prior DUI, and
that he drove drunk on a suspended license anyway, that
second DUI was a "crime involving moral turpitude" and he
was subject to deportation. (See
Generally speaking the immigration authorities will not
necessarily actively search for aliens convicted of drunk
driving. However, the problems may arise when it comes time
for the alien to renew his student visa or work permit. That
person could be denied the student visa/work permit, and
could then either be denied entry into the US, or worse,
deported. So, for any student or foreign national living in
the US, getting convicted of a DUI could be even more
serious than jail or fines – deportation could be in the
picture as well.
Brendon G. Basiga
Reproduced with Permission by Attorney Michael J. Nichols
Experience counts. Results matter.
FRANKS & RECHENBERG, P.C.
1301 Pyott Road, Suite 200
Lake in the Hills, IL 60156
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general information that is intended, but not guaranteed, to be
correct, complete and up-to-date. It is not intended to be a
source of legal advice. You should not rely on the information
in this site and should always seek the advice of a competent
Franks & Rechenberg, P.C. handles
DeKalb County DUI (Driving Under the Influence) charges.