Definitive DUI changes in USCIS assessment of applicants

| Feb 5, 2020 | Blog, Immigration |

Legal admission into the United States and maintaining authorization is not easy for many applicants, including California residents. Even foreign nationals who are only trying to gain entry on a work visa can still have difficulty getting approved when their background reports expose problems with moral character. This can be a very serious issue when USCIS officials are making final decisions on visa assignments. On December 30, 2019, the federal government officially adjusted their position regarding some criminal issues when moral character is being evaluated for applicants, including DUI convictions.

 

The primary issue being considered involved original sentencing from any criminal matter that could impact a final decision on visa allowance. As a result, in 2020 the USCIS formalized incorporation of the Attorney General’s decision regarding legal entry concerning multiple convictions for driving under the influence. While one conviction for DUI is not necessarily a reason for deportation of an authorized visa holder or visa denial of a new entry applicant, a second conviction could be a basis for a cancellation of prior visa approval or any subsequent visa authorizations.

 

This immigration policy decision means that rehabilitation from a criminal conviction such as a DUI is not the same as the 10-year look back period regarding moral character assessment by the USCIS. All DUI cases carry an order for alcoholic driver education, but completing the program is not applicable as evidence of improved moral character. The moral character judgement is assuredly a grey area of immigration law, but this stipulation that two DUI convictions is basis for a visa denial lessens the authorization latitude for government officials.

 

The formalized change in policy also gives California immigration attorneys a definitive number that they can use when preparing cases for presentation to the USCIS addressing the moral character of their client applicants. While it can make some cases more difficult, it does not mean that appeals regarding application denials cannot be effective when extenuating factors exist in the original criminal case prompting the denial order. Because of the fluid nature of the legal area, it is important to always select a California attorney who is focused on immigration law as a primary practice.