I got a DUI. Will this affect my citizenship application?

We all make mistakes from time to time. Maybe you drank just a little too much at a family party or when out to dinner in downtown Charlotte. Then, while driving home you were pulled over by police and arrested for drunk driving.

Getting a DUI is certainly upsetting and can have a major impact on your life. In addition to penalties such as the loss of your driver’s license and fines, if you are in the country on a visa and are looking to become a U.S. citizen, you may be very concerned about how your DUI will affect your citizenship application. This is a valid concern, but there is hope that things will work out in the end.

What is “good moral character?”

To obtain U.S. citizenship you must be of “good moral character.” This means your application for citizenship must show that in the five years prior to applying for citizenship and up to the time you take the Oath of Allegiance you have had good moral character, meaning you have not committed any crimes and have been a contributing member of society. However, what if you committed a crime such as a first-time DUI? Will this lead to an automatic denial? Not necessarily.

DUIs and good moral character

Having multiple DUIs on your record can impact your life in many ways, especially if you are an immigrant seeking naturalization. However, Per U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) if you have two or more DUIs on your record during the five-year period that your good moral character is being examined, it is possible to overcome the presumption that you do not have good moral character due to your DUIs. To do so, you must present evidence that despite the DUIs you otherwise had good moral character during the five-year time period that your character is being examined. This could be the key to ensuring your can still seek citizenship, even if you have a DUI on your record.

Do not lose hope if you made a one-time mistake

As this shows, a one-time DUI will not automatically make you ineligible for citizenship. You will have to work hard to overcome the presumption that a DUI means you lack good moral character, but with the right help it can be done. Many immigrants in North Carolina dream of obtaining U.S. citizenship and simply making a mistake here or there does not always bar them from reaching this goal.

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