For foreign nationals living or visiting the United States on a temporary basis, a DUI arrest has consequences that may affect the individual’s right to enter the U.S. in the future. A non-immigrant visa holder faces the same legal consequences that citizen or permanent resident faces after DUI arrest, but with a big twist: Whether on a tourist (visitor) visa, student (study) visas, or employment visa, a DUI arrest may result in the automatic revocation of the visa. The DUI arrest of an individual on a nonimmigrant visa, if not successfully challenged, can also result in difficulties on application to enter the U.S. in the future. It could even result in a denial of future entry into the U.S.
The United States government does not look kindly on temporary visitors and residents driving under the influence (that might be an understatement). Under the United States Department of State policy, a nonimmigrant’s visa may be automatically revoked upon an arrest for DUI; not a conviction, just an arrest! (Although a conviction will also result in automatic revocation of the visa,) The policy allows the non-immigrant visa holder to remain in the United States for the duration of the visa, but once the individual leaves the United States, the visa is revoked and cannot be renewed. Should the individual desire to return to the U.S., an entirely new visa application process is required and due to the DUI arrest (or conviction) the individual will be required to undergo evaluation by a panel physician designated by the consular office for the presence of a “mental disorder;” here, that disorder would be alcohol dependence or abuse. This requirement applies if there has been one single arrest for D.U.I. with three calendar years or a DUI conviction at any time in the visa applicant’s history.
What does this mean for an individual in California (or anywhere in the U.S.) on a nonimmigrant visa who is arrested for DUI? First and foremost, it means that individual must contact a DUI defense attorney immediately. Since many visas are of short duration, there is a particular urgency to address the DUI arrest. The nonimmigrant has due process rights as long as he or she is in the U.S. Once outside the U.S., due process rights no longer operate.