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WHAT HAPPENS IF I AM ARRESTED FOR DUI WHILE ON A NON-IMMIGRANT VISA?

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.

The effort of the individual’s DUI defense attorney will be to get the charges dismissed or reduced to a lesser charge such as reckless driving. If unsuccessful at that effort, a DUI conviction may prove an even greater detriment to future travel to the United States than leaving the case open, so options must be carefully considered. These complex policies pertaining to nonimmigrant DUIs often end in unforeseen consequences and therefore require a carefully tailored defense strategy best left to the expertise of a DUI defense attorney who is knowledgeable about the how a DUI will affect the individual in this unique circumstance.

In many cases, the nonimmigrant visa holder leaves the U.S. without resolving the pending DUI charge. Perhaps the plan is to return to the U.S. to take care of it later. This obviously presents a problem because the U.S. consular office in the individual’s home country may not issue the visa. The visa applicant, after an extended vetting process, may be able to have the visa issued, but depending on the DUI history of the applicant, that is not always the case.

In this age of electronic enforcement, the DUI arrest (and conviction, if applicable) is not only available on the individual’s U.S. Department of Justice record, but this record is shared with many countries. Thus, even just one DUI arrest could pose a problem if the individual applies for a visa elsewhere as many countries are just as strict when it comes to DUIs.

A DUI arrest while visiting the U.S. or while living here on a temporary basis may end up in a lot more than bargained for. If you find yourself in this predicament, don’t ignore it – call a DUI defense attorney immediately!

Orange County DUI defense attorney William Weinberg has been defending those arrested for DUI for over 25 years. He is available for a complimentary consultation where he will review your matter and offer his assessment of your options. You may reach him by calling his Irvine office atj 949-474-8008 or by emailing him at bill@williamweinberg.com.

 

 

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