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by Danielle Nelisse, Senior Immigration Attorney

Thinking about applying for USA citizenship, but have a DUI (driving under the influence) or DWI (driving while intoxicated) on your record?

WEBSITE.COURTHOUSEIn many states it is still possible to become a U.S. citizen even though you have had one (or sometimes two) convictions for drunk driving in your past. One of the requirements for U.S. citizenship is that a person be of “good moral character.”  If a person is convicted of certain crimes (no matter how long ago), they can be considered to be a person of bad moral character.

Some citizenship applicants are legitimately more worried about their previous DUI conviction than passing the citizenship test. However, convictions for simple DUI offenses in most states are generally not considered to show bad moral character because the driver did not intend to drive drunk.  HOWEVER, YOU MUST BRING YOUR COURT PAPERWORK TO AN IMMIGRATION ATTORNEY TO MAKE SURE!  THEY CANNOT TELL YOU OVER THE TELEPHONE WITHOUT LOOKING AT YOUR COURT PAPERWORK.

Each of the 50 states in America has drunk driving laws that are written differently. In general, if the words “reckless” or “had knowledge” or “malicious” or “evil intent” are written in the drunk driving law of a state, the DUI conviction might cause citizenship to be denied.  Also, if the state law has words written in it that prohibit driving drunk while a person’s driver’s license was suspended, it would be clear that the person knew they were not supposed to be driving and that would be bad moral character.

In order to research this issue, you would look at your DUI/DWI conviction paperwork and determine the number of the state law that the judge decided that you violated.  It might be the number of a “vehicle code” or “penal code” or “criminal code.”  Then, you would find the state law on the internet and print out a copy of the state law the judge said you violated to see if the words above are contained in the law (most are available for free online).  This is a confusing and difficult analysis and most people seek the help of an American immigration attorney to help them.  After all, if the analysis is wrong, the fees for the citizenship are wasted and a citizenship denial is on record.

As defined in most state laws, DUI and DWI means that a person was driving with a certain blood level of alcohol or other intoxicating substance above an amount that is legally permissible under that state’s law. As stated above, it is necessary to look at the actual wording of each state’s DUI or DWI statute to see what words were used to define the crime in that particular state.



Take the state of California’s drunk driving law for an example. California Vehicle Code section 23152 (a) is a simple driving under the influence law (for a situation where no child was endangered). Conviction of California Vehicle Code section 23152 (a) requires that the driver was under the influence of an intoxicating substance and does not require that the person was reckless or malicious or had evil intent (reckless driving on its own doesn’t count).

As the California state law is written, there is no mention of whether the driver’s license was suspended, canceled, revoked, refused or restricted as a result of a prior DUI. Therefore, in California, having a DUI conviction does not prevent a person from obtaining U.S. citizenship (of course there can be no allegations of alcholohism in the court documents, which would be a separate ground for denying citizenship).

It is true that driving under the influence carries the risk of automobile accidents. But laws against drunk driving are intended to prevent damage to the driver and others. Many drunk driving arrests occur at a sobriety checkpoint or in other non-accident situations. By its nature, simple drunk driving is usually not considered a crime of violence (a crime of violence is an offense where intentional physical force is used against another person). When someone uses physical force against another person by pushing or hitting him, it is clear it is not an accident and that it was intentional.

When someone drives under the influence there is usually no intent to use physical force to hurt someone. The U.S. Supreme Court held unanimously in 2004 that simple driving under the influence offenses are not considered crimes of violence and therefore applicants for citizenship with a DUI on their record should be considered a person of good moral character for the purposes of determining citizenship status. The U.S. Supreme Court can change their mind about that 2004 decision at any time, and each state’s law could be changed at any time, so it is wise for the immigration attorney to get an update on the laws before filing the application for citizenship.

Being on Probation is the Problem, Not the DUI Conviction

Examining Citizenship Requirements

Examining Citizenship Requirements

Having the DUI does not usually prohibit USA citizenship, unless there was bodily injury to someone else.  However, being on probation does prohibit a grant of citizenship.

Applicants who apply for citizenship (called “naturalization”) may still be on probation for the DUI when they file the N-400 Naturalization application. Being on probation (for anything) is considered bad moral character so they cannot still be on probation at the time of their citizenship interview, which in many parts of the United States takes place 4 to 6 months after filing the application. In many states a person can ask a criminal court judge to terminate their probation early so that they are off probation by the time of their citizenship interview.  Some criminal court judges will say “yes” and others will not.

Many people with a DUI or DWI in their background may wish to hire an American Immigration Attorney who has experience with citizenship and DUI convictions to represent them in their citizenship case to have the best possible chance of being approved. The Immigration Attorney examines the police report, the court documents,the exact language of the state statute, the wording of the plea bargain (or conviction if the case went to trial) and the sentencing documents before the N400 citizenship application is submitted to see whether the person is eligible for citizenship.

Certain documents concerning the DUI conviction should be submitted with the citizenship application, but others should not — and the Immigration Attorney knows which documents to submit.

In addition, people with a DUI or DWI may wish to hire an American Immigration Attorney to go with them to the citizenship interview, as the interviewing Officer will be asking many intense questions about good moral character in general for the previous five years because of the drunk driving conviction. The Officer can also take into account any of the person’s behavior prior to the five years if it is relevent to the person’s current moral conduct.

American Citizens Travel Abroad

American Citizens Travel Abroad Without Worry

The naturalization applicant should admit responsibility for the DUI conviction and be ready to explain verbally and through documents (like completion of classes and/or volunteer work, involvement in the church etc.) that he is not a habitual drunk and that he has changed his life for the better.  In general, if an immigration lawyer is present at the citizenship interview, there will be less questions asked about the DUI incident itself.

Do I Have to Be Off Probation For 5 Years? 

For over 10 years the USCIS has been approving citizenship cases when the applicant can prove they are off of probation, and they do not require that the applicant be off of probation for 5 years.

The reason may appear in the regulations at 8 C.F.R. section 316.10(c); note the differences between this good moral character “extenuating circumstance” and the other preclusions to establishing good moral character under 8 C.F.R. section 316.10(b).

It seems that the justification for prohibiting approval of naturalization for someone who is still on probation is not that the person lacks good moral character as a result of being on probation. Rather, it seems that the justification for prohibiting approval of naturalization for someone who is still on probation is that the person is subject to further prosecution on the underlying criminal DUI matter—prosecution that might lead to him or her becoming deportable—if there were to be a violation of probation.

Thus, the USCIS does not want to naturalize someone one day only to find out that the very next week the person violated their probation and would be subject to deportation were he still only a permanent resident.  In other words, so long as the applicant is off of their DUI probation even for only one week, the USCIS officers seem willing to approve citizenship.

Arrested for DUI after Filing the N400?

Sometimes, unfortunately, an arrest for DUI occurs after the N400 Application for Naturalization is filed.  In that case, when you are at the citizenship interview and the immigration officers asks if you’ve ever been arrested or detained you are obligated to say “yes” and tell him or her about the DUI arrest.

In my experience, the immigration officer usually delays your N400 case until the DUI court problem is resolved. If you are found guilty for a DUI you will usually be put on 2-4 years of “probation.”  Once that happens, the officer has no choice but to deny your citizenship because you are on probation.  However, if the DUI is dismissed, the officer can grant citizenship (given there are no other problems).

If you don’t think your DUI charge will be dismissed, you may choose to formally withdraw your N400 Application, either by sending a letter (send it “certified” to verify they got it) to the USCIS, or by submitting a withdrawal letter in person at the citizenship interview.  There is no special format for the letter, but the immigration officer may also have you sign one of their withdrawal forms.  If you withdraw your N400, there will be no denial of citizenship on your record.

However, if you withdraw your N400 you won’t get the government fees that you paid back. If asked why you are withdrawing, it is ok to say that your are withdrawing your application because of a DUI  arrest (this is a common reason) – the USCIS will find out about your DUI arrest anyway when you apply for citizenship later after you are off of probation, or when you apply to renew your green card, because each of those applications require fingerprinting.

In most states, it is possible to prove that a citizenship applicant has good moral character even with a DUI or DWI in their background so long as the applicant is off of probation, so long as the citizenship application is carefully prepared, and the citizenship interview goes well.

HOT TIP:  VACATIONING TO CANADA?  Canada regards DUI / DWI as an extremely serious offense.  Persons from any country with DUI/DWI convictions in their history (no matter how long ago) are not usually allowed to enter Canada.

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  1. Ali Alsaraf
    September 10, 2013

    Hi, i drink every night for almost 10 years, so my blood has alcohol in it all the time even if i don’t drink for 2-3 days. I got pulled over by police 4 days ago, and he gave me a ticket for DUI and took me to Detox, and before he took me to Detox, he to took me to a firefighter department and took my blood. I have to go to court on 27 October (next month). Will i need to hire an attorney to come with me? And my second question is…i will apply for a Citizenship after a year and half. Do you think this DUI will affect on getting a US Citizenship? And will i need an immigration attorney when i apply for a US Citizenship?

    • immigrationworkvisa
      September 13, 2013

      Dear Ali,

      Sorry, but I am not an expert on DUI criminal cases, so you will need to ask a criminal defense attorney who practices in your state for legal advice about your DUI case.

      With regards to your citizenship case, whether you need an immigration attorney or not depends on what happens with your DUI case. For example, if your DUI case is completely dismissed, you should not need an immigration attorney. If the DUI is not completely dismissed, you should show an immigration attorney your criminal paperwork and ask whether he/she thinks you need to be represented or not.

      Not all DUI convictions or “deals” are the same or I could be more precise.

      Also, please be aware that the american citizenship laws could change at any time, so any advice you get regarding that matter may change – be sure to research this topic again closer to the time of filing the N400.

      Kind regards, Danielle Nelisse

  2. chavez
    September 3, 2013

    Hi! Danielle, I from Iowa. I just got a OWI first offense last year on may 6, 2012 and my court sentence was 1 year self-probation and 2 days in jail but instead of that i didn’t the dui hotel program where i took the dui classes so i didn’t have to do jail and 6 months driver licenses suspension and i pay 1000 in fines. That’s all i got in my record. My question is can i still become a U.S Citizen? If the answer is yes. can i apply even if I’m under self probation or do i have to wait until my probation period ends. It ends on January 14, 2014. Thanks this a great blog you give very useful information.

    • immigrationworkvisa
      September 6, 2013

      Dear Chavez,

      Thank you for your kind words. Unfortunately, you will need to show your paperwork to an immigration attorney in order to get your answer. Please do not rely on free blogs.

      Kind regards, Danielle Nelisse

  3. alos
    July 3, 2013

    Dear Danielle, thanks for your hard work to do the best you can to help all of us who are ” touched ” by DUI. Here is my case. I am permanent resident
    My first misdemeanor DUI took place in CA back in 2000. Second felony DUI took place in 2002. Convicted in the same year 02 and have had spent 1 year in jail. (8 1/2 months) Placed on probation after being out of jail in 03. I have successfully completed my probation in 2006 with court appointed 6 months of alcohol program with certificate of completion.
    I am not on a probation since then , and due to surgery of my low back I am on medications and also receiving social disability. If I apply for citizenship, what should I do to take a chance ( risk) .

    • immigrationworkvisa
      July 12, 2013

      Dear Alos,

      This is too important of a decision to rely on free blogs. Please pay an immigration attorney near you to meet with you and review all of your criminal records from the court and give you a written legal opinion about whether you should file for citizenship or not. It will be money well spent as your future relies upon the answer.

      Kind regards, Danielle Nelisse

  4. RIZ
    June 27, 2013

    I got my Green Card in 1999 I have 2nd dui in march 2009 which is a class b misdemenor if I apply for us citizenship what will be happened

    • immigrationworkvisa
      July 1, 2013

      Dear Riz,
      Please bring your two DUI case documents to an immigration attorney and ask them. Please do not rely on free blog information for such an important subject.

      Kind regards, Danielle Nelisse

  5. CJ
    June 20, 2013

    Hello, I got my LPR on May 22, 2008. On April 29, 2006 I got a simple DUI (with no physical/personal etc harm) and my case was concluded on March 3, 2008. I had a one year probation period that successfully ended March 3, 2009.

    I filed my N400 on February 23, 2013. I held my interview today June 20, 2013. I provided court disposition documents, that also shows a probation completion confirmation on the above date.

    In addition, I had a speeding ticket on July 2010 that cost me more than $500, so I disclosed and provided documentation on that as well.

    The officer and I had a nice chat, she told me that they cannot conclude on my case now because she has to run my case by her supervisor to determine the final outcome.

    So my worries are:

    Because I rushed and filed 90 days before my 5 year eligibility date, by about 10 days, within the statutory period (i.e. the date of filing minus 5 years) I show a DUI conviction and also show a probation occuring during the period (albeit the beginning i.e. 4 years ago).

    I know this is a technicality, I have completed my DUI school, alcohol evaluation etc all in 2006, so my probation was really a quick payment and done type of deal.

    I am afraid these date overlaps will cause me to receive a denial, although in essence the DUI occured 7+ years ago and I have not repeated the offense.

    What do you think?


  6. lia
    June 18, 2013

    Thank you for a great article,
    Currently I’m filling out the N-400, I came across a question that not sure what to answer.
    I was pulled over, arrested and received a wet reckless driving ticket “not a DUI” I paid the fees and the probation ended over a year ago. do I need to answer yes on the question “Have you ever been charged committing any crime or offense?”
    AND “have you ever been convicted of a crime?”
    I’ll appreciate any help

  7. fahim
    June 13, 2013

    i got arrested for DUI.after 1 month of fingerprint. i received 2 letter appointment for interview..i send them 2 letters , trying to withdrawal my n-400 application..they didn’t receive my letters yet..but now i went to the court ,2 days ago,
    my DUI is level 5, i have to pay up 600$, 2 year probation,24 hours community services .i called the immigration office asking him about letter,, he said if we didn’t receive withdrawal letter we gonna keep sending you other appointments for the interview question is,, if i receive the 3rd appointment letter can i take an immigration attorney to the interview?and is there any chance to get my citizenship?

  8. Ting
    June 6, 2013

    I had my first DUI in Dec, 2012. Probation is 3 years. I was planning on applying for citizenship this month (June, 2013). I have already filled out N-400. Should I mail it out and give it a try? or there’s absolutely no way they will let me pass because I am still under probation?

    I had a speeding ticket 10 years ago, and this DUI, other than that my record is clean. I attend church, and have good reputation among my friends and coworkers. Will that show enough good moral character, and perhaps they will let me pass?

    I haven’t see my parents in China for over 13 years now. I have been waiting to become a citizen therefore I can finally go back to visit them. Please help!

    Thank you so much!

  9. jhonathan
    May 27, 2013

    can i become a Citizenship with tow duis in usa? im n mississippy

    • immigrationworkvisa
      June 21, 2013

      Dear Jhonathan,

      Sometimes you can qualify for citizenship with 2 dui’s. It depends on what the conviction paperwork says and the wording of the law in mississippi. The only way to find out for sure is to pay an immigration attorney to look at your conviction paperwork for both cases and give you their legal opinion in writing. Please do not depend on free blogs for such an important issue.

      Kind regards,

      Danielle Nelisse, Immigration Attorney

  10. sam
    May 6, 2013

    I had my 2nd dwi in new york (no felony) got my disposition letter today may 5th 2013 with one year conditional discharge
    Asked 1 minute ago – Ronkonkoma, NY
    Second DUI
    I like to go ahead and apply for my citizenship application, i have plenty of good moral letters from local legister and local community organisation
    also i have been thru with OASAS (alchohal related consuling which is new york state approved organisation) successfully.
    Kindly advise me should i apply for naturalisation ?

    • immigrationworkvisa
      June 21, 2013

      Dear Sam,

      Please hire an immigration attorney for your case and do not depend on free blogs, which only contain general information, for something so important. I know you are trying to save money, but there is a lot of information (that is not in your question) that the immigration attorney will need to ask to answer your questions. You sound nice and I am sorry I cannot help you.

      The immigration attorney will need to look at both of your conviction paperwork files as well as your written proof that you are off of probation to give you a written legal opinion.

      Kind regards,

      Danielle Nelisse, Immigration Attorney

  11. Dil Shrestha
    April 18, 2013

    I had Apply Citizenship and offer told me i can not apply citizenship coz i have dui but after he told me if you want give test and i did test and i did pass after that offer told wait for our decision by mail so what do u think i wil get it or not i m so confuse.

  12. drew
    February 21, 2013

    Hi I got a dui 3 years ago I filed and got to the interview and I said yes with my dui but he told me to withdraw bec im still in probation and I signed a form and gave me a copy now im done with my probation and goin to apply again for citizenship am I gonna get approved?..or not..

    • immigrationworkvisa
      March 12, 2013

      Dear Drew:

      Probably. Us immigration attorneys are not allowed to “guarantee” success; it is unethical because (a) i have not seen your dui paperwork and don’t know if the officer was right about it; and (b) the rules may change by the time you apply again.

      The only way to be certain is to show an immigration attorney (you will probably have to pay them something) your dui paperwork and ask if they think your N400 would be approved – but don’t ask them until right before you apply.

      Kind regards, Danielle Nelisse

  13. Sam III
    January 29, 2013

    Thanks so much for this article. I live in California and I just got my probation terminated after 21 months of the original 36 months. My Lawyer(non immigration) is proceeding with the expungement paperwork and I will fill out my N-400 now. Although I’m off probation, I am still nervous and hope it goes well.

    Thanks again,

  14. Tom
    January 28, 2013

    Dear Danielle, I’ve lived in this Country for 38 Years now (I just turned 46), when i was 8 my parents moved here and when they beacame citizens they never added me to the process for unknown reasons( They didn’t know better) I also have had 3 DUI”s in my 20’s the most recent one was in 1997 (15 years ago) And did over a Year in Jail because of it!!!. I haven’t had anything since then (not even traffic tickets) . I have Two boys 3 and 1 with my girlfriend that I live with in PA, My Question is will i be denied citezenship? I heard that you only need the past 5 years good morals to apply, do you think I will be denied???

  15. Concerened girlfriend
    January 28, 2013

    Hi this blog is very informative however I’m just a little confused… I am a citizen but my boyfriend is not he had gotten arrested a few days ago for violation of probation and DUI however the keys were not in ignition, he had a court date for a previous DUI and received a felony but fought it and won because it was self defense… Should I be concerned that he’s going to be deported, if so what is the process and could/should we petition to fight it?

    Concerened girlfriend

    • immigrationworkvisa
      March 12, 2013

      Dear Girlfriend:

      Please take all of his court paperwork to an immigration attorney and pay for a legal opinion. This is too important to rely on free blog advice.

      Kind regards, Danielle Nelisse

  16. Deb
    January 23, 2013

    Dear Danielle,
    This site is wonderful and has been so helpful with my concerns on whether or not my husband should apply for his citizenship.
    We live in CA and in 2005, my husband got his first DUI, completed all required community service, paid all fines, completed all required training programs, and was on probation for 5yrears. Since his DUI in 2005, he has not been cited for anything else and has remained with the same employer since.
    Based on what I have read, it seems like his chances are good in passing for citizenship. Problem is, I can’t find any of his court documents are paperwork in regards to his DUI. Do you know where I can start? Should I still go ahead and hire an immigration attroney? Will an attroney have access to these documents? Can you recommend any good attroney in CA? His LPR Card expires 7/2013, is it too late to apply for his citizenship and renew his LPR card instead?

    Please Advise.
    Thank you


    • immigrationworkvisa
      March 12, 2013

      Dear Deb,

      1. You can ask for his court paperwork from the criminal court. If they no longer have the paperwork, ask them for a letter stating it no longer exists. The attorneys do not have special powers for getting these records.

      2. You can ask the FBI for his criminal record for “personal reasons.” It costs $18 and takes about a month. Just google FBI record. Attorneys do not have special powers for getting these records. The FBI record is the same one the immigration officers look at.

      3. It takes about 4-6 months to get a new green card in the mail.

      4. It takes about 4-6 months to complete citizenship processing.

      He should take his court/FBI paperwork to an immigration attorney and pay for a legal opinion. This is too important to rely on free blog advice. They will tell him whether he needs representation for citizenship or not.

      Kind regards, Danielle Nelisse

  17. rabin
    January 21, 2013

    Hi there,
    I was convicted of DUI-Less-safe-alcohol in 2009 in the state of Georgia and then I was put on probation for a year.Before I was convicted of DUI I had applied for citizenship and then before I went on interview I was convicted of DUI-less-safe-alcohol. I was asked on the interview if i had been arrested before and I had to say yes. Then I got letter from the immigration that I cannot be naturalized while on probation. After finishing my probation, I moved to Maryland and went to school here. Currently I hold an associate degree from a community college here.
    My green card expires on February 2014. Should I renew my green card or should I re-apply for citizenship. Will be renewal of green card be denied and will i have to leave the country? or will they approve my green card renewal? or even naturalization?
    I have lived in the US for almost 9 years now and I do not have any other tickets beside 1 less safe DUI, not even one speeding ticket or any other traffic violations.
    Please and Thank You 🙂

  18. Mirna
    January 14, 2013

    I just got married and i want to file for my husband to be legal here in united states he has two DUI’s didnt go to court or ever payed them. how do i look into it before i file hi sapplication and will he still have a chance to fix his papers.

  19. Binu
    January 13, 2013

    I want to start by saying thanks for the great article. I was applying for my father and he’s had a few run-ins with the law. Back in 2003 and again in 2006. Both times it was a matter of DUI. For the first time, he was confined for 2 days and on probation for 24 months during which time he attended a court-mandated rehab facility. Then for the 2006 case, he was confined for 90 consecutive weekends and on probation for 12 months. He again attended rehab. Since then, absolutely no run-ins with the law. Would you advise we hire an immigration attorney? Thanks in advance.

    • immigrationworkvisa
      March 12, 2013

      Dear Binu:

      I can’t say whether he needs an immigration attorney for the entire citizenship process or not. Please take all of your court paperwork to an immigration attorney and pay for a legal opinion. This is too important to rely on free blog advice.

      Kind regards, Danielle Nelisse

  20. Ed
    January 4, 2013

    You are so right when you say that a previous DUI conviction is often more stressful to the applicant than any USCIS interview. I was convicted of DUI in my home country of Canada 20 years ago. I have lived in the United States since 2001 and have been a permanent resident for the last six years. My three kids are all U.S. citizens and I would like nothing more than to do the same. Do you recommend I file my N400 with the assistance of an immigration attorney? I used one when applying for my green card and had no trouble getting it.

    Thank you.

  21. Anonymous
    December 25, 2012

    Hello.I got a DUI and couple other traffic violations in South Florida(speeding,no registration,no insurance) while being on temporary documents filing for an appeal.I got deported(for 10 years) without ever seeing the judge,or attending any DUI classes,so my dui,speeding tickets etc are not taken care of.The question is,will my case still stay open and will I have any troubles because of that(not showing up to court) if I ever enter the country again?If yes ,what do I need to do to avoid them?

    • immigrationworkvisa
      January 4, 2013

      Dear Anonymous:

      Yes, you will probably have problems re-entering the USA if you do not resolve your criminal matter. For example, you may have a warrant for your arrest in Florida because you failed to appear in court. The best way to find out is to hire a criminal defense attorney in Florida to look into your case for you.

      Kind regards,

      Danielle Nelisse

  22. Kelly
    December 8, 2012

    My husband was charged with an OVI 20 days AFTER he passed the Interview. He Showed up for the Naturalization/Citizenship Ceremony, answered honestly that he had been charged for his first ever traffic stop/crime, the OVI. He was not able to participate in the Ceremony and was sent home waiting for a letter in the mail with instructions on what to do. Any idea what will happen to him?

    • immigrationworkvisa
      January 4, 2013

      Dear Kelly:

      Citizenship will not be granted if your husband is convicted of certain crimes. It is best to find out from an immigration attorney whether his crime will result in his citizenship being denied, and if so, withdraw his application before it is denied. The only way an immigration attorney can tell you if his crime will result in a denial is for that immigration attorney to review his court documents.

      Kind regards,
      Danielle Nelisse

  23. samuel
    December 7, 2012

    I had a DUI in june 2012 and on a 12months probation,i intend to file my citizenship next year,would i be approved after my probation?

    • immigrationworkvisa
      January 4, 2013

      Dear Samuel:

      You have to (a) be off of probation AND (b) have the type of DUI that is excused in order for US citizenship to be granted. The only way to know if you had the type of DUI that can be excused is to have an immigration attorney look at your DUI documents. You need a copy of your complete DUI file for your citizenship application anyway.

      Kind regards,
      Danielle Nelisse, Immigration Attorney

  24. Andree
    November 25, 2012

    Danielle- I had my OWI 5 years ago in Washington, DC. I had no traffic violations, arrests, etc. before/ after OWI. During these 5 years I worked for the same employer, earned my college degree. Do you think I should hire an immigration attorney to assist me with application process?

    Additionally, you mentioned in the article that we should not include certain court documents with our application. Could you please clarify what documents can negatively affect USCIS decision.


    • immigrationworkvisa
      January 4, 2013

      Dear Andree:

      You would need to send me (or a different immigration attorney) a copy of your OWI documents in order for me to answer your questions. I charge $150 for this service because I take my time and do a good job and I care about you and my reputation.

      Please do not rely on free blog advice for this important question.

      Kind regards, Danielle Nelisse

  25. Max Mancini
    November 24, 2012

    Good Blog, thanks for all the advice! I have been PLR since 1968 when I came to the states at age 5. I am an American and have lived a great American life here in the states for the last 45 years. Like many American kids, I grew up being active and testing the limits and as such received my share of misdemeanors, fines, tickets and arrests. No felonies, no violent crimes, although I have 3 DUI’s that I’m not proud of during my college years. After studying the naturalization procedure, I have been made aware of the extensive file that I need to put together in order to receive my citizenship. I kind of wish I didn’t grow up idealizing James Dean and the Duke so much.

  26. SDUI
    November 16, 2012

    Dear Danielle,

    I was arrested for DWI (BAC is 0.10) in New York state in 2007 (i was given other tickets also along with DWI – Unlicensed operator- permit only, headlight not turned off, failed to show insurance card) while I was on non-immigrant visa. I appeared in front of the judege with my attorney on court arriangement date. Judge set below charges

    1. I was convicted to DWAI, reduced from DWI (As per new your state law, DWAI is not a misdemeanor, it is traffic infraction) .
    2. I was given 1 year conditional discharge.
    3. I was asked to pay fine 500$+surcharge 80$ and 90 days license suspension.
    4. Paid my fine and got court disposition. After 90 days got my license back.

    I have stayed clean record and I got my green card on july 2012. After got green card, i got one traffic violation (passing vehicle while on shoulder and paid fine of 120$ – pleaded guily without traffic court appearance with 90 days probation – i did not get any traffic ticket 90 days, so it did mark in my driving record). Other than this, i have clan recod

    I’d like to get some advise from you, Will the above incidents affect me in future

    1. Travel to US (at the POE)?
    2. Applying citizenship

    Best Regards,

    • immigrationworkvisa
      January 4, 2013

      Dear SDUI:

      You should not be relying on free blog advice – your future is too important! Please hire an immigration attorney to analyze your criminal court documents and tickets and provide you with legal advice. You will need to get all of those documents together anyway for your citizenship application.

      I think you can tell from my comments that I would answer if I could.

      good luck, Danielle Nelisse

  27. Adan
    October 30, 2012

    I got a owi in Iowa while after my biometrics and before my interview set date …it is still pending though I went to the interview passed everything… then..I was told I have 30 days from today which is 10-30-12 to have an official court disposition about this owi case…can someone just save me the time and let me know if I should even tell my attorney for a plea bargain cuz I just got home and my set date for pre trail is 01/23/2013 …it was my first offense…but not the first time I had went to jail(January 2010)…and just traffic violations…

    • Adan
      October 30, 2012

      I went to jail the first time for contempt didn’t know i had court,..and I meant first owi offense

  28. Joel
    October 25, 2012

    Dear Hazel,

    I was caught DWI in New York state in 1998 while I was on student F-1 visa, and was convicted in 1999 with a 6 month probation. I have stayed clean since but with a few traffic violation, speeding more specifically, between now and then.

    I received my green card in 2008 and the DWI was the only record. I’d like to get some advise from you before I apply citizenship next year in 2013. I don’t have any of the court record or document for the DWI case. Should I be looking to get a copy?

    Best Regards,

  29. Anonymous
    October 5, 2012

    Can you recommend an immigration attorney in Minnesota?!

  30. Anonymous
    October 5, 2012

    Hello Danielle,

    I just became a US Citizen this year, WHOOT, WOOOOOT!! But, my brother was scared to file for his citizen because he has 1 DWI and nothing else on his record. I have tried to push him to file like i did, and write a letter explaining his situation. What do you think his chances are if he file with an explation letter? Also do you think his situation is serious enough to hire an immigration attorney?

    Thank you!!

    p.S. THank you Danielle for posting this! It is very encouraging and VERY informational!!!!


  31. mymelissa
    September 9, 2012

    My husbands was arrested on a 3 duii and also has one voluntary leave,I am a us citizen and we also have a son together he has no other crimes ? what do you think his chances are for a bond? and if deported do you think I could petition for him would the duii ‘s affect that? thanks!

    • immigrationworkvisa
      October 8, 2012

      Sorry, but you are going to have to hire an immigration attorney who not only specializes in citizenship, but also represents clients undergoing deportation proceedings.

  32. omar
    July 27, 2012

    hi how are you i been 5 years in usa but i took trip out side us how long i have to stay in usa in side usa to be citizenship

    • immigrationworkvisa
      October 8, 2012

      Hi Omar:
      From this little bit of information about you I cannot answer your question, sorry.

  33. idalia
    July 26, 2012

    my first time ever got in trouble with the law for dwi/child, will this complicate things for me to renwed my INS card or my citizenship. I have live in the US all my life here have kids, am attending to college and marry to a military husband what should I do?

    • immigrationworkvisa
      July 27, 2012

      Dear Idalia:

      Sorry, but you should not be relying on free blogs for legal advice in your case. Please hire an immigration attorney near you, and pay for a legal consultation. This is important, so it is worth the money. If I could answer your question for free, I would.

      Kind regards, Danielle Nelisse

  34. Happy
    July 25, 2012

    I’m applying my citizenship N400 and need help good moral character questions 15-21. I had 2 traffic tickets and was arrest on feb/2010.. I paid $700 and serve 40 hours community service( probation) for a year and completed it . I do have arrest disposition and certified court copy but need to know the answers for those questions.

    • immigrationworkvisa
      July 25, 2012

      Dear Happy:

      In your case you should not depend on free blog advice – bite the bullet and hire an immigration attorney if you are serious about winning your citizenship case. Your future depends on it and now is not the time to cut corners. If I could give you an answer I would — but in your case it could hurt you if I advise you to do the wrong thing and I am not willing to do that.

      Kind regards, Danielle Nelisse

      • Happy
        July 25, 2012

        Thanks Daniel… I will hire attorney as soon as possible.. You are the man

        • immigrationworkvisa
          July 27, 2012

          Thank you Happy!

          Regards, Danielle Nelisse

          P.S. I am a woman 🙂 LOL

  35. Barrie A
    June 13, 2012

    In the pasted 10 years I have been, well not a very nice person. I have had 3 DUI’s and numerous resisting arrest, that went along with the DUI’s. My last DUI was in October 2007 I went into a DUI court program, but did not complete that , instead I serve the 90 day sentence. In 2009 I was arrested for drunk and disorderly, damage to a police car and resisting arrest. I also have a conviction of fighting served 15 days, plus I ran from police and was arrested for eluding police. I have been a green card hold since 1989 and am not married. My green runs out next May 2013, what do you think my chances are of renewing it. Since all this I have relocated to a different state had no problems with the law. Thanks you.

    • immigrationworkvisa
      June 15, 2012

      Dear Barrie:

      I highly recommend that you hire an immigration attorney with criminal experience with an office near you so he/she can review all of your court documents and tell you whether your green card is safe or not. Please do it soon and do not rely on free blog advice, for your own safety.

      Regards, Danielle Nelisse

  36. fla
    June 6, 2012

    my brother has a 2dwi 1 in 1994 and the other one in 1996 lic supended however he already have his lic back about 6 years ago. also he was arrest for drug his case was dismissed , he would like to apply for citizenship. can he apply and if he need to have proof all the case.

    • immigrationworkvisa
      June 8, 2012

      Dear Fla:

      Your brother should hire an experienced immigration attorney to handle his USA citizenship application.

      Kind regards, Danielle Nelisse

  37. Jo V.
    May 24, 2012

    I had a DUI in 06(age 22), drunk in public& misdemeanor possession of methamphetamine in 05(age 21), another drunk in public in 04(age 20), and a attempted GTA that was reduced to a misdemeanor in 03(age 19). I’ve stopped my wild and stupid behavior since the DUI, went through the program and AA. I was on informal probation for most of these incidents have no felonies. I’ve had no run ins with the law since except for a couple of speeding tickets and 1 ticket for like a gram of marijuana. My green card expires at the end of the year. Should I just reapply for my green card and wait a few more years to apply for my naturalization?

    • immigrationworkvisa
      June 1, 2012

      Dear Jo V.

      You will need to pay to consult with an immigration attorney near you that specializes in both criminal and immigration law and he/she will advise you on when or if you should apply for naturalization. Please do not trust free blog advice in your case.

      Kind regards, Danielle Nelisse

  38. Peter
    April 27, 2012

    I live in California.I had a DUI in 11/10.I got my license back after completing classes and paying all fees.Unfortunately I got another DUI in 2/12 while still under probation for my first (lesson learned).I am supposed to apply for my citizenship in 11/12.From the previous answers on the article.I take it I cannot apply for Citizenship until am off probation?I am also supposed to travel abroad in December this year(2012)Do I need to apply for the 1-192 waiver before travelling.I fear I will be denied entry back to the US.Last question is there anything I can do while on probation to help with my case during citizen application I.e community work. I have had my green card since 2008.

    • immigrationworkvisa
      May 2, 2012

      Dear Peter:

      Sorry that you got two DUI’s. Yes, you have to be off of probation to be granted USA citizenship. The USCIS officer will ask for a letter of proof from the probation dept. that your probation has ended. Sorry, while community work is always a good thing, it does not change the fact that you are on probation for a DUI.

      I believe that the I-192 waiver is for “nonimmigrants” and you are an “immigrant” so I’m not sure why you are bringing that up; perhaps I didn’t understand the question.

      Kind regards, Danielle Nelisse

      FYI, some counties, like Canada, do not allow people to enter who have a DUI on their record, so be sure to check that out before you travel abroad.

  39. Khalid
    March 15, 2012

    I (Male) came to USA 2 and half years ago and was given a permanent green card for 10 years. As i am still married to a US Citizen(Female)
    Issue date: 8/23/2009

    My 3 years are suppose to compelete this year on 8/23/2012
    And Now i checked on the immigration website, and found out i can apply
    for citizenship 3 months prior to my ending date, which accourding to my calculation should be on (5/25/2012)..

    (I have a job, paid my taxes, Still married to my wife and still living with her.)

    NOW THE MAJOR MISHAP.(1st Offense in my Life)-(misdemenor Class B)
    On Sept, 4th 2010 i was busted for DWI, and i hired a lawyer and fought the
    case and i was put on a Divert Program (Not a Probation) and my case got
    dismissed on Feb, 8th 2012.

    So would this DWI, would cause a problem for me in applying for a Citizenship ???

    • immigrationworkvisa
      March 15, 2012

      Dear Khalid:

      Your DWI should not cause a problem for your citizenship because it was dismissed, but you must disclose it on the N400 and prove what happened (include the dismissal document). The arrest and initial charges will show up on your background check after you give your fingerprints and you don’t want the officer thinking up the worst case scenario in their mind.

      It is always a good strategy to present what happened in a proactive way by including your documents (just the minimum- maybe 1 page) with the N400 so that when the officer reviews your case he will think, “ok, just a DWI that got dismissed, no need to worry about it.”

      It would also be a good idea to get a letter from the local probation dept. proving you are not on probation. (Many of the immigration officers assume that “Diversionary Programs” are a form of probation and sometimes they are right.) A letter from your church and/or a place where you volunteer wouldn’t hurt either 🙂

      Regards, Danielle Nelisse

  40. Luis
    March 11, 2012

    Dear Danielle,

    I have a DWI on my record and I received the letter of my driver Licence suspension from 1/26/2012 thought 04/26/2012 and I will be sending my DL payments prior to the date and will keep my SR-22 insurance till 1/26/2014, I understand here in Texas the misdemeanor will stay on my record permanently. My Green card expires on 2020 7 years from now and my green card was issue on 02-02-2010 . This misdemeanor is the only one in my record and will stay the same, Do you think I will have any problems when applying for my citizenship? Thank you in advance, this is great Blog! – Luis.

    • immigrationworkvisa
      March 15, 2012

      Hi Luis:

      Thank you for the compliments! I think you may be ok, but who knows what the citizenship laws will be when you are eligible to apply for citizenship?

      Be sure to keep a copy of all of your court documents (the courts destroy them after a few years) and also go to the probation dept. after you get off of probation to get a letter proving you are not on probation.

      Best of luck, and stay safe out there,
      Danielle Nelisse

      • Luis
        March 15, 2012

        Thank you! I will do that immediately. Thanks Again! Luis.

  41. Dgoguy21
    March 6, 2012

    I have 2 dwi’s and an evading arrest class b misdemenor more then 6 years ago can I still apply for the citizenship?

    • immigrationworkvisa
      March 15, 2012

      Dear Dgoguy:

      Possibly. Unfortunately, in order to get a definitive answer, you will have to fax/scan your court documents for the 3 convictions to an immigration attorney to find out for sure — if you don’t want to risk losing the N400 $680 filing fees. Sorry, but each of the 50 states’ laws are written differently and in this area of immigration law it matters.

      Regards, Danielle Nelisse

  42. santiago
    February 28, 2012

    i got my Green Card in 1991 and my first DUI(class B misdemeanor) in 1999 with 2 days in jail, one year court probation, and again in 2009 i got another DUI but i was amended to reckless alcohol related class B misdemeanor and a open container class C misdemeanor,one year court probation no jail time, both DUI were a maximum jail time of 6 month. can i apply for my citizenship or wait until the 5 year term of good moral character,if not can i renew my green card without any problems?

    • immigrationworkvisa
      February 29, 2012

      Dear Santiago:

      Yes, you can apply for citizenship without waiting for the additional 5 years. Be sure to get proof that you are off probation before paying the government fee for the N400. Yes, you can renew your green card with 1 DUI and 1 alcohol related reckless driving in your history.

      Kind regards, Danielle Nelisse

      • Dil Shrestha
        April 18, 2013

        Hi Danielle Nelisse
        This is Dil Shrestha i had apply citizenship but i have DUI and i had done every things so when i was at interview at that time offer told me you have dui probation when you willl finish probation than you can apply than again he asked if you want give test than also possible after that i said i will give test and i did pass after that he told me wait for our decision by mail so i m so confuse i will get or not ? please i need your help
        Dil Shrestha

  43. Neto
    February 24, 2012

    I got a DUI a night before my intreview. They closed my case and I’m on probation for one year. Can I apply again after my probation it’s done?

    • immigrationworkvisa
      February 29, 2012

      Dear Neto:

      Yes, you can apply for USA citizenship again when you are off probation.

      Regards, Danielle Nelisse

  44. olaniyi abdullahi
    February 19, 2012

    Well written blog. I will be due for my US Citizenship by August but i have one DWI in 2010, and im off from my probation in 2011. what is my stand in term of good moral charater?

    • immigrationworkvisa
      February 21, 2012

      Dear Olaniyi:

      Thank you. As it states in my blog article, you success depends on how your state’s DWI statute it written, what exactly you were convicted of, and what proof you have that you are off of probation. It costs between $150 – $250 to get a written legal opinion from an immigration attorney if you don’t want to pay to have legal representation for your citizenship application.

      Kind regards, Danielle Nelisse

  45. gaby
    February 10, 2012

    i just had my interview for my citizenship everything went well. A few days later i got arrested for a DUI. I have my oath appointment in 2 weeks. Can i get denied for the dui that i got?

    • immigrationworkvisa
      February 14, 2012

      Dear Gaby:

      Sorry that happened to you.

      Yes, you will be asked to fill out a form at the oath ceremony about whether you got arrested since your citizenship interview and you cannot lie. As you know from my blog article, in general, a DUI is excused. The problem is if you plead guilty to the DUI you will be put on probation and probation is not excused. If you think you can get the DUI dismissed you might have a chance of success . . . but it would be up to the USCIS whether they want to hold your case open while you get it dismissed, or make you file a new N400 (with new filing fees).

      Regards, Danielle Nelisse

  46. youngthingy
    February 6, 2012

    Dear Danielle,

    Great article! Answered a lot of questions. Do you know of any other legal precedents after the 2004 ruling? I heard of a 2009 ruling, but not sure.

    • immigrationworkvisa
      February 14, 2012

      Dear Young Thingy:

      Thank you for the compliment.

      Perhaps you are thinking of Marmolejo-Campos v. Gonzales, 558 F.3d 903 (9th Cir.2009) regarding Arizona R.S. §28-1383, where “aggravated” drunk driving including driving drunk with knowledge of an invalid license is a CIMT. You can google that case cite and should be able to find and read the entire case on the internet.

      Regards, Danielle

  47. Hazel Ickes
    November 15, 2011

    Well written blog. A good guide for affected people. Are there evidences for people getting through the interview even after a DUI or DWI conviction?

    • immigrationworkvisa
      December 2, 2011

      Dear Hazel,

      Thank you. Yes, all of my clients were approved because they were off of probation.
      Regards, Danielle

  48. antonio
    January 3, 2010

    this a very good site, answer a lot of my questions. thankyou so very much!!!

  49. Khatchig
    October 15, 2009

    This was the most informative article I have ever read about the impact of DUI on US Citizenship. It explained all the questions that I had in my mind from probation, 5 years of good moral character, moral turpitude and much more.

    Thank you so much for the complete and laconic explanation about this confusing issue.

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