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USCIS Issues New Guidance on “Good Moral Character” Determination for Driving Under the Influence Convictions

By December 10, 2019April 1st, 2021Immigration, Immigration Law Changes &  New Law

One of the requirements for naturalization be become an U.S. citizen or other immigration benefits is good moral character (GMC). An applicant for naturalization must show that he or she has been, and continues to be, a person of good moral character. In general, the applicant must show GMC during the five-year period immediately preceding his or her application for naturalization and up to the time of the Oath of Allegiance. Conduct prior to the five-year period may also impact whether the applicant meets the requirement.

On October 25, 2019, the attorney general decided in Matter of Castillo-Perez that two or more Driving Under the Influence (DUI) of alcohol or drugs convictions could affect an applicant’s good moral character determination. The term DUI includes all state and federal impaired-driving offenses, including driving while intoxicated, operating under the influence, and other offenses that make it unlawful for an individual to operate a motor vehicle while impaired. With this decision, two or more DUI’s are now considered to be crimes of moral turpitude.

“Crimes of Moral Turpitude” (CMT) is one of the most important legal concepts for anyone who has had run-ins with law enforcement and who wants to apply for a visa or obtain or keep a green card. A conviction of a CMT can block an application for a visa or green card, and it can even cause someone who already has a U.S. visa or a green card to be deported. Such serious consequences may occur because in order to be successful when applying for a U.S. visa, green card, or citizenship, the applicant must show “good moral character”. For more information about different types of crimes of moral turpitude, please click here.

However, being convicted of a CMT does not automatically make an applicant ineligible for immigrant benefit, unless that crime is murder. When applying for an immigration benefit for which GMC is required, applicants with two or more DUI convictions applicants may be able to overcome this presumption by presenting evidence that they had good moral character even during the period within which they committed the DUI offences. This is a complicated issue as different states have different laws that vary as to how they classy and assign sentencing to crimes. If you believe you have committed a CMT or have more than one DUI, please contact a qualified immigration lawyer immediately to discuss your options.

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