How Does Alcohol Use Or Abuse Influence Your Immigration Status?


If you show noticeable signs of having abused alcohol, including arrests for alcohol-related crimes like driving under the influence or health issues related to excessive alcohol consumption, you may have trouble getting a visa to the U.S. If you're already in the country while seeking or holding green card status, you could face deportation. But the standard of alcohol abuse impacting your immigration status may be changing.

Alcohol Abuse Will No Longer Factor Into Your Immigration Status

A long-standing part of immigration law that prohibited people who were "habitual drunkards" from being permitted to stay in the U.S. was overturned by a federal appeals court in March. What does this mean? It means that the attorney general is allowed to cancel deportation and permit non-citizens to leave the U.S. voluntarily if the people in question are shown to have good character and be in good standing otherwise.

Before the law was overturned this month, alcohol abusers were categorized with those who participated in torture or genocide in their home countries or those who had been convicted of a felony. Now, by a 2-1 margin, judges in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that alcohol abuse should be considered a disease and not a moral failing. 

So alcohol use won't factor into whether non-citizens will be allowed to stay in the U.S. while they seek legal status. In some cases, they may be allowed to voluntarily leave rather than be deported, which keeps their options open for applying for immigration in the future. Deportation automatically disqualifies you from officially seeking legal resident status.

How Alcohol-Related Crimes Can Still Impact Your Status

You still must be cautious that you don't commit crimes while under the influence. While simply drinking excessively is no longer considered a reason for deportation, other "crimes of moral turpitude" that may cause injury to others, like aggravated driving under the influence, can negatively impact your application for permanent residency. 

Even if you're not seeking to be a permanent resident of the U.S., an alcohol-related crime can hurt your chances of traveling freely. The details of any crime for which you are convicted will be part of your permanent record, and can make it difficult for you to re-enter the U.S., change your status, or get certain types of visas, such as those that allow you to have a work permit. You could be denied re-entry completely with a crime like DUI on your record.

If you have questions about how a past alcohol-related crime may impact your ability to stay in the U.S. or re-enter the U.S., talk to an attorney, like Tesoroni & Leroy, with specific expertise in immigration law. An attorney can help non-citizens with DUI convictions gain or retain their status.


30 March 2016