I have a DUI on my record, and I am planning to go visit my
parents overseas soon. As a green card holder, should I worry about being allowed back
into the U.S.?
Most likely you will be fine. By itself, a conviction for a single
DUI (driving under the influence) or DWI (driving while intoxicated) does not
usually cause immigration problems for green card holders.
Nevertheless, it would be worth checking in with an
experienced immigration attorney, because any issue that involves the overlay
between criminal and immigration laws gets complicated fast, and the stakes are
high. If you have more than one DUI conviction, or aggravating factors were
present in your case (someone was injured, or you were driving with a suspended
license, or there was a child in the car, for instance) then the consequences
may be more serious.
We’ll explain here the basic legal issues, which should help
clarify why the issue is worth checking into further.
Any time a green card holder commits a crime, it raises two
“Inadmissibility” refers to a list of reasons within the
immigration laws that someone can be barred from entry to the United States.
Your original application for a green card was approved only because you were
found not to be “inadmissible” (unless you got a waiver of a ground of
As a green card holder, your request to reenter the U.S.
will be tested against the grounds of inadmissibility if you either stayed away
for 180 days or more, committed a crime before you left the U.S., or committed
a crime while you were away. In a DUI case, the grounds of inadmissibility most
likely to block your right to reentry are:
Upon return to the U.S., the Customs and Border Protection
(CBP) officer who greets you will run your fingerprints through law enforcement
databases. If the search turns up information indicating that one of these
grounds of inadmissibility applies to you, the officer could put you into
“secondary inspection” and you could ultimately be denied reentry to the United
The immigration law also contains a list of grounds of “deportability,”
which apply to green card holders. If something on this list matches you, you
can be placed into immigration court (removal) proceedings and ultimately
deported from the U.S. even if you haven’t taken a trip and tried to return. Your
travel, however, raises the chances that your file will be looked at and your deportability
discovered. With an order of deportation on your record, you will be barred
from returning to the U.S. for many years.
For a person with a DUI on record, the grounds of
deportability to worry about include convictions for:
If you are found to be possibly deportable upon return to
the U.S., you could be ordered to attend immigration court proceedings for
possible removal from the United States.