Can I get a U.S. visa with a DUI on my record?

A DUI is grounds for the U.S. consulate to refer the applicant to a civil surgeon for an evaluation concerning alcohol abuse

Question

I’m an Australian applying for a U.S. visa, and I have a conviction on my record for drunk driving, after having been breath-tested during a random stop last year. Is this going to present any problem for my U.S. visa application? I’m not an alcoholic, though I do enjoy going out drinking with friends.

Answer

By itself, a single DUI does not make a person inadmissible to the United States. (See Nolo’s article, “Crimes That Make U.S. Visa or Green Card Applicants Inadmissible.”)

But you still have to get past the official medical exam with a civil surgeon (a doctor) in your country. And one of the things the doctor will be looking at is whether you might be an alcohol abuser—and specifically, whether you show “evidence of current or past harmful behavior associated with the disorder that has posed or is likely to pose a threat to the property, safety, or welfare of the alien or others.” (This comes from a State Department set of guidelines called the Foreign Affairs Manual, at 9 FAM 41.108 N1.3 “Medical Examination for DUIs.”)

If you are applying for an immigrant visa, which leads to a green card, a medical exam is an automatically required part of the process.

But even if you’re applying only for a nonimmigrant, temporary visa, it’s entirely likely that the U.S. consulate in Australia that considers your application will, upon seeing the drunk driving conviction on your record, refer you to a civil surgeon for evaluation.

What happens then is largely up to the judgment and expertise of the civil surgeon. You will not be allowed to see the report that the doctor prepares concerning you. If you are found inadmissible, however, you may apply for a waiver with which to enter the United States. Preparing the waiver request is best done with the help of a U.S. immigration attorney.

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