Two DUIs Now a More Serious Problem When Applying for Naturalized Citizenship or Cancellation of Removal

AG Barr issues decision holding that applicants with two or more DUIs on record are presumed to lack good moral character.

By , J.D.


Various immigration benefits require a showing of "good moral character" (GMC) in order for applicants to gain approval.

For starters, every applicant for naturalized U.S. citizenship must prove that he or she has been of "good moral character" (GMC) during the required years of gaining eligibility for U.S. citizenship (five years in most cases; referred to as the "statutory period").

And applicants for relief from deportation based on "cancellation of removal" must show ten years' good moral character.

As a practical matter, the GMC showing usually means proving that one hasn't committed any crimes or violated other social norms during the years in question. Not surprisingly, a record of driving while under the influence (DUI or DWI) has always been potentially problematic in that regard.

But it has become more problematic as of late 2019, when Attorney General Barr decided, via a B.I.A. case called Matter of Castillo-Perez, that two or more DUI convictions during the period at issue creates a presumption that the applicant lacks good moral character.

It is a "rebuttable" presumption, at least. That means it is possible to overcome, with other evidence of good moral character and rehabilitation. Put another way, two DUIs creates a bar to citizenship or cancellation of removal that is the applicant's job to overcome.

You will want to get a lawyer's help if you're planning to apply for citizenship or cancellation of removal with any DUIs on record.

Effective Date: October 25, 2019