Under the American system of justice, individuals are supposed to be entitled to a presumption of innocence. To be convicted of a crime, you must be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Unfortunately, things can be far more complicated for nonimmigrant visa holders. In fact, in some cases, adverse action may be taken against visa holders without a determination of guilt. Earlier this year, the United States Department of State (DOS) made this clear when it de-classified a large amount of internal documents. Included in this release of records was critically important guidance on the harsh consequences that nonimmigrant visa holders could face. Specifically, if a nonimmigrant visa holder is arrested for a DUI, the Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) states that the State Department has the ability to revoke their visa. This is true regardless of whether or not the visa holder is found guilty of the DUI charges.
Potential Health-Related Grounds of Ineligibility
The State Department’s authority to revoke a visa for a DUI arrest exists because drunk driving is considered to be sufficient grounds for health-related ineligibility. Specifically, DOS can revoke a nonimmigrant visa if it receives any notification that the visa holder has been arrested for a DUI within the previous five-year period. It should be noted that the DOS is likely to receive immediate notification of any DUI arrest from local law enforcement officials. This is because American law enforcement agencies have increasingly begun to share information and databases.
The State Department Is Ramping up Immigration Enforcement
In reality, the State Department has always retained a considerable amount of power to revoke visas. Under American law, immigration enforcement officials have the ability to revoke visas because of adverse information learned after the visa has already been issued. Further, in many cases, this can be done without a comprehensive assessment of the truth of any allegations against the visa holder. The recent guidance regarding DUI arrests and potential visa revocation does not come as a surprise to most immigration attorneys. Instead, it reiterates something that immigration attorneys have remarked on for the past few years: Proactive revocations of visas for individuals already within the United States are becoming more common. The State Department is increasingly taking adverse action against nonimmigrant visa holders when they find out new negative information.
What Happens if Your Visa is Revoked?
As was mentioned, a visa can be revoked for a DUI without a determination of guilt. However, fortunately, this does not mean that a visa holder is completely out of options in this situation. Still, it should be noted that a visa revocation for a DUI arrest can come with a very harsh punishment. It could even be grounds for an individuals court-ordered removal from the United States. However, that certainly does not have to happen in all all cases. Instead, consular officers are able to retain some discretion over what happens to the visa holder in question. While they may be ordered removed from the country, they may also be allowed to reapply for their visa after submitting to additional screening or providing additional evidence or information. In many cases, a visa holder may be asked to come to a consular officer’s office to discuss the issue before any revocation decision is actually made. Regardless, this is an issue that must be taken seriously. If you are a nonimmigrant visa holder, and you have been arrested for a DUI, it is imperative that you speak to an experienced immigration lawyer immediately. There is no time to waste. Additionally, this is not an issue that you should handle on your own. Not only do you have to worry about the legal issues that stem directly from your DUI arrest, but you need to ensure that your legal immigration status is adequately protected. This is especially important if you are in the United States on a work visa, such as an H-1B, O-1, O-2 or O-3. Please take immediate action to protect your status and your employment.
Immigration Help for Immigrants in L.A.
If you have been arrested for DUI while in the United States on a nonimmigrant visa, please immediate legal assistance. The compassionate Los Angeles immigration lawyers at the Law Office of Joshua L. Goldstein are standing by, ready to help you. We understand the complicated issues that immigrants face every day; we also have significant experience helping immigrants in the entertainment industry. We will do whatever is necessary to protect your legal rights. To learn more about what we can do for you, please call our Los Angeles office today to schedule your initial consultation.