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Q: Will I be deported for a DWI conviction?

A: It depends on your status. An undocumented (“illegal”) person will be placed in deportation (removal) proceedings at some point. A person with a green card will have some difficulty with the naturalization process and will need to prove 5 years of good moral character after their DWI conviction in a municipal court.

Q: So what happens if I am arrested for a DWI and I have no status in the United States (“illegal person”)?
  • If you are an undocumented person living in the United States, a conviction for a DWI offense is considered a misdemeanor by the federal immigration law; it is quasi-criminal even though it is a traffic offense in the New Jersey municipal courts. This is because of the potential penalties of loss of license and term of imprisonment involved
  • As an undocumented person living in the United States, you are absolutely exposed to being placed in deportation proceedings even if it is your first conviction for a DWI. Many times, ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) Officers do not pick the undocumented person at the time of the arrest for the DWI incident. Instead, they will wait for some time after the conviction in the municipal court to detain the undocumented individual.
  • The undocumented person with a DWI conviction might be picked up at their home, at their place of employment or after another motor vehicle incident occurs.




Q: Why did I receive a 2-year green card and a Permanent green card?

A: A conditional alien resident is someone who is petitioned by their US Citizen Spouse. They are provided with a 2-year green card because of two reasons: 1) they were married to a US Citizen for less than two years at the time of their adjustment of status interview; the interview is done at one of the USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) local field offices; and 2) there was no child(ren) born of the marriage.

Q: When should I file for the removal of the conditions?

A: A conditional green card holder should file for the removal of the conditions via Form I-751 within the 90-day period before the expiration of their green card.  

Q: Why do I need to file form I-751 and how long is the process?

A:  It is necessary to prove by a preponderance of the evidence to USCIS that the Alien and US Citizen Spouse still have a bona fide marriage. This means that the couple must prove the existence of joint documents where their lives together are co-mingled. The federal immigration laws are very strict and require showing of a traditional view of marriage where the couple has proofs of income tax returns, bank accounts, life insurance, health insurance and auto insurance policies together, including other proofs, such as utilities and rent or mortgage payments.

Q: What happens if I do not have all the proofs that USCIS requires?

A:  If you do not have all of the proofs required to satisfy USCIS, the Immigration Office may send you a Request for Evidence or schedule you for a secondary interview to prove the validity of the marriage. Alternatively, if the conditional green card holder is separated from his or her US Citizen Spouse, they can file Form I-751 via a good faith waiver and/or hardship.




Q: What is good moral character?

A: A green card holder who wants to become a US Citizen must go through the naturalization process and is required to show five years of good moral character prior to the filing of their Form N-400, Application for Naturalization. Good moral character means that you have not been convicted of any major motor vehicle violations or criminal charges and are otherwise a person in good standing in your community.

Q: What if I have a conviction for DWI?

A: A conviction for DWI is considered a misdemeanor for federal immigration law purposes. Thus, the individual seeking to be naturalized to US Citizenship will have to prove rehabilitation, which means he or she will need to prove to the interviewing Immigration Services Officer that they are involved in community service, not a danger to the community and that their friends and relatives can vouch for their good moral character.

Q: What else happens at the Naturalization Interview?

A: While the naturalization process should be a happy one for the applicant, it can also bring up issues from the past. The N-400 form asks a series of questions dealing with the applicant’s immigration and criminal history. The Form has been expanded over the years to a 21-page form to date. Immigration Services Officers have complete discretion to evaluate the green card holder’s complete history. As an example, this means that the interviewing Officer can delve into any and all visa applications filed at the various US Embassies in the applicant’s home country to draw out past immigration fraud. This also means that the applicant’s criminal history will be reviewed extensively and the Officer will expect certified dispositions and arrest reports for all related incidents and encounters with local police officers and detention issues.