In this day and age of increased DWI enforcement, especially in New Jersey, more and more people are recognizing the adverse consequences a DWI arrest and/or conviction can have on one’s immigration status, ie, potential removability. What is less well known is the impact of a DWI on visa applications, that is, the ability to get here in the first place if one has been arrested for or convicted of drunk driving. Consular officers are specifically instructed to follow a certain protocol when encountering visa applicants whose background checks reveal DWI related offenses. According to the Department of State, consular officers must refer applicants for visas to panel physicians (for further evaluation) in two circumstances: 1) an applicant has a single drunk driving offense or conviction within the last three calendar years or two or more drunk driving arrests or 2) convictions in any time period. This is in addition to referrals based on suspicion of a probable alcohol problem. While alcoholism is not in and of itself a specific ground of ineligibility for a visa to the United States, it is a medical condition that can render one inadmissible under 212(a)(1)(A)(iii) if a panel physician determines that the individual has an alcohol abuse problem which has or is likely to pose a danger to the property, safety, or welfare of the alien or others.
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