While many New Jersey residents who are not US Citizens are understandably concerned about whether Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) or Driving While Under the Influence (DUI) charges will result in their deportation, others are equally anxious that such charges may negatively impact their applications for citizenship or naturalization. In fact, generally speaking, a conviction or even several arrests for Drunk Driving, in violation of NJSA 39:4-50, could, arguably speaking, exert more of an effect on an application than the average person may realize. This is because one of the fundamental requirements in order to become a naturalized citizen is demonstrating that you have good moral character (GMC) over the last five years, or three years in some cases. A conviction for drunk driving during the statutory period will normally have to be disclosed on the application and addressed during the interview. Additionally, the applicant will be expected to furnish documents concerning the arrest and outcome. If the arrest or conviction was out of New Jersey, the applicant needs to obtain the Certified Disposition from the municipal court. Depending on the nature of the conviction and attendant circumstances (a high blood alcohol reading, an accident in which people were injured, etc.), an immigration officer could possibly deny the application on the basis that the conviction reflects poorly on your moral character. The chances of that happening are even more likely should you have two or more convictions within the statutory period.
It should be noted that even if the arrest has not resulted in a conviction, that does not necessarily mean the applicant is in the clear and entitled to be naturalized. There is also a provision whereby an officer could deny the application on the basis that the applicant is a habitual drunkard. According to the USCIS Policy Manual on Citizenship: “An applicant who is or was a habitual drunkard during the statutory period is precluded from establishing GMC. Certain documents may reveal habitual drunkenness, to include divorce decrees, employment records, and arrest records. In addition, termination of employment, unexplained periods of unemployment, and arrests or multiple convictions for public intoxication or driving under the influence may be indicators that the applicant is or was a habitual drunkard.” As is evident, an officer could make arrive at such a conclusion through examination of documents and evidence that one would not ordinarily think is important or relevant.
Any individual who has had an arrest or conviction for drunk driving in New Jersey might want to strong consider consulting with an immigration attorney first before filing for naturalization. The individual should procure, prior to the consultation, the following documents:
Certified Dispositions (of not only the DWI but any companion charges as well)
Driver’s Abstract or History
Proof that all fines have been paid or satisfied
Proof that the individual has successfully completed the Intoxicated Driver’s Resource Center Program (IDRC)
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