ALLAN WERNICK: Arrest shouldn't put kibosh on green card

ALLAN WERNICK: Arrest shouldn’t put kibosh on green card

Originally Published in The Los Angeles Times.


FEB 07, 2019 

ALLAN WERNICK: Arrest shouldn't put kibosh on green card
Are arrest shouldn't kill citizenship chances, but it's best to consult with an immigration lawyer. (Laurent Hamels / Getty Images)

Q. My U.S.-citizen wife petitioned for me and I got a two-year conditional card. Then I got arrested for misdemeanor assault, but the judge dismissed the charges.

Will my arrest impact my green card status? Will have a problem when I apply for my permanent card?

H.L., New York

A: You can get your permanent card (valid for 10 years and renewable) despite your arrest. Still, it’s always best to have an immigration law expert review your criminal record before applying.

You became a conditional permanent resident because you got legal immigrant status within two years of your marriage. You must apply for permanent residence without condition in the 90 days before your conditional card expires.

Since you are already a permanent resident, you don’t to worry about the “inadmissibility” rules that apply to a person applying for an immigrant visa. The only issue then is whether you have committed a deportable offense.

Generally, if a judge dismisses a case without the defendant having to pay a fine, perform community service or being incarcerated, the government cannot deport you based on an alleged crime. One exception, where even a dismissed case can be a problem, is if the government has “reason to believe” the applicant was a drug trafficker.

Q: Will my brother’s three driving under the influence convictions keep him from getting U.S. citizenship? The last conviction was 18 years ago.

Juan Santos, Dallas

A: Your brother should get his U.S. citizenship despite his DUI conviction. Simple drunk driving DUI convictions (called driving while intoxicated, DWI in some states) do not permanently bar naturalization. In any event, since his arrest was more than five years ago, immigration should not hold it against him.

Naturalization applicants must prove five years good moral character, three years for those applying under the special rules for the spouse of a U.S. citizen. A DUI conviction may show a lack of the good moral character required to naturalize.

Since your brother’s arrest was more than five years ago, it shouldn’t be a problem. Naturalization applicants with DUI convictions outside the five- (or three-) year period, may sometimes get citizenship if they can show rehabilitation.


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