A DUI arrest is one of the most common driving offenses in Washington. It can result in fines, loss of your license, and even jail time. However, for immigrant workers, a drunk driving conviction can also lead to a loss of your work visa and put your immigration status at risk.
Many foreign nationals are working in the U.S. on temporary or permanent employment-based visas. This includes a number of workers from India and China working in the high-tech and aviation industries in Bellevue, Redmond, Kirkland, and the Eastside.
Getting a visa can be a long process that requires interviews, medical examinations, and trips to the consulate. Unfortunately, a drunk driving conviction could mean your work visa can be revoked or non-renewed..
H1B and EB Visa Holders in Washington State
Most of the tech (Microsoft, Amazon, Google) and aviation industry workers in Washington are working in the U.S. on one of the following visas:
- H1B (Foreign professionals in specialty occupations)
- L1A/L1B (Certain individuals employed with companies operating in the U.S.)
- EB1 (First preference priority workers or researchers)
- EB2 (Professionals with advanced degrees and persons with exceptional abilities)
- EB3 (Skilled workers, professionals, and other workers)
Immigration Consequences of a DUI in Washington
When the Department of State (DOS) learns of your drunk driving arrest, consular officials may decide to revoke your current visa or non-renew your visa during your next application. For a DUI arrest, officials may revoke your visa out of a concern for public safety. To revoke your visa, the consular officer does not require a conviction or admission of guilt. It is at the officer's discretion to revoke a worker's visa and either require the visa holder to leave the country immediately, or require the visa holder to apply for a new visa the next time he or she travels outside the U.S.
An arrest and conviction for a DUI in Washington can lead to a revocation of your visa. Whether you will lose your visa may depend on a number of factors, including:
- Was there an injury or accident involved?
- Did you leave the scene of the accident?
- Where drugs involved?
- Were there children in the car at the time?
- Are there other substance abuse problems?
- Did you refuse a chemical test?
- Prior criminal record
- Multiple DUIs
- Was the DUI a misdemeanor or felony?
Even if your visa is not revoked, a criminal record could mean your visa will not be renewed or you could be denied a new visa. You will generally have to disclose any arrest or conviction as part of the visa application and interview.
As part of the DS-160 Nonimmigrant Visa Application, the applicant must answer, “Have you ever been arrested or convicted for any offense or crime, even though the subject of a pardon, amnesty, or other similar action?”
It may be even more likely that your visa will be revoked or denied if you were arrested for driving under the influence of drugs in Washington, including marijuana. Even though marijuana is now legal in Washington State for medical and recreational use, it is still considered a controlled substance by federal immigration authorities.
Do I have to tell my employer about a drunk driving arrest?
Whether you have to tell your employer about a DUI arrest is generally between you and your employer. Some employers in the tech industry have a policy that requires employees to disclose any drunk driving arrest or conviction. Other workers in aerospace or the defense industry with government clearance may have a requirement to tell their employer about any DUI arrests.
It may be up to your employer if a drunk driving conviction will result in termination. This may depend on the facts of the case, the type of work involved, and whether the employee disclosed the arrest. If your job requires you to tell your employer about a DUI, hiding the arrest or lying about the event may result in the loss of your job.
Losing your job because of a DUI can mean the loss of your right to remain in the U.S. Foreign nationals with an H1B visa have a 60-day grace period after they are terminated. During this time, the worker may be able to find another employer, seek a change of visa status, or depart from the U.S.
Can I lose my H1B visa for a DUI arrest even if I'm not convicted?
A DUI conviction means that you are considered guilty of the crime. This includes pleading guilty or being found guilty after a criminal trial. After a conviction, you will be subject to DUI criminal penalties. Drunk driving convictions in Washington state cannot be vacated or “expunged.” If you are convicted of a DUI, you may have your visa revoked or will be denied a new work visa.
In many cases, if you are not convicted of a crime then your visa is unlikely to be revoked. However, immigration officials can still deny a visa application with an arrest record if they have reason to believe the applicant does not show “good moral character.”
Can I leave the U.S. after I was arrested for a DUI?
Criminal cases in Washington State can take a long time between the initial arrest and the end of a trial. Many foreign workers travel home to see family and friends during holiday breaks or for family emergencies. A pending criminal case may mean you cannot leave the country until the case is resolved.
If your visa is revoked before you leave the country or while you are outside of the country, your passport will be voided and you will not be allowed to re-enter the U.S. A voided visa may require you to re-apply for a work visa and provide evidence of your criminal case and submit to a medical screening.
DUI Defenses for Foreign Nationals
With much more at stake for foreign workers on a temporary visa, it is important to defend yourself against criminal charges. There are a number of possible defenses your lawyer can use in your case. Talk to your Washington DUI defense attorney about the defenses available in your case.
Some possible defenses for your DUI case may include challenging the reliability of the breath or blood testing. The police are required to follow specific rules to make sure any breath or blood sample is accurate. However, police do not always follow the rules which could make the tests unreliable. This includes contaminating samples, not calibrating the machines, or not providing regular maintenance.
DUI Defense Lawyer for Foreign Workers with Work Visas
Individuals in Washington with a work visa have more to lose after a drunk driving arrest. A DUI arrest or conviction could mean the loss of your job and your immigration status in the U.S. Contact an experienced Washington DUI lawyer as soon as possible to fight the criminal charges against you. Remember, an accusation is NOT a conviction.
John Tymczyszyn is an experienced criminal defense attorney who has successfully fought for hundreds of clients accused of drug or alcohol DUIs. As a former prosecutor, John understands how to challenge the police evidence and chemical test results the prosecutor will try to use against you. Contact John today for a free consultation on your DUI case.