Drink Driving and Admission to the U.S.

If you have been convicted or charged with drink driving, you may have concerns as to whether you can travel to the US. This article outlines the steps you should take if you wish to travel to the United States for work or leisure. 

"I have a drink driving conviction or caution.  Can I visit the United States?  What will happen when I apply for a visa?"

A 10 Step Guide for British Citizens and United Kingdom Residents with a Drink Driving Record Who Wish to Visit the United States

1. Decide that you would like to visit the US on a short work-related trip or for pleasure.

2. Think about whether you can travel visa-free or whether your record of a caution or conviction for drink driving will prevent that. Watch the US Embassy in London’s video to get their take.  A drink driving offence or another drunken behavior related offense can be considered a “crime involving moral turpitude” and/or evidence of a (1) mental health disorder and (2) committing harmful behaviour that has caused a serious threat to the health and safety of others and the individual.[1] Consider speaking to a US immigration attorney in the UK who is familiar with UK drink driving offences and their impact on US visa applications.

3. Decide to apply for a visitor visa, instead of travelling visa-free using ESTA. Time and erasure of the DUI caution or conviction record may help your case, but you will still need to apply for a visa, even for a short visit.[2]  If you case has not yet come to a final decision with court or at the police, you are likely to be denied on a visa application.

4. Obtain Records. Before applying for your non-immigrant visa, you will need to procure the following documents: (1) a UK police certificate from the ACRO Criminal Records Office and (2) court dispositions (official court case summaries) for any convictions in or outside the UK. In some cases, such as when the police certificate says “No Live Trace”, you may also need to obtain a Subject Access Report from ACRO. It may be helpful to have a medical report from your doctor discussing any history of alcohol use or abuse and related treatment. This will not replace the medical exam discussed below, but may help provide some context at the Embassy interview.

5. Fill in online Form DS-160. Once you have the documents about your DUI record, fill in a non-immigrant visa application using an online Form DS-160.  Answer “yes” to whether you have “ever been arrested or convicted for any offence or crime, even though subject of a pardon . . . or other similar action?”  You may also need to answer “yes” to “Do you have a mental or physical disorder that poses or is likely to pose a threat to the safety or welfare of yourself or others?”  Note that this question is in the present tense. The medical report from your doctor mentioned above is helpful in knowing how to respond to the latter question.

6. Complete a Form VCU-1. In addition to the DS-160, you will need to complete a Form VCU-1 which you can download from the US Embassy website.  The VCU-1 form provides you an opportunity to explain the circumstance relating to your drink driving record.

7. Create an online account with the US Embassy in London. Enter your DS-160 bar code number generated in the confirmation page.  Fill in the courier document return information. Pay the non-immigrant visa application fee.  Schedule your consular interview.

8. Attend your consular interview. You should bring the following documents to the interview: (1) the Interview Notice; (2) the DS-160 Confirmation Sheet; (3) the Form VCU-1; (4) the ACRO Police Certificate; (5) any Memorandum of Conviction from Court; (6) any Subject Access Report (7) a medical report, if obtained; and (8) any letters of support/character references. The interview will cover eligibility for the visa itself and discussion of the drink driving record to determine whether you may be inadmissible.  You will see two consular officers.

9. Attend an official medical exam. If you have had one DUI conviction in the past five years or two in the past ten years, you will be directed to a US government certified “panel physician” for a medical examination and interview.[3]  If a DUI conviction or caution event occurred within the past 12 months, it is likely that the London panel physician will find alcohol abuse.  If it has been over a year, you may be able to pass the short Michigan Alcoholism Screening Test (MAST).  If so, the doctor will not find alcohol abuse or a likely recurrence of harmful behaviour and instead remission. 

Come ready to discuss the amount of drink you imbibe of an evening, or on occasion.  Also be ready to discuss rehabilitation, healthy living, and progress on your career or education since the time of the DUI to show remission from any alcohol abuse.  The panel physician will ask questions about your relationship with alcohol, including units consumed and frequency.  It is important to note that in the United Kingdom, Chief Medical Officers recommend a maximum weekly intake of 14 units of alcohol, which is equivalent to 6 pints of beer or 10 small glasses of low strength wine (a pint of beer is between 2-3 units and a 175ml glass of wine is 2 units). 

Please note that you will be asked also about controlled substance usage.  If you have used controlled substances, you will be asked to take a urine test.  A positive result for cannabis usage, for example, will result in a 12-month random testing regimen to clear an applicant from a drug addiction finding, a separate ground of mental health inadmissibility from alcoholism.

The panel physician’s report with the diagnosis will be sent to the consular office, where a final decision will be made about your visa eligibility.

10. Receive a response from the US Embassy in London. If you are found ineligible for the visa, wait at least 12 months to apply again.  After 12 months of remission, you may find that you are able to improve your examination with the panel physician, especially if the DUI record is based on an incident that is five years old or more.  Though a non-immigrant waiver is available for health-related disorders resulting in harmful behaviour, a waiver of inadmissibility is rarely, if ever, recommended by the US Embassy in London for such waivers.  

Contact Melissa Chavin – US Visa Lawyer

To discuss your specific circumstances and requirements, contact Melissa Chavin today. Ms. Chavin is licensed to practice US law, and can help you resolve your concerns.

[1] 9 FAM 302.2-7(B)(2).

[2] See also 9 FAM 302.2-7.  INA Section 212(a)(1)(A)(iii).

[3] 9 FAM 302.2-3(A)(b).  Applicants will receive the same full examination as an immigrant visa applicant, minus vaccination requirement.

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