The U.S. State Department has directed consular officials abroad to prudentially revoke nonimmigrant visas for visa holders who have been convicted or arrested on a charge of driving under the influence.

The change was implemented Nov. 5, 2015. Anecdotal evidence suggests that an increasing number of visa holders have indeed had their visas revoked after receiving a DUI in the U.S. In a written Q&A with the American Immigration Lawyers Association, the State Department said the new policy reflects how serious the department is about DUI offenses.

“It is both a public safety issue and evidence of a possible visa ineligibility,” the State Department said.

Consular officials have been required since 2007 to refer visa applicants with a DUI conviction in the past five years or two or more in the past 10 years to a physician who is charged with determining whether the applicant should be ineligible for a visa under a provision barring applicants classified as having a “mental disorder and behavior associated with the disorder that may pose, or has posed, a threat to the property, safety or welfare of the alien or others.” These guidelines reflect CDC Panel Physician technical instructions on alcohol abuse.

Granting consular officials authority to prudentially revoke visas is a shift in workload from the State Department’s visa revocation unit to consular posts. In the AILA Q&A, the State Department said that while DUIs have been addressed in the visa application process in the past, there had been “no consequence” for DUI arrests after visas were issued, and in some cases, DUI arrests were not addressed until the time of a subsequent visa application.

BAL Analysis: The State Department is taking DUI arrests and convictions seriously. BAL is aware of instances where visa holders who have traveled abroad have encountered trouble re-entering the U.S. because of DUIs. Visa holders are strongly urged not to drive under the influence. Those who are arrested on a DUI charge should contact BAL as soon as possible to discuss the possible visa consequences.

This alert has been provided by the BAL U.S. Practice group. For additional information, please contact

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