You’ve moved to America and there might come a time when you think you want to join protests with others outside. It’s a right for citizens of the United States protected under their freedom of speech, but does that extend to you as a non-citizen? I spoke with immigration attorney, Doug Lightman to talk through what impacts there might be to you and to find out what you should do in case trouble arises.

Doug is highly respected in his field, but it’s always up to you to retain personal legal advice from your own attorney in case any issues or arise, or if you want advice on your own personal situation. This video and this page are not personal legal advice.

I also posted a chat with criminal attorney, Doug Schneider, which you can watch here.

Your right to protest as a non-citizen from an immigration attorney, Doug Lightman

America Josh: Hi everyone! I know I’m getting a lot of questions at the moment about your right to protest as a non-citizen. We asked the question last week whether you were actively engaged in protests at the moment, and 20% of you said that you were. Then 70% of you said that you were interested in getting involved but didn’t know the implications and didn’t know the information surrounding that. So I thought I’d get our resident immigration lawyer and friend Doug Lightman the founder and principal attorney at Lightman law firm. G’day, Doug. Thanks for joining me! 

Doug Lightman: Hey, hi everyone!

Am I allowed as a non-citizen, am I allowed to attend a protest?

America Josh: Not a problem at all, thank you. I guess sort of really broadly people just want to understand, you know as a non-citizen, so I’m someone here someone here on a visa, e3, h1b whatever it is. Am I allowed, sort of in the simplest form, to attend a protest? 

Doug Lightman: Sure, there’s nothing that would bar an individual who’s here on a temporary work visa or other temporary types of status such as a student or visitor from partaking in a, you know, peaceful protest.

Can protesting impact or affect future immigration applications?

America Josh: Awesome! So is there anything that people need to sort of being considerate of that might come up that might adjust, you know, or impact them at the moment or on future applications if they’re going to protest?

Doug Lightman: well, something that could have an impact on them as it relates to a future request for an immigration benefit, whether it’s another visa or potentially an application for a green card or even citizenship, is you know, as if they are arrested and charged with a crime. Either of those scenarios would potentially impact a future request for an immigration benefit, and it would always have to be disclosed.

America Josh: Okay! So it’s important to know because I think that discrepancy between being arrested and being charged is what a few people are confused with, but if you’re arrested, whether the sort of rightfully or however it is, you will have to declare that you have been arrested on future applications? 

If arrested do you have to declare or disclose that on future immigration applications?

Doug Lightman: That’s correct. If you’re arrested, you whether or not the charges are dropped or dismissed, or you know maybe a rare scenario no charges are brought. Technically it’s still something that would have to be disclosed on any request for an immigration benefit. 

America Josh: So when does that question come up the have you been arrested have you been charged? Is that something that happens just at an interview or is that something that happens on forms when you actually apply for a visa? 

When could you be asked about arrests or charges on immigration applications?

Doug Lightman: Yeah, so that can happen in a number of scenarios that could happen if you’re applying for a visa at a consulate abroad that that information would be requested on the ds160. If you’re applying for a green card via the immigrant visa route or the adjustment of the status route, that information would have to be disclosed. It always has to be disclosed on an application for naturalization. And if you’re applying for an extension of your visitor status or you’re applying to change your status to a visitor or student in the united states, that would come up the only time it doesn’t come up is if you are applying in the united states for a work visa status or to extend your work visa status. That’s the only time that item does not appear, meaning that’s the only time it does not have to be disclosed. 

America Josh: So if you are arrested and or charged, is that something you have to disclose on these forms or you know depending on particular scenarios or you know do you have any advice for people who are currently filling in those forms? 

Doug Lightman: Yeah, so if you are arrested or charged with a crime even if it’s dismissed or even if no charges are brought, but you have been arrested, you absolutely have to disclose it. The vast majority of the time, the arrest or the charge doesn’t amount to something that would negatively impact a case but not disclosing it would have a worse impact than you know than disclosing it. It needs to be disclosed the consequences of not disclosing something, even if it’s a minor infraction, are going to be much worse. 

Does an arrest or charge automatically disqualify you for immigration applications?

America Josh: Okay! And that’s a really good point, so just being arrested or being charged is not necessarily saying that you can never get a visa again; it’s just something you do have to disclose, and it becomes part of your disclosure when you’re filling in the forms? 

Doug Lightman: Right! Absolutely I mean, it doesn’t bar you from obtaining a benefit. I mean, it does depend on what you were convicted of ultimately, so you know you can be charged with something that’s quite severe, but ultimately one has to look at what they are convicted of, and that really is what would control the consequences of the incident and as far as it relates to the immigration benefit. 

America Josh: Awesome!