US Immigration News

Does Using Marijuana Affect Your Eligibility for US Citizenship?

2.5 minute read
"The US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) issued a new guideline that may get immigrants barred from applying for US citizenship if they are discovered possessing or using marijuana. The new guidelines also state that even employment in the marijuana industry can affect the naturalization process of an immigrant."
Written by My Visa Source Team
Published on:  Jul 7, 2021
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The US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) issued a new guideline that may get immigrants barred from applying for US citizenship if they are discovered possessing or using marijuana. The new guidelines also state that even employment in the marijuana industry can affect the naturalization process of an immigrant. 

Marijuana use in the US is slowly being legalized by more and more states for both medicinal and recreational purposes. However, it seems like immigrants will be completely left out from the benefits of marijuana legalization since it remains a Schedule I controlled substance under the federal Controlled Substances Act. 

How Can Marijuana Affect the Naturalization Process for Immigrants?

Since possession, cultivation or distribution of even small amounts of marijuana remains illegal under federal law due to it being classified as a controlled substance, being discovered with marijuana can have severe immigration consequences. These activities may be legal in some states, however, they remain illegal for immigrants who want to apply for US citizenship

To obtain US citizenship, an immigrant is required to apply for the naturalization process. One of the requirements for eligibility for this process is that the applicant must demonstrate that they are of good moral character by having a clean record in the last 5 years before applying. 

Being involved in any of the above-mentioned activities related to marijuana is classified as a federal misdemeanor. Even giving marijuana to another person can qualify as trafficking.

To demonstrate good moral character, you can not have any violations of the Controlled Substances Act. There will be cases even if they are not convicted or charged. There is a single exception for those who made a single offense of simple possession of 30 grams or less marijuana.

If you are found in violation of the rule, then you can be barred from a good moral character and be required to file a waiver to remove the bar and delay the process of naturalization. Therefore, immigrants using marijuana for recreational purposes or even working in a dispensary might get barred and will have to wait for 5 years to be eligible for US citizenship again.

How Does This Guideline Apply to US Travelers?

Travelers to the US may face similar problems. When the neighboring country Canada legalized the use of marijuana, the US Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) issued a new guideline to deny entry to Canadian travelers coming to the US for “reasons related to the marijuana industry.”

However, if they are working in the industry and traveling for unrelated reasons, then they can’t be denied entry to the US. However, using marijuana in the US may get them denied future entry into the country.

As marijuana gets legalized in more states, immigrants find themselves at risk by participating in the industry in any form. Therefore, Congress needs to act on this at a state and federal level to ensure that immigrants don’t get unfair treatment for doing something legal in their state.

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