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USCIS Issues Policy Guidance on Federal Controlled Substance Laws’ Effect on Naturalization

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services has issued policy guidance regarding violations of federally controlled substances laws and how these violations can affect naturalization determinations. These violations, including violations involving marijuana, can be used as a measure to determine good moral character for immigrants seeking citizenship. An applicant who had marijuana-related conduct in the past may be found to lack good moral character by violation of federal laws, even in circumstances in which it had been decriminalized under state law.

Ten U.S. states and the District of Columbia have de-criminalized small amounts of marijuana for both medical and recreational use by adults. However, it is still federally classified as a “Schedule I” controlled substance whose manufacture, production, distribution, dispensing or possession may have negative consequences on immigration and naturalization applications. According to the policy guidance, any violations that occurred within the statutory period for naturalization could be a conditional bar to good moral character. The only exception to this conditional bar is if the applicant has one prior “simple possession” charge – this does not constitute a conditional bar to good moral character.

Even if an applicant have never been convicted of a controlled substance offense, if the federal government finds adverse information that an applicant committed an offense, the applicant needs to meet the burden of proof to show that the offense was not committed; otherwise, they may be found to lack good moral character.

For additional information on the policy guidance, please visit www.uscis.gov.

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