In 2021, New York became the 15th state to legalize recreational marijuana. However, marijuana remains an illegal substance under federal law. With law changes of this sort, U.S visa holders must keep themselves informed and updated on how they may be affected. Our New York immigration team breaks down how engaging in cannabis-related activities may affect your immigration application and ways you can protect yourself.
Cannabis and Immigration
Though now legalized in eighteen states, marijuana remains an illegal substance federally. A marijuana-related conviction poses serious immigration consequences. Until federal law changes, the possession and use of cannabis are strongly discouraged. Additionally, several other activities can affect your immigration application. Let's explore how marijuana-related activity can affect your immigration application and status.
Past Cannabis-Related Convictions
The Marijuana Taxation and Regulation Act (MTRA), signed into law March 31, 2021, automatically expunges New Yorkers' prior marijuana convictions. These past marijuana-related convictions would be treated as if they never happened but unfortunately, not for everyone. Due to marijuana being illegal on a federal level, even after being expunged, any past cannabis-related conviction can be held as a basis for deportation or detention under immigration law. The use and possession of cannabis are strongly discouraged by many immigration attorneys.
Working In The Cannabis industry
The legalization of recreational marijuana in New York has paved the way for the new cannabis industry, generating jobs and tax revenue. Immigrants found to work in the cannabis industry may be denied citizenship, even if they work in a state where it is legal. Your citizenship application can be rejected based on a "lack of good moral character" per the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
Investing in Cannabis
Considering the reasons mentioned above, being an investor in the cannabis industry can also harm your chances to obtain citizenship. Though an investor may not work directly with the plant, you can be considered a facilitator of the substance.
The Risk of Deportation
If you are convicted of a crime, you may be found both inadmissible and deportable. A cannabis-related conviction can begin deportation removal proceedings for those holding a green card or a U.S nonimmigrant visa. In this situation, you must hire an immigration attorney immediately. An experienced attorney will be able to review the particularities of your case and guide you towards the best legal outcome.
How You Can Protect Yourself
The USCIS outlines the importance of establishing "good moral character" in the application process. An applicant on the path towards naturalization must prove good moral character during the years leading to immigration proceedings. It is also vital to be conscious of how you present yourself and what you share on social media. Posts, tagged photos, photographs, or status updates could link you to cannabis use. This type of social media content could be considered an admission of use and raise questions regarding your good moral character.
Get in Touch with Our Team Today
There are still many gray areas regarding marijuana and its legalization in New York. As a foreign national, it is of the utmost importance to stay up to date and seek a knowledgeable legal team for guidance. If you are on the path towards naturalization or a U.S visa and have prior cannabis-related convictions, history of use, or industry work, we can help you. Our team is devoted to providing you with the guidance you need to reach your immigration goals.
For help with your immigration case, don't hesitate to contact us today through our online contact form, or give us a call at (212) 390-1024.