In a previous article (Green Cards and Marijuana-Related Conduct), we discussed the major implications that marijuana-related conduct can have for a noncitizen applying for his or her green card. Here, we provide more detail regarding the naturalization process and marijuana-related conduct.
Establishing Good Moral Character
A fundamental requirement of naturalizing as an American citizen is showing that you are a person of good moral character (GMC). Generally, you must show that you were a person of GMC for the five years (three years for qualified applicants married to a U.S. citizen for three years) preceding your naturalization application. Violating federal controlled substance law allows the adjudicating officer to call into question whether you are a person of GMC.
Fortunately, most prohibited conduct will trigger only a conditional (or temporary) bar to establishing GMC. This means that a green card holder can begin to accrue the statutory period (five or three years) of GMC starting on the last date on which the conduct in question triggered the bar. Thereafter, assuming the green card holder has not engaged in any marijuana-related conduct for the required period, he or she may reapply for naturalization.
USCIS officers have a certain amount of discretion when it comes to deciding whether you are a person of good moral character when marijuana-related conduct is involved, but you never know who will be adjudicating your application. The safest route is to avoid any marijuana-related conduct until you are naturalized as an America citizen.
This is a complex and evolving area of the law. If you have questions regarding your particular situation, please contact our attorneys at the Law Offices of Azita M. Mojarad. Our experienced attorneys stand ready to assist you.