How Will a Drug Crime Charge Affect Your Green Card?

Immigrants with permanent resident status in the U.S. can face serious trouble if they're charged with a drug crime.

Despite having a green card (U.S. lawful permanent residency), you can become deportable and lose that status for a number of reasons, many of them having to do with drug use or sales. The U.S. immigration laws contain a long list of grounds of deportability, which affect green card holders as well as other aliens, at Section 237 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (I.N.A.).

How would the immigration authorities discover that you've seemingly become deportable for drug-related reasons? Most likely because of contact between them and law enforcement authorities, if you've been arrested, or because the information comes out in your application for further immigration benefits. If this occurs, you would likely be placed into removal proceedings before an immigration judge. If unable to prove that your drug crime or drug-related activities did not amount to a ground of deportability, you would likely be ordered removed from the U.S., and your visa or green card cancelled. An order of deportation makes you ineligible to return to the U.S. for a number of years.

Specific Drug-Related Grounds of Deportability

Here's a brief summary of the specific drug offenses that may make a person deportable:

  • Conviction of an offense relating to a controlled substance (other than a single offense involving possession for one's own use of 30 grams or less of marijuana). This can include conspiracy or an attempt to possess, distribute, or manufacture a controlled substance.
  • Having been a drug abuser or addict at any time after entering the U.S. (note that you don't need to have been criminally charged for this one).
  • An aggravated felony, which can include drug trafficking or illicit trafficking in a controlled substance.

No Waiver Available

Crimes involving possession of controlled substances and drug trafficking do not come with any possible waiver for the offending individual. (A waiver is a request to the USCIS to overlook the offense and allow you to keep your visa or green card anyway.)

See a Lawyer

If you or a member of your family is a non-citizen and has been charged with any sort of crime involving drugs or controlled substances, it is in your best interests to consult both a criminal defense lawyer and an immigration lawyer. The immigration attorney can provide guidance that may serve to preserve your status as a visa or green card holder, and represent you in immigration court proceedings.

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