Getting a Green Card with a Marijuana Possession Case

The stigma around weed is going away—especially in California, home to the first legal dispensary. More and more states are legalizing pot for personal or medical use. Even before weed was legalized, a marijuana conviction wasn’t significant in many states. It often just involved receiving and paying a citation, sort of like a speeding ticket. Many people now legally use weed recreationally or medically. Seems like no big deal, right? 

Unfortunately, to the people deciding your immigration application, it can be a very big deal. Even though a marijuana conviction or using weed in a state where it is legalized may not seem like a problem, you should be aware that if you are applying for a green card, marijuana use could lead to your immigration application being denied.

Do I have a Marijuana Conviction?

Simply admitting to being involved with marijuana could lead to your green card application being denied, even if what you are admitting to is lawful in California or your home state. In certain circumstances, immigration considers admitting to using weed to be a conviction for immigration purposes. Worse still, if your marijuana-related conviction has been expunged, sealed, or otherwise “erased” under a state law, immigration may still consider it a conviction when deciding your green card application. But having a marijuana conviction doesn’t mean you have no hope of getting a green card. Hiring a strong lawyer that can tackle the muddy mess that is immigration law is your first step towards earning green card, i.e.,  permanent residency.

Getting a Waiver for Marijuana Possession

If your conviction was a single offense for possession of less than 30 grams of marijuana, you may be eligible for a “212(h) waiver.” (See 8 U.S.C. 1162(h)). A winning waiver will result in immigration authorities forgiving your conviction and allowing you to get a green card.

What Are the Requirements for Filing a 212(h) Waiver for a Marijuana Possession?

To qualify for a 212(h) waiver for marijuana possession, you can only have a single conviction for possession of marijuana. That single conviction must have involved less than 30 grams of marijuana. Next, if more than 15 years have passed since the conviction and you are rehabilitated, you are eligible to file a 212(h) waiver. But if 15 years have not passed since your conviction, then you are still eligible for a 212(h) waiver if you have a “qualifying relative” who will suffer “extreme hardship.”

How to Apply for a 212(h) Waiver for a Marijuana Possession

The waiver is filed on USCIS Form I-601 and must be submitted with the appropriate fee. You must file the form, fee, and all your evidence showing why you deserve the waiver at the appropriate USCIS location.

How Do You Prove that Amount of Marijuana was Less than 30 Grams?

When you file a 212(h) waiver, first you have to prove that less than 30 grams of marijuana was involved. This means you will need to obtain an official document related to your case that says you had less than 30 grams of weed. This could be a police report, a crime lab report, or any other court or police document that discusses how much weed you had.

Proving 15 Years and Rehabilitation for a 212(h) Waiver for Marijuana Possession

If it has been 15 years since your marijuana conviction, you can apply for a waiver if you can show that you are rehabilitated. To show you are rehabilitated, you need to show a history of no longer using marijuana. You will also need to show that you are not dangerous for the country’s national security. This means you need to show that you are not tied to dangerous groups and you aren’t involved in criminal activity.

Proving Extreme Hardship

If it hasn’t been 15 years since your marijuana conviction, you can also apply for a waiver if you have a “qualifying relative” who will suffer “extreme hardship” if you can’t stay in the United States. A “qualifying relative” is a spouse, parent, or child under 21 years of age who is a U.S. citizen or green card holder. Extreme hardship means your qualifying relative will suffer severely if they live in the United States without you or if they move to your original country with you. Examples of things that show extreme hardship are a statement from your qualifying relatives, medical records, financial documents, expert opinions, family ties, or country condition reports. Even if it has been 15 years since your conviction, it is a good idea to apply for the 212(h) waiver based on extreme hardship if you have a qualifying relative.

For more about how to prove “extreme hardship” for immigration waivers, check out this blog written by Yours Truly.

Our Los Angeles Immigration Attorney Can Help

Deciding if you need to apply for a waiver with your green card application can be a complicated process. The stakes are high – USCIS may elect to send denied cases to ICE to start deportation proceedings. Our immigration attorneys can help you understand your options if you have a marijuana-related conviction. To schedule a confidential appointment with an experienced immigration lawyer, please do not hesitate to contact our Los Angeles office at (213) 262-2000. We serve communities throughout Southern California.