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Border Trouble — Getting Turned Down for U.S. Citizenship

Taking that edible could get you shown the door if you apply to move down south. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) weeds out cannabis users for the most minor of offences. Even if the state where you plan to live has decriminalized recreational marijuana, it’s a bar to proving your moral character is good enough to be a U.S. citizen.

U.S. Drug Laws and Your Rights

Medical and recreational marijuana use has been decriminalized in the District of Columbia and many but not all U.S. states. You won’t be prosecuted for following state medical marijuana use laws. But since marijuana is still a federally controlled substance, manufacturing, distributing, dispensing or possessing it can get you barred from entering the U.S. or deported if you have a green card or citizenship status. You can lie, but your fingerprints, criminal record or whistleblowers can be counted on to tell the truth.

Standing Out for the Wrong Reasons

Consequently, if you apply to become a U.S. citizen and have a history of drug offences or were turned back from the border for having cannabis with you, getting in can take longer than usual — if you’re admitted at all. Having good moral character is a major concern for immigration authorities. Committing a crime or possessing a controlled substance are sure to get you noticed in all the wrong ways.

Five Ways Your Application Could be Rejected

Being of moral “turpitude” means you have committed crimes that offend community standards, such as perjuring yourself in court, being violent, gambling, prostitution, being convicted of a drug offence or having a drug addiction. It’s one grounds for being rejected when you try to emigrate to the U.S. You can be turned away when you apply or deported after you receive a green card or citizenship. Here are five more reasons your application could be rejected.

1. Being a spy, terrorist or Nazi.

Espionage, sabotage or terrorism,  being a Nazi or member of a totalitarian party — the list of political offences or terrorist activities includes crimes by or against a state. Records go all the way back to WWII (1933 to 1945) for Nazi Party members. Trying to overthrow the U.S. or a foreign government, stealing technology or spying for a foreign state are all grounds for exclusion. Being connected to a political, social or other group accused of terrorism can be sufficient, even if you did nothing wrong yourself. 

2. Laundering money.

U.S. money launderers have disguised over $2 trillion from crimes like drug or human trafficking, fraud or extortion since 1999. Aiding, abetting or colluding is a quick ticket to the exit door. That includes family members.

3. Having immunity from prosecution.

If you committed a serious criminal offence but were able to leave the U.S. because you got immunity, you’re probably not getting back in.

4. Having a physical or mental disorder or communicable disease like TB.

When your disorder requires medical care or could place others at risk because it is communicable, immigration officers may decline your application. Requiring ongoing care cay strain public health care resources and for that reason, your application can falter. You’ll have to prove ability to support yourself financially to be considered.

5. Violating immigration laws in past.

You may have turned your life around, but USCIS isn’t necessarily going to take a chance on it.

What to Do If You Are Inadmissible 

If the worst happens, talk to an Ontario immigration lawyer. They can explain why you are inadmissible and what you can do about it. You may have committed a minor crime that showed up  when USCIS conducted a criminal record check. You could have jumped the gun on applying and can reapply later. Travelling outside of the U.S. can affect your eligibility — green card holders must be continuously physically present in the U.S. to become a citizen. Whatever the reason, Ontario lawyers can help you apply for a waiver of inadmissibility.

Joining Your Spouse in the U.S.

Being denied a green card when you are engaged or married to a U.S. citizen can cause financial or emotional hardship. An Ontario notary public can sign and seal a waiver of inadmissibility attesting that your spouse will suffer extreme hardship if you’re separated. It’s worth a try.

A Final Word on Getting In

Not all offences make you inadmissible. If you were under 18 when the offence occurred and were released from jail at least five years before applying, you could still be accepted. The same goes if you were sentenced to not more than six months in jail and the maximum penalty was a year or less. Don’t give up until you have legal advice.

Get Legal Documents Witnessed for U.S. Immigration

Axess Law’s Ontario commissioners of oaths can witness legal documents or statutory declarations to emigrate to the U.S. Our licensed commissioners e-sign legal documents via online video call, day or evening, 7 days a week. Call toll-free to 877-522-9377 or in Greater Toronto at 647-479-0118 or use our online booking form. In person appointments can be arranged at our Ottawa, Toronto, Scarborough, Vaughan, Etobicoke, Mississauga Winston Churchill or Mississauga Heartland law office for an in-person appointment.

Click here to learn more about Axess Law’s commissioner of oath services.

Photo by marla66|Pixabay.


It was a pleasure working with Patricia from Axess Law. It was my first time purchasing a home, and was very nervous about every step in the process. I called and emailed Patricia several times with the silliest questions. She answered them all promptly, and provided the best customer service I could ask for. I would recommend Axess Law and particularly Patricia to everyone.

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In the past I had to make appointments and waited for days to see a lawyer. Now conveniently this office is at my neighborhood supermarket. I was able to walk in and get my documents signed in less than 30 minutes The staff are courteous and professional. I would recommend anyone. Prompt service.

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I am writing this review on behalf of my daughter who completed her first Real Estate condo transaction with AxessLaw. Besides just helping my daughter as a client, they helped her understand every single step involved in the process and the whole process was completed without any problems. I would recommend them to anyone looking for hassle free real estate transaction without thinking twice.

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