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USCIS issues new form I-485 with question related to controlled substance use

USCIS issues new form I-485 with question related to controlled substance use

On June 26, 2017, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) issued a new edition of Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. If an individual is eligible to apply for Lawful Permanent Residence status in the United States, he or she will file this form with USCIS.

Starting August 25, 2017, USCIS will only accept this newest edition of Form I-485 (version date 06/26/2017).

The new edition of Form I-485 aims to assist USCIS officers in identifying any admissibility/eligibility issues that the applicant may have in qualifying for lawful permanent residence in the United States.

One such admissibility issue stems from an applicant’s prior use of drugs deemed to be illegal under federal law, including marijuana.

Under federal law, it is illegal to knowingly or intentionally possess a controlled substance without a prescription. Marijuana is currently listed as a controlled substance on the federal Controlled Substance Act (CSA), and therefore remains illegal under federal law, notwithstanding the fact that it is legal in certain states, including Colorado.

Under the Immigration and Nationality Act, an immigrant who is convicted of violating a controlled substance law or who admits to violating a controlled substance law is inadmissible and therefore ineligible for Lawful Permanent Residence with limited exceptions.

This means that even if an individual is not convicted in a criminal court of violating a controlled substance law, USCIS can still determine that he or she is inadmissible if he or she simply admits to violating such a law.

This becomes more problematic on page 10 of the new edition of Form I-485, where the applicant is asked: “Have you EVER violated (or attempted or conspired to violate) any controlled substance law or regulation of a state, the United States, or a foreign country?”

If an applicant admits on Form I-485 or to a USCIS officer to possessing or using a controlled substance, then he or she could be deemed inadmissible. This is also true for those living in states where the possession and use of marijuana has been legalized, because marijuana is still a controlled substance under federal law.

What can individuals considering applying for lawful permanent residence do?

- Do not possess or use marijuana (or any other controlled substance), even in states where it is legal, until you become a United States citizen.

- Do not work in the marijuana industry, especially in stores that sell marijuana.

- Do not wear or carry controlled substance-related paraphernalia or accessories.

- Do not keep photos or text messages related to controlled substances on your phone, Facebook, or anywhere else.

- Consult with an immigration attorney if you have ever been convicted of violating a controlled substance law, even if the conviction was later dismissed, sealed, or expunged.

- Consult with an immigration attorney prior to submitting an application for any immigration benefit, including an I-485 Application for Adjustment of Status to Lawful Permanent Residence.

For more information on the new Form I-485, eligibility for lawful permanent residence or the impact of marijuana use on eligibility for lawful permanent residence, please contact Kolko & Associates, P.C.

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Kolko & Casey, P.C. is a full service immigration and naturalization law firm providing professional legal services to individuals and businesses throughout Colorado, the Rocky Mountain West, the United States, and the World. Our professional staff speaks English, Spanish, Korean, and Portuguese and we can arrange for translators in any other language.