Here is another edition from “Dear Sophie,” the advice column that answers questions about working immigration in tech companies.
“Your questions are vital for disseminating the knowledge that enables people around the world to cross borders and pursue their dreams,” said Sophie Alcorn, immigration lawyer in Silicon Valley. “Whether you’re in people operations, a founder, or looking for a job in Silicon Valley, I’d love to answer your questions in my next column.”
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At Burning Man a few years ago, I was arrested and charged with a felony for smoking marijuana in public (in my car) and driving under the influence.
I currently have a green card and want to apply for US citizenship next year.
Can I? If so, how should I manage my criminal record?
– remorse about the Reefer
As you have discovered, you need to be extra careful when you are an immigrant: Obviously, you should never break the law, but as an immigrant, if you do, it can have serious and lasting consequences.
You should even be careful to avoid doing things that an immigration officer might consider to be outside the bounds of good character, even if they are not crimes. All immigrants should remember that while the limited use of recreational and medical marijuana is legal in several states, it is illegal under federal law.
My legal partner, Anita Koumriqian, recently podcast how various crimes can impact your green card status and affect your ability to become a U.S. citizen. Listen and (still in this situation) consult with an experienced immigration lawyer. Let your lawyer know about your impaired driving and marijuana charges, any subsequent marijuana use, any other arrests or citations, and even things you might consider minor such as speeding tickets, parking tickets or tickets. An immigration attorney can determine whether you should apply for US citizenship, and if so, when and how to do so.
What is good character?
As you know, you need to be a permanent resident (green card holder) for at least five years – or three years if you have a green card by marriage – in order to apply for U.S. citizenship. In addition, you must demonstrate “good character” during the legal period of five or three years.