USCIS Continues to make Marijuana Activity a “Conditional Bar” to Obtaining U.S. Citizenship Despite Local Decriminalization

Thirty-three US states, The District of Columbia, and at least 26 countries around the world have legalized the production and use of cannabis for medical, and, in some jurisdictions, for recreational use.  This wave of legalization has led to a growing and dynamic industry that employs thousands of individuals and has reduced the levels of criminalization of marijuana-related crimes. Despite this changing landscape however, United States Citizenship and Immigration (USCIS) has recently made it clear that virtually any involvement with cannabis, even in jurisdictions where it is now legal, can have serious negative consequences to becoming a United States citizen.

In an April 19 USCIS policy alert, USCIS indicated that it was issuing policy guidance confirming that cannabis-related activity, even when it occurs in a jurisdiction where the activity is legal, creates a conditional bar to demonstrating good moral character for the purposes of naturalization. While USCIS has long treated cannabis-related activity as a basis for withholding immigration benefits, this new pronouncement further highlights the complex and uncertain interaction between state and federal laws, and United States immigration law.

According to the USCIS policy, “marijuana remains illegal under federal law as a Schedule I controlled substance regardless of any actions to decriminalize its possession, use, or sale at the state and local level,” a USCIS spokesperson said in a statement. “Federal law does not recognize the decriminalization of marijuana for any purpose, even in places where state or local law does.”

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Germans Must Retain Their Citizenship Before Becoming Dual-US Citizens: Beibehaltungsgenehmigung

GermanyUnder the German Nationality Act “Staatsangehörigkeitsgesetz”, the moment a German citizen acquires citizenship of another country, he or she loses German citizenship automatically because German law does not allow dual citizenship in this context. This means that if a US resident wishes to obtain US citizenship while retaining his or her German citizenship, the applicant must first petition the German government to allow the applicant to maintain his or her German citizenship.  This requirement is unique to German citizens, and provides an additional, preliminary step before the applicant may apply for US citizenship.

In the case of an applicant who is a Legal Permanent Resident, or habitually resides outside of Germany, particular consideration is given to whether the applicant has a continuing relationship with Germany, and if he or she will suffer disadvantages or hardship if he were unable to naturalize as an American due to this rule. Continue reading