Immigration News and Travel Advisories

USCIS Issues Policy Guidance Clarifying How Federal Controlled Substances Law Applies to Naturalization Determinations

USCIS is issuing policy guidance in the USCIS Policy Manual to clarify that violations of federal controlled substance law, including violations involving marijuana, are generally a bar to establishing good moral character for naturalization, even where that conduct would not be an offense under state law.  The policy guidance also clarifies that an applicant who is involved in certain marijuana-related activities may lack good moral character if found to have violated federal law, even if such activity has been decriminalized under applicable state laws.

Since 1996, some states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws to decriminalize the manufacture, possession, distribution, and use of both medical and non-medical (recreational) marijuana in their respective jurisdictions. However, federal law classifies marijuana as a “Schedule I” controlled substance whose manufacture (which includes production, such as planting, cultivation, growing, or harvesting), distribution, dispensing, or possession may lead to immigration consequences.

Please see the Policy Manual Update for more information.

Unlawful Presence

Effective August 9, 2018, USCIS made fundamental changes to its policy on how an immigration status violation might lead to a finding that an F, M, or J nonimmigrant should be subject to the 3- or 10-year reentry bar provisions of INA 212(a)(9)(B). Under the new policy, USCIS will start counting days of unlawful presence the day after an F, M, or J status violation occurs, unless the student applies for reinstatement or the student is covered by some other exception to the unlawful presence counting rules. Prior policy did not count unlawful presence until a USCIS official or immigration judge made a formal finding of a status violation.

Executive Order on Immigration

On Friday, January 27, 2017, President Trump issued an Executive Order suspending entry into the United States of immigrants and non-immigrants from seven countries—Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen—for the next 90 days. Since the original Executive Order, there have been multiple court rulings and revisions to the Executive Order.

Travel Information for UIS International Students

We understand that students may have concerns about how the new US presidential administration will impact immigration laws. When traveling outside the US, be prepared for more questions, longer lines, and additional wait times going through customs.

Make sure that you travel with all required documents and review travel information on the ISS website prior to departure. We are happy to discuss any concerns that you have during walk-in hours and provide travel advice. Remember, the travel endorsement on your form I-20 is good for one year for currently enrolled students and for 6 months for students on OPT.

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