Naturalization After Arrest for Khat Possession

October 19, 2012 | Criminal Convictions, Legal Permanent Residents (LPR)

Q.  I have a question about my husband’s case. He was arrested in 2004 for possession of Khat. He didn’t go to jail but he got probation. Will his conviction keep him from getting his green card? In the past he’s never been in trouble. He works hard. Can you please help him.  -Nagate Salah, New York

A. Thanks for your question. I will only be able to answer it very generally, since we are not able to advise you properly on a criminal issue without looking at the certificate of disposition.

The information I can give you is this: You write that your husband was arrested for possession and was on probation. Probation is a form of punishment that is an alternative to serving time in jail. If your husband was on probation that means that he has a conviction for immigration purposes. If your husband has applied for permanent residence (that is, his green card) and the application is still pending, a conviction for certain drug-related crimes can prevent him from getting the green card and can result in him being placed in removal (i.e., deportation) proceedings. The U.S. immigration law states that foreign nationals are “inadmissible” if they violate laws dealing with “controlled substances” (i.e., drugs).

The only waiver available is for people with a single offense of simple possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana. If the government determines that a person is inadmissible, then the person will be prevented from receiving a green card and might be removed from the United States. Although Khat is not specifically named as a “controlled substance” for purposes of the immigration law, one of its elements is “cathinone,” which is a controlled substance.

Therefore, if someone violates any law or regulation of a state, the United States, or a foreign country relating to cathinone, which is a controlled substance, that violation might make them inadmissible and in turn prevent them from obtaining a green card. Further, the person might be placed into removal proceedings. Courts have different decisions on whether possession of Khat will make the person inadmissible.

My best advice is for your husband to get the Certificate of Disposition from the clerk’s office at the court where he saw the judge and bring that in to one of the CUNY Citizenship Now! Centers so that an immigration lawyer can review it with him. The lawyer will need to conduct further research to determine whether your husband’s criminal offense will prevent him from receiving his green card and result in the government placing him into removal proceedings.