International Educator - September/October 2015 - 39

(formal government approval to "forgive"
the conviction), which takes many months.5
n  A student convicted of possessing more
than 30 grams of marijuana will never
be able to obtain permanent residence
(i.e., a "green card"). Because of this, the
student will also be permanently unable to
obtain U.S. citizenship.
n  A student convicted of possessing 30
grams or less of marijuana will not be able to
obtain a "green card" for a period of 15 years
unless he or she can obtain a waiver based
on extreme hardship to a spouse, parent,
or child who is a U.S. citizen or permanent
resident.6
Suffice it to say, this is a serious matter
and your student must be directed to seek
assistance from qualified attorneys.
All charges against the student were
dismissed. Is the student in the clear
from an immigration perspective?
Not so fast. Under federal immigration law,
the student can be considered "convicted"
even though all charges were dismissed.
If the court orders punishment, the student will be considered "convicted" under
immigration law as long as he or she is found
guilty, pleads guilty, or pleads no contest.7
Community service counts as punishment.8
So does a suspended driver's license.9 Even
paying court costs and surcharges.10
So how can your student avoid a drug
conviction? Certain first-offender programs
allow the student to enter with a not guilty
plea.11 It is lawful to plead not guilty even if
the student thinks he or she is guilty. If the

student pleads not guilty (or does not enter
a plea at all), there will be no "conviction"
under immigration law-even if the court
ordered some kind of punishment.12
If the law in your state does not allow the
student to avoid a conviction, then the student's criminal-defense lawyer may be able
to convince the prosecutor to allow a guilty
plea to a different crime (i.e., one without
harmful immigration consequences). Or the
student could choose to go to trial. In any
event, he or she will need an experienced
defense lawyer and immigration lawyer to
help navigate this perilous trail.
This whole experience leaves the
student longing to return home. Will
there be problems traveling?
Dealing with immigration officers at the airport is never an easy or calming experience.
But a drug charge makes things considerably
more stressful. Advance planning is key.
A student who has been convicted of any
drug crime (even simple possession), should
not travel outside of the United States. He or
she will not be allowed to reenter without
the waiver discussed above.
If the student's charges are pending and
the criminal case has not yet been finalized,
he or she should not travel outside of the
United States unless absolutely necessary.
Even then, the student should not travel before consulting with the criminal-defense
lawyer and immigration lawyer.
A student who chooses to travel will
be questioned upon reentering the United
States. This is key: unlike other areas of im-

migration law someone can be barred from
reentering if he or she so much as admits
to the essential elements of a drug crime.13
A conviction is not required! The student
should be very careful about what is said
to the immigration officer, and must bring
the following documents (in addition to the
usual documents the student would need to
reenter the United States in F-1 status):
n  Official court documents showing the status of the criminal case; and
n  A letter from an immigration lawyer
explaining the status of the case and the student's eligibility to reenter the United States
If the student's case is over and there was
no conviction, there will still be questioning
upon reentry. Again, the student should be
very careful about what is said. He or she
must also bring the following documents
(in addition to the usual F-1 reentry documents) to prove eligibility to reenter the
United States:
n  Official, original copy of the final disposition of the criminal case from the court
where the student was charged; and
n  A letter from an immigration lawyer explaining why the student is eligible to reenter
the United States.
Without proper preparation, a temporary trip home could turn into a permanent
one.
Until federal immigration laws are liberalized, international student advisers should
channel their inner Nancy Reagan and admonish foreign students to "Just Say No"
now, before the U.S. government tells them
"no" later.
IE

Endnotes
1

Even if simple possession has been
legalized in the state where a student
attends school, it remains a federal crime.
See 21 U.S.C. § 841(a).

2 This article will discuss charges and
convictions for simple marijuana
possession, which is the most minor
drug offense triggering immigration
consequences. Readers can assume that
convictions involving different controlled
substances or different conduct (i.e.,
distribution) will trigger more serious
immigration consequences. In any
event, consultation with a competent
immigration attorney is always necessary
as soon as charges are brought.

is minor, the student is contrite, and he or
she intends to reenter the United States
to resume the program of study.

3

INA § 237(a)(2)(B)(i). The INA refers to
the Immigration and Nationality Act,
codified at 8 U.S.C. §§ 1101 et seq.

4

See 8 C.F.R. § 214.1(a)(3)(i).

6

INA § 212(h).

5

INA § 212(a)(2)(A)(i)(II). A "212(d)(3)"
waiver, named for the corresponding
section of the INA, takes so long
to process because of the different
government agencies involved. The
U.S. Embassy or Consulate must first
recommend the waiver. After that, the
Admissibility Review Office of U.S.
Customs and Border Protection-a
completely different government
agency-has the final say. Ultimately, the
waivers should be approved if the crime

7

INA § 101(a)(48)(A).

8

See Matter of Ozkok, 19 I&N Dec. 546,
551 (BIA 1988). The concept of what
constitutes punishment was actually
broadened by legislation passed after
Ozkok. See Uritzky v. Gonzales, 399 F.3d
728, 733 (6th Cir. 2005).

9

Ozkok, 19 I&N Dec. at 551.

10

Matter of Cabrera, 24 I&N Dec. 459, 462
(BIA 2008)

11

See, e.g., Va. Code § 18.2-251.(2015).

12

See Crespo v. Holder, 631 F.3d 130, 13435 (4th Cir. 2011).

13

See INA § 212(a)(2)(A)(i).

DAVID E. GLUCKMAN is an
attorney with McCandlish Holton's
Immigration Practice Group in
Richmond, Virginia. His expertise
includes temporary-visa petitions,
permanent-residence applications
for family-based and employmentbased applicants in all categories,
citizenship, and the immigration
consequences of criminal
convictions.

S E P T + O C T.15 INTERNATIONAL EDUCATOR

39  



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of International Educator - September/October 2015

Contents
Supplement Contents
Going Home to Teach
A Little Goes a Long Way
Opening a Window on the World at Columbus State University
Frontlines: Framing the Discussion
In Brief
Foreign Student Affairs
View From Out Here
Forum
In Focus
International Educator - September/October 2015 - Cover1
International Educator - September/October 2015 - Cover2
International Educator - September/October 2015 - Contents
International Educator - September/October 2015 - 2
International Educator - September/October 2015 - 3
International Educator - September/October 2015 - Frontlines: Framing the Discussion
International Educator - September/October 2015 - 5
International Educator - September/October 2015 - 6
International Educator - September/October 2015 - 7
International Educator - September/October 2015 - In Brief
International Educator - September/October 2015 - 9
International Educator - September/October 2015 - 10
International Educator - September/October 2015 - 11
International Educator - September/October 2015 - 12
International Educator - September/October 2015 - 13
International Educator - September/October 2015 - Going Home to Teach
International Educator - September/October 2015 - 15
International Educator - September/October 2015 - 16
International Educator - September/October 2015 - 17
International Educator - September/October 2015 - 18
International Educator - September/October 2015 - 19
International Educator - September/October 2015 - 20
International Educator - September/October 2015 - 21
International Educator - September/October 2015 - A Little Goes a Long Way
International Educator - September/October 2015 - 23
International Educator - September/October 2015 - 24
International Educator - September/October 2015 - 25
International Educator - September/October 2015 - 26
International Educator - September/October 2015 - 27
International Educator - September/October 2015 - 28
International Educator - September/October 2015 - 29
International Educator - September/October 2015 - Opening a Window on the World at Columbus State University
International Educator - September/October 2015 - 31
International Educator - September/October 2015 - 32
International Educator - September/October 2015 - 33
International Educator - September/October 2015 - 34
International Educator - September/October 2015 - 35
International Educator - September/October 2015 - 36
International Educator - September/October 2015 - 37
International Educator - September/October 2015 - Foreign Student Affairs
International Educator - September/October 2015 - 39
International Educator - September/October 2015 - View From Out Here
International Educator - September/October 2015 - 41
International Educator - September/October 2015 - 42
International Educator - September/October 2015 - 43
International Educator - September/October 2015 - Forum
International Educator - September/October 2015 - 45
International Educator - September/October 2015 - 46
International Educator - September/October 2015 - 47
International Educator - September/October 2015 - In Focus
International Educator - September/October 2015 - Cover3
International Educator - September/October 2015 - Cover4
International Educator - September/October 2015 - SCover1
International Educator - September/October 2015 - SCover2
International Educator - September/October 2015 - Supplement Contents
International Educator - September/October 2015 - S2
International Educator - September/October 2015 - S3
International Educator - September/October 2015 - S4
International Educator - September/October 2015 - S5
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