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Green card holder applying for a US citizenship with an OVI charge (marijuana)

Columbus, OH |

Almost four years ago I was charged with an OVI in Ohio and the OVI was a marijuana-related one. I also had some marijuana with me, but the amount was so tiny (less than a gram) that that charge was dismissed.
I am a green card holder and have been in the U.S. for 5 years and now technically eligible to apply for a citizenship, but after reading all the laws and cases regarding my situation, I am not even sure I won't be deported once/when I apply for citizenship. Please advise if there are any ways to potentially receive a rehabilitation or/and prove that the OVI was just a single mistake right after I turned 21.
2nd question: in case I choose not to apply for citizenship and stay with my green card, what will happen in 2009 when it's time for me to renew the green card?

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Attorney answers 3


One of the requirements for citizenship is to prove good moral character for at least the last 5 years, although the officer can look back farther than 5 years as well. Something like this on your criminal record can obviously affect your good moral character, so it will be important to show other positive factors that outweigh this -- whether you've been involved in your community, stayed out of trouble since then, etc. You should consult with an immigration lawyer before applying for citizenship who can review the specifics of the charge and/or conviction and give you a better idea of your options. They might advise you to wait until 5 years have passed before applying for citizenship. If you don't apply for citizenship and instead renew your green card, your criminal record will come up when they process your application. If it is something minor, it should not affect your eligibility, but it's difficult to say that for sure without actually seeing the records from this incident.

The information offered is general in nature and not meant to be relied upon as legal advice. No client-attorney relationship is created through this information. Please consult an attorney prior to making legal decisions.


According to current case law in Ohio, one OVI is not a preclusion for naturalization if you can outweigh the conviction with other evidence of good moral character. Our office has been very successful in these cases as they are fairly common. If you'd like to apply and are considering representation, please feel free to contact us.


Section 212(a)(2)(A)(i)(II) of the Act provides that “any alien convicted of, or who admits having committed, or who admits committing acts which constitute the essential elements of a violation of (or conspiracy or attempt to violate) any law or regulation of a State, the United States, or a foreign country relating to a controlled substance (as defined in section 102 of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 802)), is inadmissible.” INA § 212(a)(2)(A)(i)(II).

An alien is not removable under INA § 237(a)(2)(B)(i) for “a single offense involving possession for one’s own use of 30 grams or less of marijuana.” INA § 237(a)(2)(B)(i). The Government bears the burden of establishing that the alien’s conviction does not fall within this exception.

Recent conviction do effect your ability to establish good moral character in the naturalization process.

You need to speak to a lawyer before you do anything.

Call my office if you would like to schedule a conference. 716-854-1541.

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