Dear Sophie: Should I apply for citizenship if I have a conviction?

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Here’s another version “Dear Sophie,” advice column that answers immigration-related questions about working in technology companies.

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“Your questions are vital to the spread of knowledge that allows people around the world to rise above boundaries and pursue their dreams,” says Sophie Alcorn, a Silicon Valley immigration attorney. “Whether you are in people ops, a founder or looking for a job in Silicon Valley, I would love to” answer your questions In my next column.”

Extra Crunch members get access to a weekly “Dear Sophie” column; Use promo code ALCORN to buy a one or two year membership at 50% off.


dear sophie,

A few years ago at Burning Man, I was arrested for smoking marijuana in public (in my car) and driving under the influence.

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I currently have a green card and want to apply for US citizenship next year.

am i? If so, how should I handle my criminal record?

– regrets about roosting

dear apologies,

As you’ve discovered, you have to be extra careful when you’re an immigrant: Obviously, you should never break the law, but as an immigrant, if you do, it can have serious and lasting consequences.

You also need to be careful to avoid doing things that an immigration officer might do outside the bounds of good moral character, even if they are not crimes. All immigrants should remember that even though limited use of marijuana for recreational and medical use is legal in many states, it is illegal under federal law.

my legal partner, Anita Koumrikian, recently podcasted How various crimes can affect your green card status and your ability to become a U.S. citizen. Listen and (always in this situation) consult an experienced immigration attorney. Tell your attorney about your DUI and marijuana charges, any subsequent marijuana use, any other arrests or citations, and even things you might consider minor such as speeding, parking or jaywalking. Ticket. An immigration attorney can determine whether or not you should apply for US citizenship and if so, when and how.

image credit: Joanna Bunyak / Sophie Alcorn (Opens in a new window)

What is good moral character?

As you know, you must be a permanent resident (green card holder) for at least five years – or three years if you have a green card through marriage – to be eligible to apply. U.S. citizenship. Additionally, you must demonstrate “good moral character” during the statutory period of five or three years.

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