Isolated Instances of Drug Use May Lead to Denial of Immigrant Visa
February 1, 2006

Section 221(d) of the Immigration and Nationality Act requires immigrant visa applicants to undergo a physical and mental examination so as to determine whether the applicant has a medical condition that would make him/her ineligible for admission into the US. HIV, tuberculosis, and other contagious diseases are tested for, and applicants are also generally questioned about their use/abuse of controlled substances, with the latter line of inquiry becoming the subject of much controversy as of late.

U.S. immigration law deems, without exception, “drug abusers or addicts” ineligible for admission into the U.S. Exactly what constitutes a drug abuser or addict is an issue that has come under question recently, as immigrant visa applicants at U.S. consular posts abroad, with increasing frequency, are being turned down after admitting their isolated use or experimentation with any number of “recreational drugs”, such as marijuana.

Although “experimental use” of drugs, according to well established policy, should not warrant a finding that the applicant is a drug abuser or addict, trends at various consular posts reveal that anything beyond the one-time use of marijuana is now being considered non-experimental and thus a basis for visa denial.

Overly aggressive and sometimes deceptive questioning by examining physicians for applicants at US consular posts across the globe is being reported, particularly in Manila, Philippines and Juarez, Mexico (again, to be distinguished from CIS processing of permanent residence/adjustment of status applicants in the U.S., where the problematic scenarios have not been at play) Such strategies are leading to overly harsh results, with some applicant’s visa processing being delayed for a three year period, while they are forced to undergo a drug rehabilitation programs after admitting to more than 1-time use of a controlled substance in the prior three years. Other U.S. consular posts have been reported to just flat out deny the visa, with the applicant given no hope for visa issuance at any time in the future.

It is important to note that U.S. consular posts across the globe have been anything but consistent in how they carry out their questioning of applicants regarding past drug use and how the “drug abuser or addict” basis of inadmissibility is being interpreted and applied.

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