Q. My fiancé, who is my child’s father, was deported for selling drugs. Now he’s back, having entered illegally. For 10 years he was absent from our daughter’s life and now that we are reunited, we are planning to get married. I’m a U.S. citizen, and I’d like to petition for him once we marry. We’ve hired a lawyer, but we are afraid that it will take years to resolve this issue. Do you think my husband has a chance of getting permanent residence?
A. Your husband will have a tough time getting a green card. Drug dealing is a permanent bar to permanent residence. Unless his lawyer can get the conviction reversed or vacated, your husband is probably out of luck.
Drug sales convictions create a permanent bar to permanent residence with no waiver available. Sometimes a criminal court judge will vacate a criminal conviction if a guilty plea or jury verdict was unfair. For instance, if your husband pleaded guilty and neither his criminal defense attorney or the judge advised him that a guilty plea would result in his deportation.
Q. I’m writing to help a mentally disabled young woman. She’s trying to become a U.S. citizen, but because of her disability, will not be able to answer questions at her interview. Do you have any advice? Will a doctor’s letter help?
Guidance counselor, Queens
A. The woman can become a U.S. citizen despite her condition. When she files her naturalization application, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services form N-400, she should include USCIS form N-648, Medical Certification for Disability Exceptions. A qualified medical professional must sign the form confirming her disability, explaining how it impacts her ability to answer the Civic Knowledge questions and if appropriate, to read or speak English. A doctor’s letter is not sufficient. She will need the completed form.
USCIS will waive the language and civic knowledge requirements for a naturalization applicant whose disability, physical or mental, prevents them from passing those exams. Even a person who is comatose or otherwise nonresponsive can become a U.S. citizen with the help of a guardian. USCIS will make site visits to examine individuals whose disability makes them unable to attend a naturalization interview.
Allan Wernick is an attorney and senior legal adviser to City University of New York’s Citizenship Now! project. Email questions and comments to email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @awernick