How prior drug charges will affect a person’s admissibility depends on the nature of the charges, specifically whether the crime is considered one of “moral turpitude,” as “good moral character” is a key aspect of eligibility for U.S. residency. “Moral turpitude” is a U.S. legal concept that has no strict definition. Whether an act is considered a crime of moral turpitude hinges on whether the act was committed recklessly or with evil intent—or with guilty knowledge—and whether it can be considered, according to the courts, as “conduct that is considered contrary to community standards of justice, honesty, or good morals.”
For example, the possession of a small amount of marijuana for personal use would be less likely to be viewed as a crime of moral turpitude than the possession of 100 kilograms of cocaine or the sale of even 1 gram of cocaine.Drug trafficking and distribution are generally viewed as crimes of moral turpitude.
Additionally, an applicant may be denied an EB-5 visa—or any other U.S. visa—even if immigration authorities only suspect the person of trafficking and the person has never been arrested for or convicted of this offense. Similarly, if an applicant admits to a crime of moral turpitude without having been convicted of the crime, the person may be found inadmissible.
Because of the lack of clear guidelines on what can be considered a crime of moral turpitude that would disqualify someone from immigrating to the United States, a potential EB-5 investor with prior drug charges should consult an immigration attorney, preferably one with criminal law experience, who will be able to provide specific counsel upon reviewing the arrest report and the outcome of the case. Usually, case law is used as a guideline when assessing whether a crime triggers inadmissibility. Case law shows how the courts interpret specific situations—or what constitutes “community standards of justice”—that have not been clearly defined in law.