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New relief available for those refused visas for admitting drug use

By Paul Choi

Paul Choi is an immigration attorney and professor of law located at 16000 Ventura Blvd. Ste 1201, Encino, CA. 91436.  Atty  Choi will answer all questions regarding immigration and naturalization for free. Address questions to pchoi@pchoilaw.com or telephone 818 714-2226.  Atty Choi is pleased to announce that his administrator is Philip Abramowitz who has 30 years of experience in immigration law.

Question:  My son is in the Philippines and he is 25 years old. I petitioned him for an immigrant visa ten years ago and he finally had his interview at the U.S. Embassy last year. Before the interview, he had a medical exam at St. Luke’s by the Embassy assigned doctor.  During this exam the doctor asked my son if he ever smoked marijuana or tried shabu (methamphetamine hydrochloride) before.  My son said that he tried marijuana once or twice and he signed a statement prepared by the doctor.  At the interview at the Embassy, my son was denied his immigrant visa. He was told by the Embassy that he is a drug abuser and is barred forever from immigrating to the U.S.  My son and I are very upset, worried and angry. How could this happen? My son is not a drug addict. He tried marijuana and that should not be enough to deny him. I went to a well known attorney in L.A. and he said my chance of success was poor and he asked for $17,000 to “try”. Please help me.

Answer:  Your problem is not unusual and there have been hundreds of  unfortunate souls who fell into the trap of admitting drug use which caused a denial of a visa.  This problem has persisted for years. One law firm in Pasadena filed a lawsuit claiming that the practice in Manila was unfair and in violation of law.  The law firm’s action was considered by the Court and rejected.  Many attorneys have written articles claiming that there is little hope of winning when an applicant admits drug use.  However, this may not really be true. I know of one such individual who was denied a couple of years ago for admitting drug use and he was successful in having the decision of the Embassy overturned and reconsidered.  His success in fighting this conduct of the Embassy can help your son too.

You see a medical exam is an important part of the visa application process. Certain physicians, usually referred to as civil surgeons  are sanctioned by the U.S. Consul. Their concern is to check applicants for communicable diseases and any other grounds for exclusion from this country such as drug and alcohol abuse.  These doctors should not play the role of policemen.  However, they are really agents of the Embassy and anything you tell them is equal to telling the consul. If you say you are a drug addict, an alcoholic or are insane, the Embassy will quickly know this. Unfortunately, their dual role as doctor and interviewer for the Embassy is not really made clear and the visa applicant is not warned that answering questions could result in refusal of a visa.

There is a precedent decision that should be followed as law issued by the Board of Immigration Appeals called Matter of K that sets for the restrictions on interrogating visa applicants during a medical exam. Unfortunately, the Embassy in Manila has not followed Matter of K and instead follows a decision issued by a Federal Appeals Court in California instead.  The Federal decision gives the doctors more freedom to question applicants without providing guidelines or warnings and allows the Embassy to deny visas based solely upon a statement that the visa applicant tried marijuana or methamphetamines one time or more.

Recently, a spouse of a Filipino man refused a visa for admission of drug use filed a lawsuit against the Embassy in Manila claiming that the Embassy should follow Matter of K and not deny the visa.  The U.S. Embassy in Manila after much negotiation and deliberation agreed to revisit the refusal of the immigrant visa and cancel the denial. This gave the young Filipino man a new life and a second chance to get his visa and be reunited.

Has the Embassy changed its position now as a result of this action? Perhaps. But this action should give hope to those that have been denied or refused a visa for admitting drug use during a medical exam.  If the Embassy has agreed to reconsider the denial  of an immigrant visa to this young man, there is no reason why others cannot take advantage of this case as well and get a second chance.

So, now is the time to contact a qualified immigration attorney and seek to have your son’s case reconsidered by the Embassy. Based upon the success of the lawsuit just settled, I believe that your son has a good chance of having his case reconsidered as well.

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Paul Choi will answer all questions regarding immigration and naturalization for FREE. Address questions to pchoi@pchoilaw.com or call 818 714-2226. He is located at 16000 Ventura Blvd. Ste. 1201, Encino, CA. 91436. Phil Abramowitz can be reached at pabramowitz@pchoilaw.com or on his cell at 818 324-8110.

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