Buju Banton returns to the US after deportation. Can you do that, too?

The content originally appeared on: Jamaica News Loop News

Entertainer Buju Banton returned to the US in May 2024, after being deported to Jamaica in 2018.

He had served a sentence from 2011 for a drug conviction. He is slated to perform in New York on July 14, 2024.

While details of his specific visa authorisation have not been revealed, the information regarding his upcoming performances could suggest that he has been granted a P visa or an O visa.

These are discussed in turn, along with other visa categories available for persons who have convictions and deportations to their records.

Generally speaking, a criminal conviction for drugs and subsequent deportation has a negative impact on any application to return to the US, in any capacity, and so all the circumstances of your specific criminal case, and many other factors, become crucially important. 

Some factors that might affect specific cases

The factors that surround the circumstances of your arrest are important. This requires a consideration of whether or not you were a significant player or someone on the periphery, as also whether or not you were trafficking, selling or in possession of the drugs.

Type and amount of drugs

The specific drugs is also important, as increasingly the US criminal law system is considering certain drugs in a new light.

The amount of drugs that is the subject of the criminal indictment is also important. A plea of guilty versus a trial resulting in a guilty verdict, can also be important for your subsequent attempts to return.

Sentence

The maximum sentence that could be imposed in terms of a fine and or a term of imprisonment is also considered.

The actual custodial sentence that you serve makes a difference as well, so custodial sentences under 365 days have a different significance from those over that period. Sentences over this period can actually trigger immigration consequences and you could be deported.

If you received a sentence that was non-custodial, it could be a suspended sentence (often called a road sentence in Jamaica’s colloquial terminology) probation, community service or a fine. 

Offence

Not all offences and any subsequent conviction trigger inadmissibility periods. However, a rule of thumb is that the more serious the crime, the more likely it is that it triggers a period of inadmissibility for one, three five, 10 years or a lifetime.

Military service, green card holder

If you have had any military service in the USA, was a green card holder at the time or was serving in any capacity in the military and was deported after a conviction, there is a distinct opportunity that you can apply to return to the USA.

There is an entire unit in the United States Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) devoted to assisting ex-military personnel who might qualify to return to the USA, after events such as imprisonment and deportation. It is called The Immigrant Military Members and Veterans Initiative (IMMVI).

You must be outside of the USA to be able to get the help of IMMVI.

If you came to the US as a child and was a green card holder, and your parents became citizens before you became 18, it is possible that you also became a citizen as a matter of law.

So, if you think you fall into this category, then it might be useful to investigate the specific circumstances surrounding your parents’ time frame as to when they became citizens. 

How to present the new reformed you to US immigration

It is crucial that your application for any new visa now shows the contrast between the person who was convicted and then deported and the person you are now.

So, it is necessary to present your character now, showing your remorse and rehabilitation since the conviction and deportation.

The following are examples of ways to provide this documentary evidence. A personal affidavit, police report, examples of your community involvement, and affidavits of your reformed character from stellar members (think pastor, principal, nurse, police officer, Justice of the Peace, employer) of your community are all helpful to show that you are a changed person.

Focus on your value

You must focus on your value, in being allowed to return to the USA, for the wider community and any positive economic impact. So for example, you bring education and enrichment (such as cultural, scientific, religious) if you are trying to get a work permit to perform at cultural shows or work in a religious community.

The goal

The goal is to convince the US Embassy that you will not abuse the grant of a visa. Emphasise your honesty in advising them about your previous conviction and focus on the positives since you returned to your home country.

Generally, US immigration requires that you prove that you have significant ties in your home country, and you must convince the consular officer that you will return home after visiting the USA, because of those home country ties. 

If you are applying for a family or employment-based immigrant visa, you focus on the value your return would have on your family and the fact that you would be contributing to the US society positively.

So, you show that you will be contributing positively to the US with your presence.

Available waivers

If there are waivers available for forgiveness, make sure to apply for those and put significant effort into the waiver application. Waivers are discretionary and as such are very high bars to overcome, but it is not impossible.

These factors, when combined or dealt with in parts, really determine how the US Embassy will decide on your nonimmigrant or immigrant visa application.

Documentary proof

Your application must be quite detailed as it requires documentary proof of everything noted above and on every specific immigration form that you complete you must clearly mention the conviction and deportation in the provided sections, even if you never spent a day in jail or a prison.

This is so because the forms tend to capture information about arrests, charges, acquittals, expungements, appeals that you won and much more.

Buju Banton’s stellar career

So, finally, back to the “Gargamel”, it is also possible that he could have got an O visa.

According to USCIS: “The O-1 nonimmigrant visa is for the individual who possesses extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, or who has a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry and has been recognised nationally or internationally for those achievements.”

This could have been easily shown by Buju Banton. His stellar recording career, incomparable performing skills, US Grammy win, philanthropy, and positive cultural impact across the world is unparalleled. 

The only question would be if all of this is enough to overcome the legal barrier in light of the conviction and deportation, for whichever nonimmigrant or immigrant visa he applied for at the embassy.

This is where the mitigation on his behalf would have had to be robust, showing everything cited earlier in this article that would have been applicable to him. Clearly his mitigation and the documentation presented on his behalf were enough to convince the US Embassy to grant another visa. Perhaps yours will be, too.

*This article does not constitute legal advice and is intended for informational purposes only.

Nadine C Atkinson-Flowers is admitted to practice in the USA and Jamaica. Her US practice is in the area of immigration, while her Jamaican practice areas include immigration and general legal consultancy. She has been an attorney for over 15 years in Jamaica and has written articles for several legal publications. She is passionate about access to justice issues and volunteers with several legal, business, children and community service organisations in Jamaica and the US. She can be contacted at [email protected] . Check out her YouTube page here.