Sound familiar? What might have seemed to be an innocent mistake or just a harmless lie at the time could mean denial of a naturalization application or worse, referral to immigration court for a deportation proceeding.
False claims to U.S. citizenship can happen in a number of ways. For example, individuals who filled out an I-9 for employment verification may check the box that he/she is a U.S. citizen in order to obtain a job. Students who fill out loan application forms from the federal or state government who claimed they were U.S. citizens in order to receive student financial aid can also be found to have made false claims to U.S. citizenship. Sometimes it’s an honest mistake. You may have met someone at the grocery store who wanted you to sign a petition for what you thought was for better schools and road conditions, when in fact it was a voter registration form. All these scenarios can lead to the U.S. government alleging that you made a false claim to U.S. citizenship in order to receive a benefit.
A false claim to U.S. citizenship is a serious matter and has extreme consequences. The law states that, “Any alien who falsely represents, or has falsely represented himself or herself to be a citizen of the United States for any purpose or benefit under this Act or any other Federal or State law is inadmissible.” Someone who is inadmissible is barred from obtaining a green card, even if married to a U.S. citizen if no waiver is available. And there is no waiver available to waive a false claim to U.S. citizenship status. Prior to 1996, false claims to U.S. citizenship could be waived. Currently, for any claims made after September 26, 1996 (the date the law was enacted), there is no waiver.
Besides being ineligible for a green card due to the false claim, you can be criminally conviction for a false claim, fined or imprisoned or both In the context of naturalization, if it is found that a false claim was made, then an applicant may be denied naturalization for lack of “good moral character.”
While there is no waiver, there may be some exceptions and/or defenses after making a false claim to being a U.S. citizen. If the claim happened before 1996, you may be granted a waiver. If you are the child of a U.S. citizen parent and resided in the United States before the age of 16, and you believed you were a U.S. citizen, you may have a defense to the false claim allegation. It may also be possible to argue that you made a “timely retraction of false claim” (that you took it back and corrected yourself timely and did not benefit from the false claim) or that you were too young to understand the consequences of the false claim at the time it was made. Agency interpretation on underage false claims is still in flux. It may be possible to argue that the claim was not made in order to receive a benefit barred under the INA. Finally, the U visa for victims of crime may also offer an exception through it’s generous waiver provisions.
Talk to one of our experienced attorneys today to determine the consequences of how what you might have said or done could impact your chances for naturalization, issuance of a green card, or options for staying in the U.S. SGG’s team of attorneys regularly work with complex citizenship matters and are known internationally for their work with inadmissibility waivers. Let us analyze your case to determine what arguments we can make to preserve your ability to stay in the U.S.