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False Claims to U.S. Citizenship Carry Grave Consequences

Non-citizens are often put into situations that may make it easy, even appealing, for them to simply lie about their U.S. citizenship status. Those that have lied, or will lie, are faced with serious consequences that they may not have expected. False claims of U.S. citizenship will result in the person becoming deportable and placed into removal proceedings. Moreover, there is criminal liability as well.

How Does an Immigrant Make a False Representation?
An immigrant makes a false representation of U.S. citizenship status when the person falsely claims to be a U.S. citizen in order to obtain some benefit under federal or state law. It is an extremely serious offense that the immigrant has committed. Not only will the immigrant be deportable, they will be unable to ever gain re-entry into the U.S. – except under extremely limited circumstances. Furthermore, there is little to no relief for an immigrant who does make false representations of their citizenship.

For an immigrant to have been considered as making a false claim to U.S. citizenship they must have been seeking to use that power to obtain a federal or state benefit. For example, the immigrant must have claimed citizenship by:

  • Registering to vote in a local, state, or federal election
  • Checking “U.S. citizen” or “U.S. national” on an I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification form
  • Claiming to be a U.S. citizen on a student loan application
  • Attempting to obtain a U.S. passport

Are There Any Universal Waivers?
No. There are no universal waivers. Prior to IIRAIRA (Sept. 30, 1996), there was no specific ground of inadmissibility or deportability for making a false claim to USC. But, it has always been a ground of inadmissibility and deportability to have misrepresented a material fact to gain an immigration benefit. Thus, if one claimed to a USC prior to Sept. 30, 1996, they would be deportable or inadmissible, but might be eligible for relief, which is far from automatic or easy to acquire.

The exception for minors is also rare because the minor would need to show that they didn’t understand the consequences, a high and rare standard favorably applied. Courts have found that many young teens knew the consequences.
While there are generally no waivers to defeat a charge of false claim to U.S. citizenship, some individuals will automatically be granted excusal. For example, if you made a false claim of citizenship before September 30, 1996, you will be excused as that is the date the law became effective. Additionally, if your claim to citizenship was made in good faith or not made “knowingly,” it will be excused. Some minors (those under the age of 18) may falsely, but reasonably, believe that they are citizens because they have lived in the U.S. all of their lives and they may not know the difference. Those minors’ false claims will be waived. Finally, the false claim may be waived if there was a timely retraction of such a claim. For example, Kyle may have falsely claimed he was a U.S. citizen on his I-9 form. He realizes his mistake and immediately, and voluntarily, asks his employer to retract the I-9 form so he may fill it out with the correct information. Kyle would have retracted his false claim and will likely not be deported or banned from the U.S.

Who has the burden depends on the situation. What are the elements?
In order for the foreign national to be deemed deportable and inadmissible due to a false claim to U.S. citizenship, an officer will have to make a showing of all of the following elements:

  • The foreign national made a representation of U.S. citizenship
  • That representation was false
  • The representation was made knowingly (he didn’t have an honest belief that he was a USC)
  • The representation was made for any purpose or benefit under any other federal or state law

It may be tempting at times to falsely claim U.S. citizenship in order to gain some benefit such as employment. It is important to understand that a false claim can ban you from ever entering the U.S. again. If you are concerned about the possibility of removal because of your false representations, it is important to consult with an experienced immigration attorney. The New York immigration attorneys at Bretz & Coven, LLP have a long history of zealous, knowledgeable, and honest advocacy on behalf of immigrants. To schedule your consultation, contact our qualified New York immigration lawyers today at (212) 267-2555 or fill out our contact form.

Immigration Consequences of Criminal and Fraudulent Conduct
The immigration consequences of criminal or fraudulent conduct can be harsh and often illogical. Even a very minor offense could have a dramatic immigration consequence, including deportation, detention without bond, being denied naturalization, a visa or re-entry into the United States. Likewise, the use of fake or fraudulent documents, aliases, and other misrepresentations can have similar immigration consequences. Kerry Bretz and Bretz & Coven have been counseling non-citizen criminal defendants, as well as their lawyers, for over 20 years. We have a long history of strategizing deportation and removal defenses, as well as applications for waivers, in very complicated cases.

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