False Claims to U.S. Citizenship
November 10, 2006

Lying about one’s immigration status can have serious consequences, especially when it involves a false claim to U.S. citizenship. A false claim to U.S. citizenship can mean an applicant will forever be barred from obtaining U.S. permanent residence, or for those already lawful permanent residents (“green card” holder), being denied U.S. citizenship. In rare cases, it can even be the basis for the initiation of removal/deportation proceedings. But what exactly constitutes a false claim to citizenship, how it becomes an issue, and how the government can prove their case are important questions to be addressed in any discussion on the topic, especially as it relates to the real world experiences of the immigrant population in the U.S.

Illustrative of the problem is the following common scenario: the lawful permanent resident that mistakenly registers to vote when renewing their driver’s license (as part of their license renewal paperwork), and then even proceeds to vote. A few years later, when appearing for their U.S. citizenship interview, the issue somehow comes up, and the applicant is left wondering what is going to happen?

Standing in line at a driver’s license facility can be a trying experience for anyone.  Visitors are welcomed with long lines, and sometimes rude or impatient representatives. When paperwork is stuck in front of you and a representative mumbles something quickly about registering to vote, many individuals just sign on the dotted rather than ask questions. “Tell me where to sign so I can get my new driver’s license and get out of here”, is pretty much what is on the forefront of most visitors minds when appearing at their local department of motor vehicles.

To deem an applicant’s actions a false claim to U.S. citizenship, it must be proven that the representation was intentional or willful. Is the applicant in the above scenario acting intentionally when he signs paperwork he has not read carefully? In more extreme cases, could it be the case that the act of voting may not necessarily constitute a false claim to citizenship since the applicant may not have realized that he needed to be a U.S. citizen to vote? In either situation, a good argument can be made that the applicant’s actions were indeed innocent and should not be a basis for an immigration examiner to conclude that a false claim to citizenship was asserted.

In the context of an application for permanent residence, the consequences are potentially worse since the applicant has not yet secured their permanent status in the U.S. and an officer’s legal conclusion that a false claim to citizenship was made could spell the end of their hope to remain in the U.S.

Usually, it is only a misrepresentation an applicant may have at some point made to a government agency that will be of consequence, since immigration status representations made to private parties or employers are generally not accessed by immigration authorities when considering a U.S. citizenship or permanent residence application.

Admissions relating to possible claims to U.S. citizenship should always be discussed with an attorney before proceeding with any immigration related application, so a proper assessment and strategy can be established before the fact.

Copyright © 2006-2008, By Law Offices of Richard Hanus, Chicago, Illinois