Marriage to a U.S. citizen does not make you a U.S. citizen. Being the child of a U.S. citizen does not automatically make you a U.S. citizen. While this may seem straight forward, I am often chagrined at the fact that many non-United States citizens do not realize the risks of pretending to be a U.S. citizen. Under the existing immigration laws, once a non-citizen is found to have falsely claimed to be a U.S. citizen in order to obtain a benefit under federal or state law, he or she may be removable (deportable) from the United States. More significantly, a person may be placed in removal proceedings even if the false claim was made unintentionally or to certain private parties administering a government benefit.
Why is a Finding of a False Claim to U.S. Citizenship So Serious?
Making a false claim to citizenship is an extremely serious matter. If you or a loved one is currently faced with a finding of a false claim to citizenship, it may be a good idea to consult a Miami immigration lawyer immediately. If a person is deported on this basis, he or she is permanently inadmissible and cannot return to the United States. In addition, there is no waiver available for false claims to citizenship, and there is limited relief from removal available to non-citizens who falsify their citizenship status, either knowingly or unknowingly.
What Kinds of False Claims are Deportable?
Making a false claim to U.S. citizenship in order to obtain a federal or state benefit means that you are removable from the United States. The most common false claims to U.S. citizenship include, but are not limited to the following:
- attempting to obtain a U.S. passport
- stating that you are U.S. citizen to obtain any other benefit for which U.S. citizenship is required
- registering to vote in a local, state, or federal election
- checking “U.S. citizen” on an I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification form
- claiming to be a U.S. citizen on a student loan application
Other False Claims of Citizenship Leading to Deportation
In addition to the situations listed above, immigration officers have uncovered false claims to citizenship in other circumstances. For example, some non-citizens have stated that they were U.S. citizens on federally backed mortgage applications for the purpose of buying a home.
For this reason a non-citizen must be very careful when applying for any type of application that inquires about citizenship status.
Exceptions to False U.S. Citizenship Finding
Congress included an exception in the Child Citizenship Act preventing deportation of children who make false claims to citizenship under the following circumstances:
1) the child’s parents were U.S. citizens by birth or naturalization
2) the child made the false claim when he or she was under age 18
3) the child was a U.S. permanent resident prior to age 16, and
4) the child reasonably believed, when making the false claim to citizenship, that he or she actually was a U.S. citizen.
Another exception to deportation for false claims exists if the claim was made before September 30, 1996, which is the effective date of the false claims ground of inadmissibility.
Lastly, some people who overstayed their visa or never had any legal status in the U.S. may have made false statements in interviews with immigration authorities about their citizenship status in order to stay in the United States. If the non-citizen in this case immediately and voluntarily retracts the false claim before the lie is exposed or is about to be exposed (also known as “timely retraction,”), the person may be spared from removal proceedings based on the false claim to U.S. citizenship. Still, it is important to note that they may however be deported (or inadmissible) for other reasons – such as unlawful presence in the United States. Again, you may be want to consider retaining a Miami immigration attorney to address this adverse finding.
Defending Yourself Against Removal Proceedings Due to a Finding of False Claim to Citizenship
If an exception does not apply to one’s finding of a false claim of citizenship, the only recourse available to a person who has made a false claim to U.S. citizenship is to seek Witholding of Removal under the Convention against Torture in Immigration Court or perhaps Prosecutorial Discretion.
At this point in time, you may want to seriously consider retaining a Miami immigration attorney to handle your case. Together with your attorney, you will need to overcome certain burdens. In order to qualify for this type of relief, a showing of good moral character is required for non-permanent residents (non-LPRs). A judge may find that a non-LPR who made an intentional false claim to citizenship lacks good moral character. If the false claim was unintentional, and all other requirements are met, cancellation of removal may be a good option.
For more information about a finding of false claim to citizenship, please contact Miami family-based immigration attorney Michael G. Murray, Esq. at (305)895-2500 or visit our website at www. mmurraylaw.com .