Green Card Despite False Claim to U.S. Citizenship

By: Maridex Abraham

Claiming to be a U.S. citizen when you are not actually a U.S. citizen almost always makes a person ineligible for their permanent resident status. But if you are lucky, there may be a waiver for your prior fraud.

Fraud and misrepresentation are contrary to immigration law and can have major implications for those seeking an immigration benefit in the U.S. For some, the situation is so desperate that they resort to any means necessary to get to the U.S., even if it meant misrepresenting certain facts on a visa application.

Our client, Mary*, found herself in this dilemma several years ago when she misrepresented her name and her citizenship status. These misrepresentations remained with Mary for decades until Reeves Immigration Law Group helped her find the courage to come forward with her actions and seek a waiver of her misrepresentation, allowing her to become a permanent resident.

Mary was living in the Philippines in the late 1980s, when her mother fell gravely ill. Although Mary had siblings who could care for their mother, someone needed to make more money to pay the ongoing medical bills. Mary was still a young woman at the time and knew that she had more opportunities in the U.S. Unfamiliar with the visa process, Mary relied on the assistance of a travel agency. The agency helped her apply for a visa to the U.S. and apply for a passport. Soon thereafter, Mary was scheduled for a visa interview. Everything seemed to be going smoothly!

However, on the day of the interview, an agent at the travel company provided Mary with a passport that had her photo but a completely different name. Desperate to help her mother, Mary attended the interview and represented herself as the person in the passport. Mary’s visa was approved, and she traveled to the U.S. under an assumed name.

Mary was determined to get a job to help pay for her mother’s medical bills, but she was having a difficult time without the proper documents. Mary submitted a counterfeit New York birth certificate to obtain her Social Security card in 1990. Mary felt guilty breaking the law again, but her mother’s health was her main priority.

While Mary worked hard in the U.S. to support her mother in the Philippines, she met and fell in love with Greg*, a U.S. citizen. After a few years of dating, Mary and Greg decided to get married. While planning for their wedding, Mary’s mother tragically passed away. Mary and Greg went to Philippines to attend Mary’s mother’s funeral and decided to have their wedding there.

Not wanting to be burdened with past misrepresentations, Mary and Greg sought to obtain status for Mary the proper way. After months of waiting, Mary was scheduled for her immigrant visa interview. During the interview, the officer asked if she had ever been to the U.S. before. Mary panicked and said, “no,” even though that was not true. The application was not approved. Anxious to reunite with her husband, Mary returned to the U.S.in 1996, using the passport and visa under the assumed name. Mary never used that passport or visa again.

Since returning to the U.S. in 1996, Mary and Greg have lived a peaceful life together. For years, they accepted that Mary may never be able to get lawful permanent resident status in the U.S. because of her prior misrepresentations until Greg’s health began to deteriorate. Greg became more reliant on Mary for every day needs. Mary and Greg could not bear the thought of being torn apart, so they decided to hire Reeves Immigration Law Group to help them with Mary’s case.

In order for Mary to adjust status based on her marriage to a U.S. citizen, she was required to file a waiver pursuant to Section 212(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act because her prior misrepresentations made her inadmissible.

Mary’s use of a New York birth certificate was not only a misrepresentation but also a false claim to U.S. citizenship. Ordinarily, a false claim to U.S. citizenship would prevent Mary from becoming a lawful permanent resident under current law. However, Mary’s false claim to citizenship occurred before the enactment of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (“IIRIRA”) on September 30, 1996. The attorneys at Reeves knew that under the old law, Mary’s misrepresentation as a citizen would be waivable. There was hope for Mary after all!

The team at Reeves Immigration Law Group helped Mary successfully file a waiver by showing that her husband would suffer extreme hardship if she were not allowed to stay in the U.S. Moreover, Mary was able to take ownership of her actions so that she could finally put her past behind her. Mary is now a green card holder after listening to the advice of an attorney and navigating the immigration process the correct way.

*Names have been changed to protect identity