False Claims of U.S. Citizenship

By: Attys. Robert L. Reeves and Nathan Graham

Foreign nationals in the U.S. and those who are seeking to enter the U.S. must be aware of the consequences of misrepresentations made to immigration officials. In particular, a false claim to U.S. citizenship may even result in a permanent bar to immigrate to the U.S. This article will also discuss false claims of U.S. citizenship made to nongovernmental parties which may also bar immigration benefits permanently.

An analysis of a false claim of U.S. citizenship starts with a determination of when the claim was made. If a false claim was made before September 30, 1996, and was made to obtain an immigration benefit, then the alien is inadmissible to the U.S. However, there is a waiver available based on hardship to immediate relatives who are either lawful permanent residents or U.S. citizens. But if the false claim of U.S. citizenship was made on or after September 30, 1996, the alien is permanently inadmissible to the U.S. as there is no waiver available. Even claims of U.S. citizenship made for non-immigration purposes such as making a false claim in order to obtain employment may render foreign nationals inadmissible.

When an alien is found inadmissible based on a false claim of U.S. citizenship, one strategic defense is to challenge the false claim itself. Was the false claim a definitive claim of U.S. citizenship or could it have been a false claim of permanent resident status? A false claim to permanent resident status is not a permanent bar, but is a misrepresentation which can be raised as a ground of inadmissibility. Additionally, ambiguous responses to questions from immigration officers and other unclear situations may be open to different interpretations as to exactly what was represented; for instance, there may be a language problem. What if a foreign national actually believed that he was a U.S. citizen at the time that the claim was made? Did he reasonably know that he was not a citizen? This situation may provide additional grounds which a qualified immigration attorney may use to reverse a finding of inadmissibility.

Whether a misrepresentation occurred, a statutory exception exists, or a waiver of inadmissibility is available requires careful legal analysis by a qualified immigration attorney.