false claim to us citizenship

False Claim to United States (US) Citizenship

Giselle Ayala Mateus, Esq.


The concept of making a false claim to US citizenship is more intricate than it might initially appear. At its core, a false claim refers to an individual’s assertion, whether verbal or written, of being a U.S. citizen when, in fact, they are not. Such claims can be made in various contexts, including during interactions with immigration officials, on employment forms, during applications for benefits, or even when seeking property rights.

It’s essential to differentiate between falsely claiming citizenship and mistakenly identifying one’s immigration status. The former is a deliberate act, while the latter might arise from genuine confusion or lack of knowledge about one’s legal standing. Regardless of intent, the act of falsely claiming U.S. citizenship can have profound implications on an individual’s immigration journey.

In the realm of immigration law, the distinction between a citizen and a non-citizen is paramount. U.S. citizens enjoy rights and privileges that are not extended to non-citizens, such as the right to vote, access certain federal jobs, and receive specific government benefits. When an individual falsely claims these rights, they not only jeopardize their own legal status but also undermine the integrity of the U.S. immigration system.

It’s worth noting that not all false claims are treated equally. The context in which the claim is made, the individual’s knowledge at the time, and the potential harm caused by the false claim are all factors that can influence the consequences one might face. As we delve deeper into this topic, it becomes evident that understanding the nuances of false claims to U.S. citizenship is crucial for anyone navigating the U.S. immigration system.

Determining Inadmissibility for a False Claim to U.S. Citizenship

In the realm of U.S. immigration law, the term “inadmissibility” refers to the legal grounds on which an individual can be denied entry, a visa, or adjustment of status. One of the most stringent grounds for inadmissibility is making a false claim to U.S. citizenship. But how is inadmissibility determined in the context of such claims?

  1. Context of the Claim: The circumstances under which the false claim was made play a pivotal role. For instance, if an individual falsely claims citizenship on a government document, such as a visa application or an I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification form, it can be grounds for inadmissibility. Similarly, false claims made to obtain benefits reserved exclusively for U.S. citizens, like federal financial aid, can lead to inadmissibility.
  2. Knowledge and Intent: While the law is strict, it also considers the individual’s knowledge at the time of making the claim. If it can be proven that the individual genuinely believed they were a U.S. citizen when making the claim, it might influence the determination. However, ignorance of the law or one’s true status is not always an acceptable defense.
  3. Evidence of the False Claim: Concrete evidence is crucial. Documentation, witness testimonies, or recorded statements can serve as evidence of the false claim. The burden of proof often lies with the immigration authorities, but it’s advisable for individuals to retain any documentation that might support their case.
  4. Timely Retraction: Unlike other provisions in the INA, the inadmissibility ground for false claims to U.S. citizenship does not allow for a timely retraction. This means that even if an individual realizes their mistake and attempts to correct it promptly, the initial false claim can still lead to inadmissibility.
  5. Previous Adjudications: If an individual has previously been determined inadmissible for a false claim, subsequent applications for entry or adjustment of status will be scrutinized more closely. Past determinations can influence future decisions, making it even more challenging for the individual to navigate the immigration system.

Common False Citizenship Claim Cases

Over the years, various scenarios have emerged where individuals find themselves inadvertently or intentionally making false claims to U.S. citizenship. These cases often highlight the complexities of the immigration system and the challenges individuals face in understanding their rights and responsibilities. Here are some of the most common false citizenship claim cases:

  1. Employment Verification: One of the most frequent contexts in which false claims arise is during the employment verification process. Individuals might falsely claim citizenship on the I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification form, either to secure a job or because they misunderstand the distinction between a citizen and a lawful permanent resident.
  2. Voter Registration: Another common scenario is when individuals register to vote, mistakenly believing they have the right to do so. Voting in federal elections is a right reserved exclusively for U.S. citizens, and falsely claiming this right can have severe immigration consequences.
  3. Application for a U.S. Passport: Some individuals, either out of ignorance or intent, apply for a U.S. passport without having U.S. citizenship. Such an act is not only a false claim to citizenship but can also lead to criminal charges.
  4. Interactions with Law Enforcement: In encounters with law enforcement or during traffic stops, some individuals might falsely claim U.S. citizenship, hoping it might lead to more favorable treatment or to avoid potential immigration consequences.
  5. Misunderstanding Legal Status: In some cases, individuals genuinely believe they are U.S. citizens, perhaps because they have lived in the country since childhood or were misinformed by family members. Such cases highlight the importance of understanding one’s legal status and the rights associated with it.


Penalties for False Claims of Citizenship

The act of falsely claiming U.S. citizenship is not taken lightly within the U.S. legal framework. The penalties for such claims are severe and can have long-lasting implications for an individual’s future interactions with the U.S. immigration system and beyond. Here are the primary penalties associated with making false claims to U.S. citizenship:

  1. Inadmissibility: One of the most immediate and severe consequences of a false claim is being deemed inadmissible. This means that the individual could be barred from entering or re-entering the United States. Such a determination can also impact future visa applications or attempts to adjust one’s immigration status.
  2. Deportation: If an individual is already within the U.S. and is found to have made a false claim to citizenship, they can be placed in removal proceedings and potentially deported. This can occur even if the individual has been living in the U.S. for an extended period or has established significant ties to the country.
  3. Criminal Charges: Beyond the realm of immigration law, falsely claiming U.S. citizenship can also lead to criminal charges. For instance, making a false statement on a federal document, such as a passport application or an I-9 form, can result in fines and imprisonment.
  4. Permanent Bar: The repercussions of a false claim can be long-lasting. Individuals who are found inadmissible due to a false claim to U.S. citizenship can face a permanent bar from obtaining lawful permanent resident status or citizenship in the future.
  5. Loss of Immigration Benefits: Any immigration benefits, such as a visa or green card, that were obtained using a false claim can be revoked. This can further complicate an individual’s legal standing and future prospects within the U.S.


Fighting a False Claim to U.S. Citizenship Charge

Being accused of falsely claiming U.S. citizenship can be an overwhelming experience. However, it’s crucial to remember that there are legal avenues available to challenge such charges. Here’s a guide on how individuals can approach and potentially contest a false claim to U.S. citizenship charge:

  1. Seek Legal Counsel: The first and most critical step is to consult with an experienced immigration lawyer. Given the complexities of U.S. immigration law and the severe consequences of a false claim charge, having expert legal guidance is paramount.
  2. Gather Evidence: Building a strong defense requires concrete evidence. This might include documentation, witness testimonies, or any other relevant information that can prove the claim was made inadvertently or under a genuine belief of being a U.S. citizen.
  3. Demonstrate Lack of Intent: One of the key aspects of a false claim charge is intent. If it can be proven that the individual did not have the intent to deceive or gain an undue advantage by making the claim, it can significantly bolster the defense.
  4. Highlight Circumstances: Context matters. If the false claim was made under duress, coercion, or misinformation, highlighting these circumstances can play a pivotal role in the defense strategy.
  5. Negotiate with Authorities: In some cases, it might be possible to negotiate with immigration authorities to reduce the severity of the charge or its consequences. This could involve agreeing to certain conditions, penalties, or corrective actions.
  6. Appeal Decisions: If the initial decision is unfavorable, individuals have the right to appeal. The appeals process can be intricate, and having a knowledgeable US Citizenship attorney to navigate the system is crucial.
  7. Stay Informed: U.S. immigration laws and policies are continually evolving. Staying informed about any legislative changes or court rulings can provide additional avenues for defense or relief.

While facing a charge of falsely claiming U.S. citizenship is undoubtedly challenging, it’s not insurmountable. With the right strategy, evidence, and legal guidance, individuals can fight the charge and work towards a favorable resolution.

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