A false claim to citizenship is when a non-U.S. Citizen claims to be a U.S. citizen to obtain a benefit under federal or state law. This offense carries severe consequences and takes away almost all possibilities to gain legal status, as there is no waiver to forgive this offense. An individual who is removed on the grounds of a false claim to citizenship is permanently inadmissible and cannot return to the United States. Some possible examples of falsely claiming to be a citizen are as follows: registering to vote, checking “U.S. citizen” on an I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification form, attempting to obtain a U.S. passport, claiming to be a citizen on a student loan application, driver’s license application and many other instances.
If an individual has falsely claimed citizenship, the only type of relief they may seek is Cancellation of Removal in Immigration Court. However, this only applies if they are already in Removal Proceedings. Furthermore, to qualify for this, they must show that they have been in the U.S. continuously for the last 10 years, have had good moral character over those years, have not committed certain criminal offenses, and that removal would cause extreme hardship to their U.S. citizen or lawful permanent parent, spouse or child. This is the only possible relief and pathway to legal status if an individual has falsely claimed U.S. citizenship.
The current law only makes a person inadmissible for falsely claiming citizenship if they claimed to be a U.S. citizen on or after September 30, 1996. This date is significant because it is when the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA) went into effect, which created false claims to citizenship as a ground for removal. Thus, if an applicant made a false claim to U.S. citizenship before this date, they may be inadmissible for willful misrepresentation or fraud, but not for falsely claiming U.S. citizenship. The only other exception to the consequences for a false claim is if there is an immediate and voluntarily retraction of the claim claim before it is exposed (otherwise known as “timely retraction”). Then a person may not be inadmissible on grounds of a false claim to U.S. citizenship.
In sum, falsely claiming U.S. citizenship is a serious offense, but an individual still may qualify for relief options. Please contact the Shulman Law Group to determine whether you meet the criteria for Cancellation of Removal or any other exceptions to the consequences for a false claim to U.S. citizenship.