False Claims of Citizenship Will Result in USCIS Denials, Even If It Was A Mistake
As you know, immigration law is highly complex and difficult to navigate without the assistance of experienced and knowledgeable legal professionals. Still, Some aspects of the immigration law are more familiar than others: filing a U.S. Residency petition for family members or an employee, applying to become a U.S. citizen, pleading for asylum to avoid persecution, requesting a U visa as the victim of a crime, among others. There is one aspect of immigration law, however, that has not been well-known, but is now enormously important, the penalty for making a false claim of U.S. citizenship.
While historically, there were very few options to overcome this problem, it generally did not impact a great number of people, that is, until recently.
On April 24, 2020, the Trump Administration, consistent with its anti-immigrant actions to date, had USCIS adopt a new position on false claims of citizenship, that makes it more difficult for people to obtain an immigrant status, including Legal Permanent Residency. Now, any false claim of citizenship that a person has made, will disqualify them from most visas or paths to residency, even if it was a mistake and even if the person did not know they were making the claim. (See USCIS Policy Manual, Volume 8: Admissibility, Part K, False Claim to U.S. Citizenship, 04-24-2020)
This is a significant policy change and has the potential to affect many immigrants because USCIS does not have to prove that the immigrant intended to make the false claim of U.S. citizenship to deny their application for almost any visa or most residency petitions. If USCIS finds that an immigrant made a false claim of U.S. citizenship, there is no waiver available for the majority of immigrants, including those applying for residency based on marriage, family, or employment.
Prior to this policy change, the law had been viewed in a far more reasonable manner, as it required that the person knew that they were making a false claim in order to be penalized (*). Now a careless or unintended signature on a form or application can have dire results.
We know that being able to support your family is very hard without an Employment Authorization Document (work permit) but the most common scenario that our office expects to see from USCIS denials due to false claims of U.S. citizenship is when an immigrant signs papers to begin a job. The Form I-9, which should be completed by all employees, expressly asks whether or not a person is a U.S. Citizen, and checking off the box to indicate that you are a U.S. Citizen may get you the job, but significant immigration consequences can follow in the short-term or long-term.
Fortunately there are some immigrants who are unaffected by false claims of U.S. citizenship or may obtain a waiver, such as refugees or applicants for U Visas. Additionally, those who otherwise qualify for the “10-year law” (Cancellation of Removal) may be protected from the penalties for a false claim of U.S. citizenship, so long as it was made exclusively so that the immigrant could work to support their family.
It is always important to review any documents that you are being asked to sign and to ask for help if you do not understand the form or question. Finally, if you believe you have made a claim of U.S. citizenship, it is important to tell your immigration lawyer so that he or she can give you the proper guidance.
The immigration lawyers and legal professionals at FitzGerald Law Company remains committed to helping the immigrant community navigate the immigration system during these difficult times. Contact our office at 617-303-2600 to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced Boston attorneys and learn more about your legal options and how we can help you with any immigration, criminal and personal injury matters.
(*) In Re: [Redacted], 2010 Immig. Rptr. LEXIS 11394, *8 (BIA nonprec. January 10, 2010) citing Matter of Healy and Goodchild, 17 I&N Dec. 22 (BIA 1979) [Knowledge of the falsity of the representation is required for a misrepresentation to have an immigration impact.]