Arizona Immigration Lawyer Explains the Consequences of Falsely Claiming U.S. Citizenship
USCIS states that the law only makes a noncitizen inadmissible for falsely claiming United States citizenship if the noncitizen falsely represents themselves to be a citizen of the United States “for any purpose or benefit” under Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) § 274A or any other federal or state law. USCIS updated its Policy Manual to align with the United States Department of Justice Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) precedent decision in the Matter of Zhang, a June 2019 case in which the BIA held that an alien does not need to knowingly make false claims of citizenship to make an alien deportable under the INA.
False United States Citizenship Claims That Make You Deportable
USCIS state that for a noncitizen to be inadmissible based on a false claim to the United States citizenship, a USCIS officer must find all of the following elements:
- A noncitizen made a representation of United States citizenship
- The representation was false
- A noncitizen made the false representation for any purpose or benefit under the INA or any other federal or state law.
An officer must examine all facts and circumstances when evaluating inadmissibility for falsely claiming United States citizenship. An officer should follow the following steps when determining inadmissibility:
- Determine whether a noncitizen falsely claimed to be a United States citizen.
- Determine whether a noncitizen falsely made the representation on or after September 30, 1996.
- Determine whether a noncitizen’s false claim to the United States citizenship was for the purpose of obtaining a benefit either under the INA or another federal or state law.
- Determine whether a noncitizen made a timely retraction of the false claim to United States citizenship.
- Determine whether a noncitizen is exempt from inadmissibility because a statutory exception applies.
- Determine whether a waiver of inadmissibility may be available.
USCIS further provides that even though a noncitizen may have falsely claimed United States citizenship, they are only inadmissible if they made the false claim with a subjective intent to obtain a benefit or achieve a purpose under the INA or any other federal or state law, as shown by direct or circumstantial evidence, and United States citizenship would affect or matter to the purpose or the benefit the person is seeking, which means it must be material to obtaining the benefit or achieving the purpose.
Whether United States citizenship actually affects or matters to a benefit a person is seeking will be determined objectively. When a benefit requires United States citizenship as part of eligibility, then a noncitizen’s false claim is material.
If a claim to citizenship has a natural tendency to influence an official decision to grant or deny a benefit sought, the claim is also material. It will be a noncitizen’s burden to show that United States citizenship was not relevant to obtaining the benefit.
For purposes of a false claim to the United States citizenship, a benefit must be identifiable and enumerated in the INA or another federal or state law. A benefit can include but will not be limited to:
- A U.S. passport
- Entry into the United States
- Obtaining either employment, loans, or another benefit under federal or state law when citizenship is a requirement for eligibility.
Whether a noncitizen makes a false claim with the specific intent of achieving a purpose will be a question of fact and dependent on the United States citizenship affects or matters to the purpose-specific circumstances of each case. A noncitizen has the burden to show, either with direct or circumstantial evidence, that they did not have a subjective intent of achieving the purpose.
Whether United States citizenship actually affects or matters to the purpose is to be determined objectively. United States citizenship affects or matters to the purpose and will be material when it has a natural tendency to influence an applicant’s ability to achieve the purpose.
It is a noncitizen’s burden to show that United States citizenship was not relevant to achieving a purpose. When United States citizenship was irrelevant to achieving a purpose at issue, a noncitizen’s false claim to the United States citizenship will not make them inadmissible unless the evidence provides a basis for finding that the noncitizen made the false claim to obtain a benefit under federal or state law.
The term purpose can include avoiding negative legal consequences that a noncitizen may seek to avoid by falsely claiming United States citizenship, and include but are not limited to:
- Removal proceedings
- Inspection by immigration officials
- Prohibition on unauthorized employment
The purpose is not limited to just avoiding negative legal consequences. A purpose can also be something more positive, such as a false claim being for an improper purpose when a benefit under federal or state law has no restriction to United States citizens, but a noncitizen falsely claims to be a United States citizen when seeking the benefit to avoid eligibility or evidentiary requirement that does not apply to citizens seeking the benefit.
Arizona Immigration Lawyer explains the other common kinds of false claims to United States citizenship include the following circumstances:
- a person registering to vote in a local, state, or federal election when it is prohibited
- a person checking U.S. citizen on an I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification form
- a person claiming to be a United States citizen on a student loan application
- a person attempting to obtain a United States passport
- a person stating they are United States citizen to obtain any other benefit for which United States citizenship is required
Arizona Immigration Lawyer Explains Penalties for Citizenship Fraud
Citizenship fraud charges under Title 18 U.S Code § 1425 have the following maximum prison sentences in addition to fines, depending on the nature of the charges:
- Up to 10 years for a first or second offense
- Up to 15 years for all other offenses not listed here
- Up to 20 years if the alleged offense was committed to facilitate a drug trafficking crime
- Up to 25 years if the alleged offense was committed to facilitate an act of international terrorism
Fines can vary in these cases, but Title 8 of the U.S. Code relates to aliens and nationality, and Title 8 U.S. Code § 1324c(a) establishes that it is illegal for a person or entity to knowingly forge, counterfeit, alter, or falsely make any document for the purpose of satisfying a requirement or obtain a benefit, to use, attempt to use, obtain, possess, accept, or receive or to provide any forged, counterfeit, altered, or falsely manufactured document to satisfy any requirement or to obtain a benefit, to use or attempt to use or to provide or attempt to provide any lawfully issued document to a person other than the possessor for the purpose of satisfying any requirement or obtaining a benefit, to accept or receive or provide any lawfully issued document to or with respect to a person other than the possessor for the purpose of complying with Title 8 U.S. Code § 1324a(b) or obtaining a benefit under this chapter, to prepare, file, or assist another in preparing or filing any application for benefits or any required document, or any document submitted in connection with such an application or document, with either knowledge or in reckless disregard of the fact that such an application or document has been falsely made or, in whole or in part, does not relate to a person on whose behalf it was or is being submitted for, or present before boarding a common carrier (often an airline) for the purpose of coming to the United States a document that relates to an alien’s eligibility to enter the United States, and fail to present such a document to an immigration officer upon arrival at any United States port of entry.
Violations of Title 8 U.S. Code § 1324c(a) are punishable by civil penalties of:
- Not less than $250 but as much as $2,000 for each document that is the subject of a violation under Title 8 U.S. Code § 1324c(a)
- When a person or entity has been previously subject to an order under this paragraph, not less than $2,000 but as much as $5,000 for each document that is the subject of a violation under Title 8 U.S. Code § 1324c(a)
There are two other federal statutes relating to false claims of United States citizenship. Title 18 U.S. Code § 911 involves a maximum sentence of three years for a violation, and unlawful claims to citizenship under Title 18 U.S. Code § 1015 involve a maximum sentence of five years.
INA § 237 also establishes that any alien who falsely represents or has falsely represented themselves to be a United States citizen for any kind of purpose or benefit under federal or state law becomes deportable. The alien will also receive a permanent bar from entering the United States and cannot be eligible for a waiver typically available for other types of misrepresentation cases.
The most common exceptions in deportation cases relate to immigrants claiming that false claims of citizenship were made prior to the September 26, 1996 date of enactment for the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA or IIRAIRA), a false claim was immediately taken back or retracted in a timely fashion by a noncitizen after being made and before the noncitizen could obtain any benefit from the claim, or a child whose parents were United States citizens made a false claim of citizenship before 18 years of age, where the child was a permanent United States resident before 16 years of age, and the child made the claim reasonably believing they were a United States citizen.
Call Us Today to Schedule a Free Consultation with an Arizona immigration lawyer
If you are currently facing accusations of having falsely claimed United States citizenship anywhere in Arizona, you are going to want to be sure that you immediately seek legal representation. It will be in your best interest to get in touch with the experienced team at Diamondback Legal so you can be confident that you will have somebody who is capable of knowing how to overcome the charges that can result from innocent mistakes.
Our firm knows how complicated these types of cases can be for most people, and we will work to find all of the types of evidence that may benefit you in defending yourself against these charges. You may call us at (602) 755-3199 or contact us online to receive a free consultation so we can further evaluate your case and really discuss how to best proceed with the handling of your case.
Related Post: 9 Ways to Speed Up Your Immigration Case in Arizona