Claiming to be a United States Citizen

In November 2012 the US will be holding presidential elections. At various locations throughout the United States including Ohio voter registration activity will be heightened. All United States citizens are encouraged to participate in the election process. The qualifications to vote in United States require that you be a United States citizen and 18 years of age.

It is important that foreign nationals that are not United States citizens if asked to register to vote exercise extreme caution before registering. Immigration and Nationality act provides significant penalties for anyone that falsely claims United States citizenship.

Another common place where a false claim to United States citizenship may occur is when a foreign national is completing a form I9, employment eligibility verification form. The I-9 is used for all new hires and requires his checking a block indicating among other things whether the applicant is a United States citizen. DHS often requests copies of the form I-9 from employers when a foreign national seeks a nonimmigrant status, immigrant status or United States citizenship.

Any alien who falsely represents or has falsely represented himself or herself to be a citizen of the United States for any purpose or benefit under the immigration act or any other Federal or State law is inadmissible to the United States and is deportable from the United States.

There is an exception to the admissibility and deportability for a foreign national that makes a false representation holding out to be a citizen of the United States for any purpose under the immigration act or any Federal or State law. The exception is in the case of an alien making a representation to being a United States citizen if each natural parent of the alien or in the case of an adopted alien each adopted parent of the alien is or was a citizen, whether by birth or naturalization, the alien permanently resided in United States prior to attaining the age of 16, and the alien reasonably believed at the time of making such representation that he or she was a citizen. In this instance, the alien will not be considered to be inadmissible or deportable based on the false claim to United States citizenship.

These provisions of the immigration and nationality act apply to any false claims to United States citizenship made on or after September 30, 1996. The DHS has reminded all its officers that the law is broader than other laws since it does not just applied to citizenship claims made to obtain a benefit under the immigration law. Example, when someone claims to be United States citizen in order to vote and on form I-9.

Persons found inadmissible under these provisions of the immigration and nationality act up permanently inadmissible and there are NO waivers available.

Non-immigrants may, however, apply for a discretionary waiver. A nonimmigrant waiver is decided by DHS based on a legal standard outlined in cases determined by the Board of immigration Appeals (BIA). The BIA set out 3 factors to be considered when deciding nonimmigrant waiver applications. These factors are:

  1. the risk of harm in admitting the applicant to the United States;
  2. the seriousness of the acts that caused the inadmissibility; and
  3. the importance of the applicant's reasons for seeking entry to the United States.

Since a false claim to United States citizenship is considered a serious violation of the immigration law for which there is a lifetime bar to obtaining permanent residence unless you obtain a waiver as a nonimmigrant you will need a very strong case to receive the waiver.

Where a person has made a claim of United States citizenship prior to September 30, 1996 the claim must have been related to an immigration benefit such as for a visa, admission to the United States or a US passport and the false claim must have been made to a government official. After 1996 the claim no longer need be made to a government official nor is it limited to use relating to an immigration benefit.

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