Falsely Claiming Citizenship Makes You Inadmissible!

Current immigration laws state that any individual who has falsely claimed citizenship to the U.S. is inadmissible to the U.S.  Such claim could have been made under any circumstance – whether it be to vote in an election, to try to gain employment, or using someone else’s identity to attempt to enter into the U.S.  Any false claim, made for any purpose, makes that non-citizen permanently inadmissible to the U.S.  Unlike some other grounds of inadmissibility, there is no waiver for a false claim to U.S. citizenship.  Once a false claim to citizenship is made, that person will not ever be able to obtain lawful immigration status in the U.S.

Fortunately, there are some very limited exceptions to this harsh rule.  The first exception is for those who falsely claimed citizenship prior to September 1, 1996.  The law making individuals who falsely claim citizenship did not become effective until that date.  Thus, those who claimed citizenship before that date does not trigger the permanent bar to admission to the U.S.  The other exception is for those individuals with two U.S. citizen parents, who resided in the U.S. until the age of sixteen, and who reasonably believed that he or she was actually a U.S. citizen.  Aside from these two exceptions, those who have previously falsely claimed to be a U.S. citizen can only obtain non-immigrant type visas, such as a work or visitor visa, and only if they are granted a non-immigrant visa waiver.

There is some indication that the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) is loosening its strict interpretation of this absolute rule.  There were two letters in 2013 from DHS and the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) that indicate they believe that this rule should not apply to those that were under the age of 18, and made the false claim “knowingly.”  So, perhaps if a minor did not understand what it means to be a U.S. citizen, such claim can be excused and he or she will not be subject to the permanent bar.  This letter is but a policy and does not mean that it has become law.  However, it is possible that DHS will move to broaden the interpretation of this harsh rule.

The lesson is clear: do not falsely claim to be a U.S. citizen under any circumstance.  Such claim could be a death sentence for your immigration process to the U.S.