Being an American citizen comes with a variety of important and valuable benefits. Still, if you are not a citizen of the U.S., it is imperative to understand the consequences of claiming to be one. Simply put, making a false claim to U.S. citizenship may make you forever ineligible to become a legal permanent resident or to obtain a nonimmigrant visa.
Falsely claiming to be a U.S. citizen makes you inadmissible to the country. This means immigration officials will not allow you to enter legally. It also makes you deportable, meaning government lawyers may try to remove you from the country.
No general waiver
There are several grounds for both inadmissibility and deportability. With many of these grounds, though, a person can seek a waiver. With a waiver, government officials essentially agree to ignore your violations of U.S. immigration law.
According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, there is no general waiver for making a false claim to U.S. citizenship. Therefore, if you falsely claim you are a U.S. citizen, you may have few or no options for gaining legal status.
While most makers of false citizenship claims have no waiver, there is an exception. If all of the following apply to you, your false claim to U.S. citizenship may not be problematic:
- Both of your parents are U.S. citizens
- You have permanently lived in the U.S. since before your 16th birthday
- You reasonably believed you were a U.S. citizen when you made your false claim
When seeking legal permanent residency, asylees, refugees and some legalization applicants also may be able to pursue a waiver for any false citizenship claims they have made.
Ultimately, though, if you are thinking about seeking immigration benefits, it is advisable to consider whether you may have made a false claim to U.S. citizenship at some point in the past.