In an earlier post, we previously discussed some permanent bars to citizenship, the most prominent of which were murder (which should be no surprise) and aggravated felonies, arguably the most virulent type of crime for immigration. But these are not the only kind of issues that can imperil a naturalization application or worse, jeopardize an individual’s status. There are other factors outside of the permanent bars to good moral character that, if present, warrant thorough consultation with an immigration attorney. Three worth mentioning are false claims to US citizenship; unlawful voting; and acquisition of permanent residence through fraud, mistake, or error.
False Claim to US Citizenship and Unlawful Voting
Though technically not deemed a permanent bar to naturalization, unlawful voting or making a false claim to US citizenship can constitute a basis for denial. In fact, unlawful voting and false claims are federal criminal offenses with potential jail sentences. According to the USCIS policy manual, a conviction for a false claim will be considered a Crime Involving Moral Turpitude and hence, in most cases, trigger a denial if committed during the statutory period. Individuals who may have voted illegally or represented themselves to be US citizens need to take this seriously because the ramifications extend beyond criminal liability or a denial of citizenship. These acts are also considered deportable offenses under Immigration and Nationality Act section 237. See INA 237(a)(3)(D) and 237(a)(6)(A). Especially in this climate of ramped-up enforcement, applicants may be unwittingly exposing themselves to potential removable proceedings by pursuing an application for naturalization.
Acquisition of Green Card Through Fraud, Misrepresentation, or Error
It is not uncommon for individuals to have obtained their green cards through fraud, misrepresentation, or sometimes by mistake or government error, i.e., the officer did not apply a section of the law properly or missed some issue. Whether innocent or not, the defect may be so fundamental that the person should not have been granted permanent residence. Although it is normal practice for an officer to review a person’s A file to ensure that the green card was obtained legitimately before recommending approval for citizenship, the government is doing this now at an unprecedented level. As an example, if a person adjusted status under section 245i of the LIFE Act, an officer will now closely examine the file to confirm that the underlying family or employment petition was filed on or before April 30, 2001. After that, an officer may even go so far as to search whether the penalty fee of $1000 and the associated Supplement A of Form I-485 were in fact paid and filed. If there is no proof in the file, the officer may issue a Request for More Evidence to the applicant to furnish documentation. If the applicant is not able to respond with sufficient evidence, the naturalization application may be denied. Furthermore, if it is clear that the individual should not have been granted a green card because the initial eligibility requirements were not satisfied, the file may be referred to the enforcement branch of immigration for further action. In the Third Circuit, individuals in these circumstances may enjoy greater protection against removal or revocation than other jurisdictions, but the law on this is fact and case sensitive. In any case, even if the government cannot pursue removal against the individual, the naturalization application will almost certainly be denied on the premise that the person was never “lawfully admitted” in the first place, and unless and until USCIS changes their policy on this, the individual may never be able to successfully pursue citizenship.
Becoming a naturalized citizen is one, if not the most important, milestone in an immigrant’s journey. However, US citizenship may not be viable for everyone. To make sure that you qualify for naturalization, please contact our office. The above is general information only and not to be relied upon as legal advice. It does not create an attorney client relationship, nor should it be relied upon as advice in lieu of consultation with an attorney.