False claim of American Citizenship

Making a false claim of American citizenship is both a ground of inadmissibility and deportability under §212(a)(6)(C)(ii) and § 237(a)(3)(D) of Immigration and Nationality Act (“INA”). Unlike fraud and misrepresentation under INA §212(a)(6)(C)(i), false claims to U.S. citizenship don’t need to be made before a U.S. government official, and are not limited to claims made for immigration benefits.

A false claim to U.S. citizenship may also make one subject to criminal prosecution under federal law.

A criminal conviction can then in turn be in immigration proceedings to prove the elements of a false claim to U.S. citizenship removability ground. Moreover, it may constitute a crime involving moral turpitude. See Matter of Pinzon, 26 I&N Dec. 189 (BIA 2013).

The language of the Statute provides an exception for individuals who reasonably believed that they were U.S. citizen. This is only if each parent (natural or adoptive) “is or was a citizen (whether by birth or naturalization)” and the individual “permanently resided in the United States prior to attaining the age of 16.

To be more specific, pretending to be a U.S. citizen is a huge risk and many people do not realize it. Being charged for making a false claim to U.S. citizenship could result in deportation and make the person permanently inadmissible and cannot return to the United States.

The most common false claims to the U.S. citizenship occur under under the following circumstances:

  • registering to vote in a local, state or federal election when prohibited from doing so;
  • checking “U.S. citizen” on an I-9 Employment Elegibility Verification Form;
  • claiming to be a U.S. citizen on a student loan application;
  • attempting to obtain a U.S. passport, and
  • stating that you are U.S. citizen to obtain any other benefit for which U.S. citizenship is required.

Also, USCIS officers have uncovered false claim to citizenship in other circumstances, such as people stating that they were U.S. citizens on federally backed mortgage applications for the purpose of buying a home.


The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 changed the rules on who may acquire or derive U.S. citizenship from their parents. While many people benefited from this legislation, some erroneously assumed that they are U.S. citizens. To deal with this problem, Congress included an exception in the Act preventing deportation of children who make false claims to citizenship under the following circumstances:

  • the child’s parents were U.S. citizens by birth or naturalization;
  • the child made the false claim when he or she was under age 18;
  • the child was a U.S. permanent resident prior to age 16, and
  • the child reasonably believed, when making the false claim to citizenship, that he or she actually was a U.S. citizen.

Another exception to deportation for false claims exists if the claim was made before September 30, 1996, which is the effective date of the false claims ground of inadmissibility.

People who overstayed their visa or never had any legal status in the U.S. have made false statements at border crossings or in interviews with immigration authorities about their citizenship status in order to stay in the United States. In this case, if the noncitizen instantly and voluntarily retracts the false claim before the lie is exposed or is about to be exposed (also known as “timely retraction,”), the person may be spared from removal proceedings based on the false claim to U.S. citizenship. They may however be deported (or inadmissible) for other reasons – such as unlawful presence in the United States.