Under section 212(a)(6)(C)(ii) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (“INA”), and 8 U.S.C. § 1182(a)(6)(C)(ii), “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 this chapter (including section 1324a of this title) or any other Federal or State law is inadmissible.” In other words, if one falsely claims to be a U.S. citizen, generally at entry to the U.S., on a passport application, or when applying for employment, it will render him or her inadmissible as a permanent resident. There are limited exceptions to the false claims to citizenship bar, and a waiver may be possible if the claim was made prior to September 30, 1996. Otherwise, the penalty is pretty severe. A new Third Circuit case regarding false claims to citizenship further distinguishes when this section of inadmissibility may apply to an applicant for adjustment of status.
In Castro v. Atty. Gen., Feb. 14, 2012, the applicant allegedly told the police upon his arrest that he was born in Puerto Rico rather than Costa Rica. His birth in Puerto Rico would make him a U.S. citizen. He later applied for adjustment of status (to permanent resident) through his U.S. citizen wife. The Circuit Court did not believe this to be a benefit under federal law within the meaning of the statute to be “conferred or withheld by DHS [the Department of Homeland Security].” Rather, it would be a benefit conferred by the local police department. Additionally, in reasoned that the “purpose or benefit” imputed by the BIA to Castro was to minimize the risk that the police would report his arrest to DHS. Minimizing that risk is not, in and of itself, a legal benefit. And, in fact, there was no risk. Palomino’s testimony made clear that the Paterson police routine had no interest in Castro’s citizenship status.”
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