Checking U.S. Citizen on Form I-9 Can Ruin a Person’s Chance for a U.S. Green Card

If you have accepted a job in the U.S., you presumably completed Form I-9. It is used by U.S. employers to confirm eligibility of their employees, based on their immigration status. The I-9 form is easy to fill out and can be completed individually without the help of another person. However, hundreds if not thousands of foreigners seeking work in the U.S. still do not know how to fill out the form and they enter incorrect information. Applicants are encouraged to carefully read the instructions provided, review all questions, and ensure that their answers are accurate. The ramifications of checking the wrong box on the Form I-9 if you want to apply for a U.S. green card in the future can be distressing and may include being removed from the U.S.

Options on Form I-9

On one section of the Form I-9, the employee must check a box to demonstrate why he or she is eligible to work in the United States. The options are as follows:

  • U.S. citizen
  • Noncitizen national of the United States
  • U.S. lawful permanent resident and
  • An alien (foreign-born person) who is authorized to work in the U.S

If you apply for a job with a U.S. employer, you will need to select one of these four boxes.

Falsely Claiming U.S. Citizenship Can End a Chance at Getting a U.S. Green card

In their enthusiasm of getting a job, many undocumented foreigners quickly check the box for either ‘citizen’ or ‘national’ on Form I-9. Regrettably, they might not realize the eventual immigration repercussions. One day, some of these foreign nationals could become eligible for a U.S. green card, possibly because an employer is willing to sponsor them, or they have gotten married to a U.S. citizen or some other reason. But to be eligible for a U.S. green card, the foreigner must not be deemed inadmissible to the United States. Since many things can consider a person, inadmissible such as making false claims to U.S. citizenship, lying on a government form, or committing a serious crime.

Moreover, the Immigration and Nationality Act makes inadmissible any foreigner who falsely, represents or has represented that he or she is a U.S. citizen for any purpose or benefit under any state or federal law. The phrase any purpose or benefit is important because it makes this ground of inadmissibility very extensive meaning that it can cover several different situations. For example, if you lied that you are a U.S. citizen simply to obtain work, vote, or receive other public benefits, you will possibly be inadmissible and ineligible for a lawful permanent resident status.

There is No Waiver Available for a False Claim of U.S. Citizenship

In many circumstances, waivers that permit applicants who have been found inadmissible to obtain a U.S. green card are accessible. But when it comes to inadmissibility on the grounds of a false claim to U.S. citizenship, no waiver is available. However, there are exceptions.

Exceptions When a False Claim to U.S. Citizenship is Uncovered

There are circumstances where the ‘false claim’ ground of inadmissibility might not be applicable to an undocumented alien:

  • A false claim was made before U.S. immigration laws changed. The ground of inadmissibility was not in effect until September 30, 1996, and was not made retroactive (that is, it doesn’t go as far back into the past). Therefore, if a false claim of U.S. citizenship was made before the date in 1996, a person can still be admissible to the U.S. (granted that a person did not make a false claim directly to a U.S. government officer)
  • The foreign-born believed (for numerous valid reasons) that he or she was a U.S. citizen. The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 created an exception to inadmissibility. If that person was a minor when he or she made a false claim and he or she was living in the U.S. permanently (with a U.S. green card) before he or she turned 16 years old and both parents of that person were a citizen (either by birth or naturalization), and there were proper reasons to think that he or she was a citizen, then that individual might be fine.
  • An error was rectified. If the person who made the false statement retracted his claim in a timely manner, in other words went back and spoke with the officer he or she first interviewed with and took back his claim then that individual will not be found inadmissible. What would qualify as a ‘timely retraction’ depends completely on the facts of the case, but it must be done at the first instance he or she must correct his mistake.

Checking “Yes” on a Box on Form I-9 is Deemed a False Claim to U.S. Citizenship

As stated above, lying about being a U.S. citizen simply to obtain employment is one of the ways in which an individual can become inadmissible. But is simply checking a box on a form sufficient to incriminate someone?

The answer is yes, according to the courts. For example, in 2012 there was a case known as Crocock v. Holder, the immigration judge (IJ) denied Mr. Crocock’s green card application (which was based on marriage to a U.S. citizen) because he claimed false U.S. citizenship by checking the “citizen or national” box on Form I-9 and was considered inadmissible.

Mr. Crocock then appealed his case to a Federal Court in the Second Circuit declaring that when he checked the “citizen or national” box, that he was claiming to be a non-citizen national, and not a U.S. citizen. Eventually, the court ruled that the IJ’s decision denying the U.S. green card application was suitable: that is, the applicant has the responsibility to provide sufficient evidence to show that he or she is inadmissible, and Mr. Crocock did not do that.

In 2015, a Federal Court in the Eight Circuit came to a similar decision in 2015, in a case called Etenyi v. Lynch. In this case, the applicant stated that when he was given the Form I-9, the box saying he was a citizen had already been completed including other information and he then signed the Form I-9. The court then maintained that by signing the form he became liable to its contents (especially given that he had a college education).

Hire an Experienced Immigration Attorney

The moral behind making a false claim is this: Alien workers should always be mindful when filling out any official documents or U.S. government forms or immigration paperwork. They must also consider hiring an expert in U.S. immigration laws or a seasoned immigration attorney. One simple mistake on Form I-9 or any other government form might be considered a false claim to U.S. citizenship or any other benefit that can hinder anyone from getting an LPR status. Call Gambacorta Law Office today at 847-433-9303 to help you avoid making an erroneous decision.