Federal Fraud Offenses ‒ Citizenship Fraud

Obtaining citizenship is one of the most coveted objectives for many individuals entering the United States. Citizenship makes it possible to receive several benefits that are not available by simply having a visa or green card.

Unfortunately, the process of obtaining citizenship can be lengthy, confusing, and often exasperating. It can lead many to attempt to commit fraud in the hopes of gaining citizenship benefits sooner.

Citizenship fraud occurs when a person intentionally lies about their legal status. You can be accused of citizenship fraud if you use a false name or alien registration number or omit details about prior crimes or convictions.

Whether you make false claims or omissions verbally under oath or on paper is irrelevant: both are considered fraud.

If you need a federal citizenship fraud attorney to defend you in court, call the Zoukis Consulting Group. Schedule your consultation with us today.

Types of Citizenship Fraud

Marriage Fraud

There are several types of citizenship fraud, including marriage fraud, which entails entering a false marriage for the sole purpose of obtaining citizenship through your spouse. In this case, not only would you face penalties such as fines and deportation, but your spouse might also be penalized.

If you become a suspect of marriage fraud, you and your spouse could be subject to several intrusive procedures, including visitation by immigration officials. Government officials also might ask you to provide documentation or convincing proof that your marriage is legitimate, in addition to having to answer a long series of interview questions. 

You could be particularly at risk of interrogation if your marriage is less than two years old at the time of having your green card approved. 

It is estimated that up to one-fifth of marriage-based citizenship applications received are fraudulent. Penalties for marriage fraud include up to five years in prison and fines of up to $250,000.

Immigration Services Fraud and Identity Fraud

Other kinds of citizenship fraud are identity fraud and immigration services fraud. Acts that fall under these crimes include:

  • Using another individual’s identity 
  • Falsifying or forging documents
  • Altering or counterfeiting immigration documents
  • Committing perjury
  • Making false statements about immigration status to obtain employment or benefits

Criminal Penalties

Under 18 U.S.C.1425, the maximum sentences for citizenship fraud are as follows:

  • 25 years if fraud was committed as a means to enable an international act of terrorism
  • 20 years if fraud was committed to enable or facilitate drug trafficking
  • 10-15 years for first and second offenses

Additionally, you could be subject to probation, fines, and other sanctions, including deportation. Along with deportation, you also could be permanently banned from entering the country.

USCIS Updated Policy

As of 2020, Congress updated immigration policy to reflect an exception to the mandatory U.S. ban attached to false citizenship claims. It requires “each parent of the alien is or was a U.S. citizen, the alien permanently resided in the United States before the age of 16, and the alien reasonably believed he or she was a U.S. citizen when claiming to be one.”

An alien refers to any person who is neither a U.S. citizen nor a U.S. national.

Penalties for citizenship fraud can apply to more than one individual and be more severe if there is evidence of conspiracy. For example, if a U.S. citizen allows their identification number to be used by someone else or if someone arranges fraudulent marriages for other people. 

Defenses Against Citizenship Fraud

There are two main ways you can defend yourself from allegations of citizenship fraud:

  • Proving there is no fraud. If an error is made because of government oversight, it can prove there was no fraud committed.
  • Proving no intent to commit fraud. As stated earlier, the path to citizenship is very confusing. It is not uncommon to make mistakes during the process that can result in fraud allegations. If you did not lie intentionally, then you are not guilty of the crime.

If the government cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you intentionally lied and deliberately engaged in citizenship fraud, you cannot be convicted. 

Call a Citizenship Fraud Lawyer Today

If you find yourself accused of citizenship fraud, it is imperative to get legal help immediately. Federal citizenship fraud is a serious crime with potentially permanent repercussions, such as a ban from entering the country in the future or reapplying for a visa.

These consequences can negatively impact not only you but your loved ones. Aside from being separated from your family and friends, you might also be unable to seek employment or housing in the future.

Our team of experts at the Zoukis Consulting Group has years of experience helping individuals facing citizenship fraud charges. You should not have to navigate this challenging experience alone. With the proper tools and resources, you can face your criminal charges head-on.

Contact us today for an initial consultation.