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Distinctions between a willful misrepresentation and a false claim to citizenship

By December 20, 2022Immigration
A bunch of people holding question marks while in the office

In an immigration law context, although the concepts of willful misrepresentation and false claim to citizenship share similarities, they also have significant differences. We have discussed willful misrepresentations here. We have discussed false claims to citizenship here.


Both acts involve making a false representation.

Both acts involve making the false representation to obtain a benefit under U.S. immigration laws.

The false representation must be material. A false representation is material when it concerns a fact that is relevant to the person’s eligibility for an immigration benefit. In the context of a false claim to citizenship, the claim is material where the false claim to citizenship was made for the purpose of obtaining a benefit under immigration law or under any federal or state law.


Willful Misrepresentation

Can be any false representation but must be made to seek a benefit under U.S. immigration law.

The false representation must have been made willfully

The false representation must have been made to a U.S. governmental official such as an immigration or consular officer.

False Claim to Citizenship

The false representation was a representation of U.S. citizenship.

The false representation was made for any purpose or benefit under immigration law or any other federal or state law.

As a result, the claim does not need to be made to an immigration official. The claim can be made to any other federal, state or local official or even a private person if the private person has authority to grant or facilitate a benefit under an immigration, federal or state law.

The false representation does not need to be made willfully.


This is a major distinction between the two types of misrepresentation. When dealing with a misrepresentation, an officer will look to whether the noncitizen knowingly made the false representation as opposed to accidently, inadvertently or in a good faith belief that the factual claim is true.

However, when dealing with a false claim to citizenship, court precedent has made it clear that the relevant statute does not require that the noncitizen made the claim willfully or knowingly. In order for an officer to determine that a noncitizen made a false claim to citizenship, the officer only needs to determine that the claim was made for the purpose of obtaining a benefit under immigration law or under any other federal or state law.

Unless the noncitizen is subject to an exception as discussed in our false claim article here, the noncitizen will be subject to permanent inadmissibility which means that he is subject to being permanently disqualified from seeking an immigration benefit.

Determining whether a noncitizen committed a false representation or which type of false representation is not always to clear. This where an experience immigration attorney will be helpful in helping you determine if in fact you committed a false representation and if there are any options.

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