When foreign-born persons seeking naturalized U.S. citizenship make lies or false statements (other than honest mistakes) on their application (Form N-400), it's taken very seriously by the U.S. government; specifically, by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the agency in charge of reviewing these applications. Of course, almost no one wants to lie. Yet some naturalization applicants feel pressed to do so, worried that if they don't keep the truth hidden, their U.S. citizenship won't be granted.
Here's what you should know about the risks of lying on your N-400. Doing so can seriously undermine your ability to show the good moral character that's a basic citizenship requirement.
There are many personal matters that applicants might wish USCIS didn't have to know about. For example, a criminal arrest, lengthy absences from the United States in the years leading up to the citizenship application, or a year in which they should have filed U.S. income taxes or paid child support, but didn't all have to do with the basic citizenship requirements.
Whatever the person did, however, might seem like no big deal to them. They might think, "I couldn't afford child support, how was I supposed to pay?" or "I meant to return to the U.S. sooner, I just got stuck because of a sick family member." Lying about what happened might seem like no big deal to the person applying.
It doesn't matter what the lie is about, however. Even a small lie, or an apparent lie, based on the applicant's inconsistent statements is viewed as enough to justify a denial of citizenship.
When you fill out the USCIS Form N-400 application for naturalized citizenship, you will notice that above your signature, you have to certify "under penalty of perjury" that all the information you've entered there is "complete, true, and correct."
That's a serious promise; perjury, or lying under oath, is considered a crime in and of itself. The sad irony is that sometimes the issue that a person lied about would not, by itself, have barred them from naturalization. One can make matters far worse by lying or concealing information.
If you knowingly and intentionally provide false information (orally) during the naturalization interview and testing process, or if USCIS discovers that you falsely testified in order to gain immigration benefits in the past, you can expect your citizenship application to be denied.
Or, if the lie is discovered later, USCIS can revoke (take away) citizenship. The naturalization interview is held "under oath," meaning that right from the start, you raise your right hand and swear to tell the truth.
U.S. immigration laws specifically say that, "No person shall be regarded as, or found to be, a person of good moral character who, during the period for which good moral character is required to be established [has] given false testimony for the purpose of obtaining any [immigration benefits]." (See the Immigration and Nationality Act (I.N.A.) § 101(f)(6).)
As you probably know, receiving U.S. citizenship via the process of naturalization requires proving good moral character.
Depending on what a person lied about and the implications for their immigration status, there could also be further consequences, including being placed in removal proceedings and ultimately deported from the United States.
For example, if a man was to lie during the naturalization interview and say that he was still married to the woman who helped get him a green card; and the fact that he was actually divorced was not only discovered, but led to a finding that the entire marriage had been a fraud; removal would be the likely consequence.
If you or a member of your family is worried about what you can safely tell USCIS during your naturalization interview, or you have received a naturalization denial from USCIS due to providing false testimony, it is important to contact an immigration lawyer as soon as possible. The lawyer can fully analyze your situation and develop an appropriate strategy, hopefully preserving your right to remain in the United States.