Lies or false statements (other than honest mistakes) are taken very seriously by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the authority in charge of reviewing applications for naturalization or U.S. citizenship. Here's what you should know.
Many applicants come up against facts they wish USCIS didn't have to know about. These might include, for example, a criminal arrest, long 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.
To the applicant, some of these may seem like little things that they’d rather just keep out of their citizenship application.
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 must certify "under penalty of perjury" that all the information you enter 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. That means 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) a person's 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.
The 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.) Section 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 has been delivered a naturalization denial due to providing false testimony, then it would be important to contact an immigration lawyer as soon as possible. The lawyer can fully analyze your situation and develop and appropriate strategy, hopefully preserving your right to remain in the United States.