Dear Atty. Gurfinkel:
I got my green card through my mother, who petitioned me as an adult, unmarried child. At the Embassy interview, I lied, by declaring that I was single, when in fact I was married at that time. I have been a green card holder for more than 10 years now, and I want to apply for naturalization and petition my family. (I already married my spouse a second time, to hide my first marriage.) I am worried that the USCIS or Embassy will find out about my misrepresentation when they process my naturalization application and/or family petition. What should I do?
Very truly yours,
Some people immigrated to the U.S. as “married singles”, by misrepresenting their marital status as “single,” even though they were already married at the time of their visa processing. (The law requires that they be “single” not only at the time they were petitioned, but also when they are granted their green cards, they must enter the U.S. as single). Some got away with it, and got their green cards. But many were caught lying, and were not only denied their immigration benefit, but had their records marked for life.
Just because the Embassy or USCIS did not catch your misrepresentation during your own immigrant visa processing years ago does not mean your green card is “legal” or was legitimately obtained. It is highly possible that if you apply for citizenship or petition your family, the USCIS or Embassy will investigate your case anew and discover your true marital status at the time you immigrated. Once they discover the truth, the USCIS will not only deny your application for naturalization, they could also put you in deportation/removal proceedings, and void your green card, because it was obtained through fraud or misrepresentation.
Any time a person immigrates to the U.S. in a family-based category requiring that he be single (i.e. F-1 or F-2B), and the person later seeks additional immigration benefits (such as naturalization or petitioning their family), his entire file is opened. The Embassy and/or USCIS would then review your old file, to see how you got your green card, and “double-check” your old records, to make sure you didn’t slip through the first time.
When a person obtained a green card through fraud or misrepresentation, he does not become a “lawful resident” of the U.S., and is not considered in “legal” status and /or entitled to his own immigration status. In fact, the Board of Immigration Appeals (which hears appeals of deportation orders) has specifically held that “an alien who acquired permanent resident status [green card] through fraud or misrepresentation has never been ‘lawfully admitted for permanent residence’…”.
Therefore, you will put yourself at risk if you apply for citizenship and /or petition your family, based on your fraudulently obtained green card.
I know that many people were able to obtain their green cards through fraud, and were even able to acquire citizenship (by continuing to claim that they were “single”.) However, this does not erase the fact that they were never legally entitled to their own green card. The USCIS and the Embassy are now a lot wiser to these schemes. In fact, the Embassy has noted that people trying to immigrate to the U.S. as “married singles” is one of the largest fraud problems in the Philippines! The Embassy’s denial form directly addresses this type of situation, stating that “Your petitioner entered the US illegally and may not petition for you.” In other words, even if you were able to naturalize and then try to petition your family, the Embassy will not issue visas to your family if you originally entered the U.S. illegally (because you were a “married/single”).
If you committed fraud or misrepresentation in obtaining your green card, I suggest that you consult with a reputable attorney for advice and guidance on your situation, to explore legitimate ways to correct your misdeed and possibly allow you to bring your family to the U.S. “legally”.
Michael J. Gurfinkel has been an attorney for over 24 years, and is an active member of the State Bar of California and New York, as well as the American Immigration Lawyers Association and the Immigration Section of the Los Angeles County Bar Association. He has always excelled in school: Valedictorian in High School; Cum Laude at UCLA; and Law Degree Honors and academic scholar at Loyola Law School, which is one of the top law schools in California.
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