Citizens of the U.S. enjoy some rights that are not available to legal permanent residents, non-immigrant visa holders and undocumented immigrants. Consequently, if you want to vote, sponsor a relative for immigration benefits or take advantage of other citizenship rights, it may make sense to apply for naturalization.
Until you become a citizen of the U.S., you must not claim to be a U.S. citizen. After all, making a false claim of U.S. citizenship has harsh immigration consequences. Depending on how you make your false claim, you even may face criminal prosecution.
Securing a benefit under the law
For a false claim of U.S. citizenship to have immigration consequences, you must make your claim to obtain an immigration benefit or another benefit under federal or state law. Falsely claiming to be a U.S. citizen for any of the following reasons is likely to be problematic:
- Applying for public benefits
- Obtaining a job
- Seeking other benefits that require U.S. citizenship
Losing your status
Even if you have valid immigration papers, such as a green card or nonimmigrant visa, you can lose your legal status by falsely claiming to be a citizen of the U.S. That is, making a false claim is grounds for removal from the country.
Missing future opportunities
Not only does a false claim of U.S. citizenship render you deportable, but it also makes you inadmissible. This means you cannot gain lawful entry to the U.S. You also cannot change or extend your immigration status from inside the country. As the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services notes, no waiver is available for false claims of U.S. citizenship.
Ultimately, to keep your immigration options open, it is advisable only to say you are a U.S. citizen after you become one and not a second earlier.