In immigration law a distinction is made between inadmissibility and removability. There are some actions that can render an individual inadmissible (i.e., not eligible to enter the United States), some actions that can render an individual removable (i.e., eligible to be removed from the United States after being admitted to the country), and some actions that fulfill both the inadmissibility and removability categories.

A long line of case law has established that an alien who falsely represents himself as a citizen on a Form I-9 to secure employment with a private employer has falsely represented himself for a purpose or benefit under the Act. Such an action makes the alien inadmissible. Does it also make the alien removable? Yes, said the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) in Matter of Bett, decided October 30, 2014 (26 I&N Dec. 437).

To be eligible for adjustment of status, an applicant has the burden to show that he is clearly and beyond doubt entitled to be admitted to the United States and is not inadmissible under section 212(a) of the INA. False representations of United States citizenship made “for any purpose or benefit under this Act” render one inadmissible under Section 212(a).

While he was in removal proceedings Mr. Bett applied for adjustment of status and his application was denied on the grounds that he was not eligible to adjust his status because he falsely represented himself to be a United States citizen. Specifically, Mr. Bett signed two different I-9 forms with different employers in October 2009, and on both forms the box was checked indicating that he was a United States citizen when he was not. Mr. Bett acknowledged that the signature on both forms resembled his own, but testified that he was “not sure” if he had completed them, and stated that he did not remember filling out the forms or checking the citizenship box on the forms.

The BIA found that I-9 forms were admissible evidence in Mr. Bett’s removal proceedings. Moreover, as Mr. Bett had the burden of proof to show that he did not make a false claim to citizenship, it was insufficient as a defense against a charge of removability for him to merely assert that he did not remember filling out the forms or checking the citizenship box on the forms.

This case is yet another example of the importance of proper completion of the Form I-9.