Attorney Mooradian recently won a green card for the spouse of a U.S. Citizen despite questions around her unauthorized employment in the United States. Clients often wonder how working without authorization, whether with a fake social security number, fake identity document, or simply under the table, might affect their immigration case.
Sometimes, clients have been told by friends or family to lie, or that the immigration agency will not care. Such a course of action is never recommended by an ethical or competent attorney. In fact, lying on an immigration application can result in a host of penalties, including denial of the application, significant fines, removal from the United States, or even jail time.
In many cases, the statute allows spouses of U.S. Citizens to still adjust their status to that of permanent resident regardless of whether or not they worked without authorization. However, a clear understanding of the statute is necessary to advocate with USCIS and to avoid pitfalls.
While the unauthorized work itself may be “excused,” there are numerous related issues that can be raised. Did the beneficiary pay taxes while working? Did the beneficiary use fake documents? Did the beneficiary make a false claim to being a United States Citizen? Some of these issues can be rectified with the assistance of an attorney and a genuine willingness to be honest. Others can be fatal to the application itself.
Fortunately, in this case, honesty carried the day. Attorney Mooradian was able to present a clear narrative to the officer along with the client, was able to point to how the violations of nonimmigrant status would not bar the client from obtaining a green card, and the client is now a permanent resident and living with her spouse. While many officers can understand why someone would be forced to work without authorization, it is a violation of the law that is never recommended under any circumstances. However, if a client has already committed this error, a swift response is necessary to preserve his or her rights.