Harsh Immigration Consequences when a Non-Citizen Registers to Vote!

March 18, 2012

I Voted.jpgIts happens more often than you think. Sometimes, it happens to a Legal Permanent Resident who has had a green card for at least 3 years if married to a U.S. citizen, or otherwise 5 years, always pays his taxes, has a family, has good moral character and otherwise meets all of the qualifications for citizenship. He applies for his Citizenship by filing an N-400 application, attends his naturalization interview, and is completely blindsided when his application is denied because his name appears on the voter registration rolls of the state. The fact that he is registered to vote may come as a complete surprise to the applicant. He has never voted in an election, nor did he intend to vote in any election. But the consequences of registering to vote, whether done knowingly or not, can be harsh. The USCIS views it as a false claim to U.S. Citizenship, which is a grounds striping one of his legal permanent residence status and removing him from the country.

More often than not, the misguided voters registration happens when non-citizens with a green card go to the Illinois Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to apply for or renew a driver's license. Federal Motor-Voter Laws require DMV employees to offer voter registration to all drivers license and State ID customers, without any screening and without even asking if the customer is a U.S. citizen. Even when the DMV customer has presented a green card, or foreign passport as an I.D., he will be offered an application to register to vote. Sometimes, the non-citizen signs the form by mistake, not realizing that what he signed was a voter's registration form. Sometimes, language is an issue and the applicant doesn't understand what he is signing, or maybe he doesn't even read what he is signing. Very often the non-citizen may mistakenly believe that he is entitled to register because he is being handed a registration form by a government official. He couldn't be more wrong.

However the non-citizen happened to be registered, it doesn't have to be fatal to his citizenship, especially if he never voted in an election. First, the non-citizen should contact the Board of Elections immediately and find out where he was registered. One should obtain a copy of the voters registration form with his signature to make sure it is his. Then, the non-citizen need to immediately get his name removed from the voters registration rolls. Generally, USCIS will require and affidavit stating the circumstances under which the non-citizen was registered.

Regardless if you have applied for an immigration benefit such as Naturalization or if you intend to apply for one in the future, and you have registered to vote or you think you might have registered to vote, you should consulate an experienced immigration attorney to help guide your through the proper steps to correct the error. Kalita Law Group P.C. has handled many such mistaken voters registration cases with excellent results for the Naturalization applicant.