Before You Go to Your San Francisco/San Jose Immigration Interview . . .

Before you head off to your San Francisco or San Jose USCIS immigration interview take a quick look at the document below. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service recently provided a real gem. Their immigration Fraud Referral Sheet was submitted into evidence during a removal hearing. This sheet is a checklist of possible fraud triggers, applicable to various types of immigration benefits. It appears that if a USCIS adjudicator suspects fraud in an immigration application, they would check the appropriate boxes and forward the sheet to the Fraud Detection and National Security Unit for follow up.

As an immigration lawyer, I was delighted to find this sheet posted on the American Immigration Lawyers Association infonet. We know the obvious issues that could indicate potential fraud (i.e. large age difference in a marriage case, a low-income earning, high-school educated male petitioner marrying a college-educated professional woman). However it's always a bonus to obtain a copy of the document that the USCIS actually uses.

Some of the possible fraud triggers listed are rather surprising, in that I do not know why they would indicate possible fraud. For instance, the first section applies to in-person interviews. Interviews at the local USCIS office are required for marriage-based green card cases, asylum cases, and for some employment-based green card cases. "Late for interview" is one of the listed factors. An applicant should certainly plan for contingencies and make every effort to be at a USCIS interview on time, but I have stood in very slow lines to enter the USCIS office in San Francisco as only a few people are allowed to enter the building at a time and everyone is required to put everything through security. If an applicant was late for an interview at the San Francisco USCIS, a more realistic assumption is that they did not know where to park or did not plan on waiting in line to enter the building.

"Eye contact" is another factor. I assume this means lack of eye contact when answering questions during the interview. It should be commonly understood among USCIS adjudicators that people from some cultures will not make eye contact when asked questions by someone with greater authority, when asked questions by a government official, or for some women - when asked questions by men. Lack of eye contact should not necessarily trigger a fraud alert, especially for people from cultures where making eye contact is seen as aggressive or as disrespectful. Of course, many people who are just nervous fail to make eye contact, and being questioned by a USCIS official is likely to make many honest people somewhat nervous.

"Answers prompted by attorney or other" is another factor for which I disagree. As an immigration attorney, I have attended many interviews where I have "prompted" my client. This was not an attempt to answer for them or to suggest the answer to them. It usually arose when my client did not understand the adjudicator or their question. I would rephrase the question for my client, or actually remind my client about something they had already told me. I've also watched clients sit frozen, and not pull out the stacks of documents they've brought to the interview that would provide important evidence to their case. In those instances, I've spoken up and suggested that the client pull out particular documents to show the adjudicator. I consider this being an advocate, and don't see it as a fraud trigger.

Several of the fraud triggers on the sheet below certainly do make sense, such as "lack of knowledge of basic questions", and "children born during marriage to other parent". Hopefully this is simply used as a guideline for USCIS officers, and that it does not replace their experienced judgment in evaluating cases.

USCIS Fraud Sheet (1!27!10)

by Michelle Gee