Ever wonder what goes into a marriage green card fraud determination by immigration authorities?
Although I have written fairly extensively on immigration fraud, my focus has been on teaching innocent immigrants how to avoid con artists.
But what about the not-so-innocent immigrants?
As reform advocates, we cannot turn a blind eye to immigrants who attempt to dupe the system.
Not only are such actions wrong per se. They also destroy any positive momentum we build with reform fence-sitters and lukewarm legislative allies.
Reformers should not be shocked or upset when immigration authorities attempt to weed out the bad actors.
Instead, we should ask, in the interests of fair representation, what factors does the government assess to pinpoint those trying to illegitimately sneak past green card gatekeepers?
The USCIS Green Card Fraud Checklist
Recently, Kit Johnson, a law professor at the University of Oklahoma, helped answer those questions.
Huang Xiang and Well-Founded Fear
Immigration Prof Blog, Thursday, September 10, 2015
One of my favorite exercises in Immigration Law is to . . . give my students a copy of the USCIS Fraud Referral Sheet, and I ask them to evaluate the merits of the three applications, taking into account the factors stated in the sheet.
We talk about the role of lawyers in preparing clients and cases for the USCIS.
Well, I’m one of those attorneys.
Most, if not all, of these factors are subject to varying interpretations in a wide range of situations.
During my career as a immigration lawyer in Riverside, I have battled to clarify the government’s depiction on many of these issues with the U.S. Citizenship And Immigration Services. Their inclusion in a fraud checklist does not surprise me.
In my view, just a quick glance at the factors listed should cause any immigrant rights advocate a degree of concern about how certain human behaviors, which seem natural impulses, could lead to a suspicion of immigration fraud.
For instance, take the following partial list of potential fraud indicators: being late to the interview, extreme nervousness, and eye contact.
In large cities like Riverside, being late to a USCIS green card marriage interview is not out of the ordinary. Traffic, weather, poor roads all contribute to driving futility. Yet, in many instances, this is one of the most common mistakes in a green card marriage case that can be avoided.
What is extreme versus non-extreme nervousness? And isn’t nervousness the norm?
The USCIS checklist also includes lack of interest as a potential fraud indicator.
Sounds like a double-edged sword.
What about it? Is too much or too little eye contact the tell-tale sign?
Like nervousness is there some perfect amount of eye contact or nervousness which a legitimate, but not a fraudulent, candidate for immigration benefits exhibits?
What about the effect of cultural upbringing?
Here is the full checklist:
Marriage Green Card Fraud Warning Signs
As a permanent resident attorney, the possible fraud factors for immigrants trying to obtain a green card via a family-based visa petition are as potentially arbitrary as the general fraud factors.
Consider these warning signs.
A Short Time Between Entry And Marriage
Does it matter if the couple knew each other before reuniting in the United States? Does it matter how the immigrant spouse entered the country? What if the couple met through an online dating service?
And what’s a short time?
In my view, all of these questions are open to many different permutations of human relationships.
Unusual Number Of Children And Large Discrepancy In Age.
What’s an unusual number of children?
What’s a large discrepancy in age?
Would these factors matter if the couple has known each other a long time?
But, then, what’s a long time?
Divorce And Marriage Dates Are Close.
Some folks want to rebound from disastrous relationships as quickly as possible.
Practical Advice For Pro Per Immigrants At USCIS Interviews
Many immigrants who represent themselves without an attorney often fall short due to simple mistakes which could be avoided with pre-planning.
The permanent resident video below shares six practical tips all attendees at interviews should follow to maximize their changes for success.
Distinguishing Truth From Deception
To be fair, I understand how these factors made their way onto a USCIS Fraud Checklist. They’re relevant factors – but only if they are looked at through a totality of the circumstances lens.
To the extent such factors are pertinent government considerations, the relatively newly trained USCIS fraud officers should not view unusual situations in a unduly rigid manner. Their duty is to distinguish between truth and deception, not to assume fraud based on an atypical set of facts.
This is not an easy task.
After all, the real world is not solely comprised of perfect love and human relationships.
The internet age, in which we live, creates an extra risk. Many times folks share pictures, videos, and other items of friends, cousins, and ex-flames. They appear to be evidence of fraud on social media. They do not remove them.
And then there is the adverse impact of real scammers – some of them crooked law enforcement and immigration officials – making life harder for countless legitimate petitioners and their immigrant spouses and family members.