Articles Posted in Fraud Prevention

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USCIS will be publishing a final rule on August 14, 2019, in the Federal Register, that expands the list of public benefits that make a foreign national ineligible to obtain permanent residence and/or an immigrant or nonimmigrant visa.

The Immigration and Nationality Act makes inadmissible and therefore (1) ineligible for a visa, (2) ineligible for admission and (3) ineligible for adjustment of status, any alien who, in the opinion of the DHS is likely at any time to become a public charge.

The process of determining whether an alien is likely to become a public charge is called a “public charge determination.”

Receipt of certain public benefits leads to a “public charge determination” meaning that the applicant is ineligible to receive the benefit they are requesting (such as permanent residence) based on the fact that they are likely to become a public charge to the United States government.

What is a public charge?

A person is a “public charge” if they are primarily dependent on the Government for subsistence, as demonstrated by either the receipt of public cash assistance for income maintenance or institutionalization for long-term care at Government expense.

The final rule expands the scope of this definition by making a public charge any alien who receives one or more designated public benefits for more than 12 months in the aggregate within any 36-month period.

Under the final rule announced today, immigration will now be taking into consideration the following benefits to determine whether an individual is or is likely to become a public charge to the U.S. government:

Reliance on or receipt of non-cash benefits such as:

  • Cash benefits for income maintenance
  • SNAP (food stamps)
  • Section 8 Housing Assistance under the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) Program
  • Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance, and
  • certain other forms of subsidized housing.

In addition, the government will continue to take into consideration the following types of benefits:

  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Medicaid

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The White House recently issued a Presidential Memorandum to strengthen asylum procedures and safeguard the asylum system against fraud.

The Presidential Proclamation specifically orders the Attorney General and Secretary of Homeland Security to take several measures to enhance the security of the asylum system by July 28, 2019.

These measures require the Attorney General and Secretary of Homeland Security to enact proposals and/or regulations that would:

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On April 22, 2019, the White House issued a memorandum seeking to curb the high rates of nonimmigrant overstays for nationals from certain countries.

Specifically, the memorandum identifies aliens who overstay their period of lawful admission under the terms of their visa or Visa Waiver Program.

The memorandum instructs the Secretary of State to identify conditions that contribute to the high rates of overstay of nationals from countries in which the total overstay rate is greater than 10 percent in the combined B-1/B-2 nonimmigrant visa category, based on the DHS 2018 Entry/Exit Overstay Report.

Within 180 days, the President has instructed the Secretary of State, Attorney General, and Secretary of Homeland Security to come up with a plan to curb B-1/B-2 visa overstay rates with respect to identified countries of interest. Such a plan may include the suspension or limited entry of individuals of those countries holding B-1 or B-2 visas, targeted suspension of visa issuance for certain nationals, limits to duration of admission, etc.

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Several months ago, we reported that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) amended its policy regarding the issuance of Notice to Appear (NTA) documents in removal proceedings.

During the month of June, USCIS released a policy memorandum indicating the agency’s intent to revise NTA policy to better align with the President’s Executive Order 13768 “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States.” NTAs are documents that are issued to alien’s subject to removal from the United States. Issuance of an NTA initiates the process of removing an individual from the United States.

Specifically, the Executive Order 13768 called on DHS to “prioritize the removal of aliens described in INA §§ 212(a)(2), (a)(3), (a)(6)(C), 235, and 237(a)(2) and (a)(4) … who are removable based on criminal or security grounds, fraud or misrepresentation, and aliens subject to expedited removal.”

In addition, the Executive Order called for the removal of individuals who:

  • (a) Have been convicted of any criminal offense;
  • (b) Have been charged with any criminal offense that has not been resolved;
  • (c) Have committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense;
  • (d) Have engaged in fraud or willful misrepresentation in connection with any official matter or application before a governmental agency;
  • (e) Have abused any program related to receipt of public benefits;
  • (f) Are subject to a final order of removal, but have not departed; or
  • (g) In the judgment of an immigration officer, otherwise pose a risk to public safety or national security

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In this post, we will discuss our top ten tips to help you survive the marriage fraud interview also known as the “STOKES” interview. An applicant filing for adjustment of status to permanent residence may be scheduled for a second interview, known as the “STOKES” interview if the immigration officer is not convinced at the initial I-485 interview that the applicant has a bona fide marriage.

  1. Be Honest

Our first tip to avoid being scheduled for a second interview also known as the STOKES interview is simple. Be honest with yourself, with your partner (the U.S. Citizen or LPR spouse), and your attorney if you have one. Before walking into your initial I-485 interview you should be careful not to misrepresent the facts in your relationship and ensure that you and your partner are both being honest and truthful regarding all aspects of your marriage. If you or your spouse misrepresent any facts about your relationship, the immigration officer will presume that you do not have a bona fide/genuine marriage, and it will be very difficult to overcome this presumption at the second interview.

  1. Preparation

The second tip to avoid the STOKES interview is to be well prepared. You and your spouse should prepare all of your documentation proving bona fide marriage well in advance of your I-485 interview, so that you have enough time to review your documentation with your spouse and your attorney in preparation of your interview. This well make you feel more confident and prepared when it comes time to your I-485 interview.

  1. Never Lie, Misrepresent, or Provide False Information

If you do not know the answer to a question asked by an immigration officer, DO NOT under any circumstances LIE, MISREPRESENT, or provide FALSE information. If you do not know the answer, simply tell the officer that you do not know. Always be honest. If you are not honest with an immigration officer this will indicate not only that you are a person of bad moral character, but that you are committing fraud in order to obtain an immigration benefit. Do not under any circumstances, invent facts that are not true. Remember that immigration has various tools to uncover fraud including the ability to visit you and your spouse at your home unexpectedly if they believe that you are lying or are not being honest about your marriage.

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Beginning next year, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will launch a task force located in Los Angeles, designed to identify, detect, and prosecute individuals who have fraudulently gained United States Citizenship, for example by entering into a ‘sham’ marriage to obtain permanent residence, or engaging in other fraudulent activity, such as using a false identity to apply for permanent residence and/or naturalization.

USCIS has already begun to process of hiring lawyers and immigration officers who will review cases of individuals who have been deported, who the agency believes may potentially use a false identity to obtain permanent residence and/or citizenship. Such cases will be referred to the Department of Justice, who will then initiate the removal of individuals who have committed immigration fraud.

Of the denaturalization task force, USCIS Director L. Francis Cissna told reporters, “We finally have a process in place to get to the bottom of all these bad cases and start denaturalizing people who should not have been naturalized in the first place. What we’re looking at, when you boil it all down, is potentially a few thousand cases.”

The denaturalization task force will be funded by immigration application filing fees. The denaturalization task force will be primarily focused on targeting individuals who have used false identities to obtain immigration benefits.

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If you have applied for the I-130/485 based on marriage to your US Citizen spouse, chances are you are anxiously awaiting an interview. In this post we will cover the documentation you need to provide at the I-485 interview to prove the bona fides of your relationship. The most common question clients ask is, what a bona fide marriage is and how do I prove that I have a bona fide marriage.

A bona fide marriage is one that was entered in good faith and not with an intention to deceive. A green card applicant does not have a bona fide marriage if he or she entered the marriage solely to receive an immigration benefit from USCIS. Immigration officers are trained to identify fraudulent or “sham” marriages where either party or both parties have entered the marriage simply for the green card applicant to obtain his or her permanent residence in the United States, without any sincere intention to live together in the same household or form a marital bond.  Immigration officers search for inconsistencies in any answers provided by either party to the marriage, and carefully scrutinize supporting documentation provided by the couple with the initial I-485 filing.

There are various forms of documentation that are strong evidence proving the bona fides of a relationship. Generally speaking, evidence of cohabitation, joint ownership of assets and joint responsibility for liabilities, and birth certificates of children born to the marriage are strong evidence proving that a marriage is genuine.

Cohabitation: One of the most important aspects of proving bona fide marriage is to show cohabitation—that you are living with your spouse. You can show evidence of cohabitation by providing a copy of your lease agreement showing both of your names on the lease if you are renting an apartment. If your spouse maintains ownership of a private residence, your spouse can provide a copy of the deed including both of your names, or if the green card applicant’s name is not yet on the deed, the petitioner can provide a statement as evidence of cohabitation. Other documents that can be shown to prove cohabitation include joint utility bills such for gas and electricity, water, internet bills, phone bills, etc. that contain both of your names. In addition, any mail sent to your residential address containing both of your names may be used as evidence of cohabitation. The strongest evidence showing cohabitation however is a copy of the lease agreement or deed containing both names.

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In this post, we discuss the top five reasons applicants are denied at their citizenship interview.

First let’s go over some basics:

In order to become a United States Citizen, you must meet the following general requirements at the time of filing your N-400 Application for Naturalization:

 

You must be:

  • A lawful permanent resident
  • At least 18 years of age
  • Maintained continuous residence in the United States since becoming a permanent resident
  • Be physically present in the United States
  • Have certain time living within the jurisdiction of a USCIS office
  • Be a person of Good Moral Character
  • Have Knowledge of English and U.S. Civics with some exceptions outlined below
  • Declare loyalty to the U.S. Constitution

As part of the citizenship interview, applicants must pass a civics and English test in order to receive United States Citizenship. The Civics test is an oral examination provided in the format of Question and Answer by an immigration officer in which the officer tests your knowledge of United States history and government. During the Citizenship interview, the USCIS officer asks the applicant up to 10 out of 100 civics questions provided by USCIS on their website as part of the study material for the examination. Applicants must answer 6 out of 10 questions correctly to pass the civics portion of the naturalization test.

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On Friday, March 30, 2018, the Department of State published a 60 day notice in the Federal Register entitled “Notice of Proposed Information Collection: Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration,” proposing to require immigrant visa applicants to submit five years of social media history as part of the information requested on the DS-260 Immigrant Visa Electronic Application used by applicants to schedule Immigrant Visa interviews at U.S. Embassies and Consulates worldwide. The DS-260 is an Electronic Form that is completed by immigrant visa applicants and used by consular officials to determine whether the applicant is eligible for an immigrant visa.

Specifically, the Department wishes to, “add several additional questions for immigrant visa applicants. One question lists multiple social media platforms and requires the applicant to provide any identifies used by applicants for those platforms during the five years preceding the date of the application.”

Information provided by immigrant visa applications relating to their social media will be used to enhance “vetting” of applicants to verify their identity, ensure that they meet all visa eligibility requirements, and to prevent individuals from entering the country who pose a threat to the county’s national security, or have been associated with a terrorist organization.

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GreenCardImageBeginning May 1, 2017, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will begin issuing newly redesigned green cards and employment authorization documents with enhanced features and fraud-resistant technology to prevent tampering and fraud. The new technology has been introduced as part of the government’s ongoing effort to enhance the security of these documents and to facilitate detection of counterfeit documents.

The new green cards and employment authorization cards will

  • Display the individual’s photos on both sides;
  • Show a unique graphic image and color palette:
    • Green Cards will have an image of the Statue of Liberty and a predominately green palette;
    • EAD cards will have an image of a bald eagle and a predominately red palette;
  • Have embedded holographic images; and
  • No longer display the individual’s signature.
  • Green Cards will no longer have an optical stripe on the back.

USCIS may continue to issue some green cards and employment authorization cards with the previous design format, after May 1, 2017, until supplies for that design have run out.

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Document Validity

Existing and new green cards and employment authorization cards will remain valid until the printed expiration date indicated on the card. Older generation green cards that were issued without an expiration date will continue to remain valid and acceptable for purposes of filing Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, EVerify, and Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE).

USCIS recommends that individuals who have an older green card that does not have an expiration date apply for a replacement card with an expiration date. Receiving a new replacement card will give individuals the benefit of having a highly secure card with fraud-resistant technology in the case the card is lost or stolen.

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