The Fat Lady, Stowaways, and Alien Smugglers

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“It ain’t over till the fat lady sings…”  The opera expression widely used in sports has taken on a whole new relevance in the immigration world.  No longer are government agencies approving applications and deferring to previously-approved applications or adjudications. Rather, they are reopening past applications – from 3, 5, 10, 15, 20 years ago – searching for misrepresentations, inconsistencies, and loose ends to thwart applications for visas, changes to status, and adjustment of status. You are so close to getting that long-desired visa or green card, but the “fat lady” – in these cases, USCIS and the State Department consular posts – doesn’t want the “opera” to end. The boundaries are unlimited. Even relatively obscure provisions of immigration law, such as the “stowaway” provision, are being invoked more and more.  A stowaway is someone who obtains transportation without consent and through concealment.  Anyone who enters the US by a…

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16 Reasons a Consul Finds Your K-1 Case Suspicious

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Today we are publishing a new article about K-1 visas.  In the article we discuss the 16 primary reasons a consul finds a K-1 case suspicious. The article also highlights the 4 steps the American citizen and fiancée can take to prevent denials. Finally, the article discusses in detail how to deal with a 221(g) refusal, an accusation of a sham relationship, and what to do if the petition is sent back to USCIS. The most important takeaway from the article: just because there is a real, sincere relationship does not mean that the K-1 visa will be issued. A lack of evidence, a weak interview, or a skeptical consul who believes he knows the fiancee’s “true intentions” better than the US petitioner can sabotage a K-1 case.  Contact us to discuss your case.

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Innocent Visa Applicants Applying for Nonimmigrant and Immigrant Waivers

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With the dramatic upsurge in consular decisions to permanently bar visa applicants from the United States, the question of applying for an immigrant or nonimmigrant waiver has become more and more acute.  Many immigration lawyers will advise to just accept the decision, admit that you were wrong, say you are sorry, and apply for the waiver. They say that your chances of receiving the waiver will be increased if you admit your guilt and express remorse, even if you did not do anything wrong. But what if you are not “guilty”?  What if you did not commit a material misrepresentation (Section 212(a)(6)(C)(i))? Or engage in alien smuggling (Section 212(a)(6)(E))? Or commit a crime of moral turpitude (Section 212(a)(2)(A)(i)(I))?  Should you admit you were wrong? Of course not. There are legal mechanisms to challenge such lifechanging decisions, such as a Request for Reconsideration.  Sometimes, the supervisor of the consular officer or…

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Just Because They Say So, Doesn’t Make It True

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 I received a frantic call from a client recently at her naturalization interview.  She was being advised by the interviewing officer that her application was going to be denied because she did not meet the residency requirements.  In the run-up to the interview, the client and I had reviewed all of the relevant legal issues, including the physical presence and continuous residence requirements, and I assured her that she met the requirements for naturalization.  The officer was kind enough to speak with me over the phone, but remained unpersuaded from her position that the residency requirements were not met. The client left the USCIS office and went home extremely upset, notwithstanding my attempts to calm her down and assurances that we were in the right and would be able to challenge any adverse decision. And then, two hours after the interview, something strange happened: I received an e-mail notification from…

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Stunning Newly-Released Department of State Statistics Show Increases in Public Charge, Misrepresentation, Alien Smuggling, 214(b) Denials

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The statistics stun – even the most callous observer.  In just two years, the number of individuals denied immigrant visas under the public charge section of the law (Section 212(a)(4) of the Immigration and Nationality Act) has increased more than 12 times!  Alien smuggling (Section 212(a)(6)(E)) findings doubled for immigrant visa applicants over the past year.  Misrepresentation (Section 212(a)(6)(C)(i)) decisions for these applicants increased by more than 25%.  214(b) denials for those applying for nonimmigrant visas – more than 2.7 million – also edged upwards. The Department of State’s statistics table lists more than 50 visa ineligibility grounds. But one is hard pressed to remember such a radical increase in denials for a single ineligibility as with the public charge provision over the past two years. Incredibly, this massive increase is not a result of any changes in or amendments to the law itself. This would take congressional action. Rather,…

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In the Dark as to Why the Consular Officer Permanently Barred You from the United States for a Material Misrepresentation, Alien Smuggling or a Crime of Moral Turpitude? There is Hope.

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Sometimes, it doesn’t make sense. When a potential client contacts us regarding a decision by a consular officer, we try to understand, first of all, why was the decision made?  What caused the consular officer to make the decision he or she did?  Often, we can understand the position of the consular officer; while we may not always agree with that position and in fact challenge the position, we at least can identify the problem. But sometimes, we are confounded.  Take for example the situation of J. J contacted us after he had been turned around at the border by Customs and Border Protection. The CBP protocol memorializing J’s request to enter the US was clear: it said that J needed a different type of visa. He had previously been a student in the US, and he needed to obtain a visitor visa in order to return to the US…

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Part 2: Hadi Deeb: Tsar-Consul of Uzbekistan – A Stillborn Baby, An Infertile Woman, and “Why aren’t you Married?”

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As background, some information about the Diversity Lottery is in order. The State Department administers the Diversity Lottery program, which allows for individuals from low-immigration countries with a high-school education or its equivalent or certain work experience to qualify to immigrate to the United States.[1] Every year, more than 10 million individuals from all over the world participate, with approximately 100,000 selected to pursue the 50,000 visas available. The popularity of the Diversity Lottery extends to the citizens of Uzbekistan, a poor, predominantly Muslim country in Central Asia. The annual Lottery is held in three stages: 1) a registration period, in which individuals submit their entries (in the fall); 2) selection and notification of the winners (spring); and 3) visa interviews/adjustment of status process (starting on October 1), at which time nonrefundable processing fees are paid. For selectees processing overseas, they must receive immigrant visas by September 30, or before…

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Part 4: (In)Voluntary Statements of Visa Applicants at the US Consular Posts in India – Are US Consular Officers Engaging in Unethical and Unlawful Conduct?

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So to summarize the first three articles in this series, under threat of immigration and criminal consequences, consular staff in India have compelled visa applicants to write and sign Voluntary Statements.  This staff have refused to turn over copies of the Voluntary Statements to the applicants;[1] used false pretenses to entice applicants to sign the Statements; and dictated the text of the Statements, which may contain material misstatements leading to decisions to bar the applicants. So if the Statements are “voluntary”, as consular staff insist, and the false statements therein subject the applicants to immigration and criminal consequences, what consequences should befall the initiators and overseers – consular staff and their managers – of the false statements? U.S. law has a number of criminal statutes dealing with false statements. 18 U.S.C. § 1621 is the perjury statute, providing for imprisonment up to five years and a fine.[2]  The perjury can…

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Part 3: (In)Voluntary Statements of Visa Applicants at the US Consular Posts in India – Are US Consular Officers Engaging in Unethical and Unlawful Conduct?

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So why don’t consular officers wish to give copies of these Voluntary Statements to visa applicants? Maybe because they are not so “voluntary” after all. As explained to me by several visa applicants from India, they do not voluntarily provide these statements. Rather, they are bullied, coerced, and compelled to write the statements. Worse, consular staff dictate the text of the statement under threat of permanent bar from the United States.  Even worse, the statements often contain materially erroneous information. One applicant said that US consular staff “threatened me that they will [b]an me from going back to USA if I don’t agree with their version of the story.”  Another stated: “At the end when she asked me to write down the statement, she especially [sic] dictated the whole thing to me.” Not only had this applicant been advised to indicate wrong information in her statement, but the officer attempted…

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Part 2: (In)Voluntary Statements of Visa Applicants at the US Consular Posts in India – Are US Consular Officers Engaging in Unethical and Unlawful Conduct?

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The first indicator of the questionable nature of these Voluntary Statements are the lengths to which consular officers go to obstruct their disclosure to the visa applicant. As a general rule and enshrined by Section 222(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, visa records are considered confidential and not subject to disclosure. However, there is an exception for documentation submitted by the applicant; such documents are subject to disclosure. In the case of the Voluntary Statements in India, the consular officer does not give a copy to the applicant at the conclusion of the interview.  This, notwithstanding the draconian visa consequences and criminal liability that the applicant has been exposed to by signing the Voluntary Statement. The consular officer’s “Bible”, the Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM), makes it abundantly clear that these statements are releasable to the applicant: 2. d. (U) Documents Releasable to Applicant: The documents listed below are deemed…

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(In)Voluntary Statements of Visa Applicants at US Consular Posts in India – Are US Consular Officers Engaging in Unethical and Unlawful Conduct?

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Consular officers at the US Consulates and Embassy in India periodically require visa applicants to write “Voluntary Statements.”  These Statements are used as admissions of guilt to deny and permanently bar visa applicants. But what is little known are the circumstances under which these “Voluntary Statements” are written – and the legal aspects of these Statements, some of which may in fact implicate consular officers themselves in potentially unethical and unlawful conduct.  In this four-part series of articles, visa applicant and consular behavior, as well as the circumstances under which these Voluntary Statements are used, will be examined. As background, to the personal knowledge of the author, the Embassy in New Delhi, the Consulate General in Hyderabad, and the Consulate General in Mumbai (under Consular Section Chief Michael Evans) have all used these Voluntary Statements against visa applicants in India.  Peculiarly, it does not appear that consular officers at other…

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Alien Smuggling – Hope for the Accused

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Consular officers permanently bar more visa applicants every year for “alien smuggling” than any other provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act except misrepresentation. In 2012 alone, consular officers invoked the alien smuggling provision of the INA, Section 212(a)(6)(E), more than 6,000 times, an increase of more than 20% from the year before. What are the standards for a finding of alien smuggling, and what categories of people have been subject to this provision of the INA? A consular officer can make an alien smuggling finding if he or she decides that a visa applicant has, at any time, knowingly “encouraged, induced, assisted, abetted or aided…” another alien “to enter or try to enter the United States” in violation of law. The Immigration Act of 1990 abolished the “for gain” requirement, so a consular officer does not need to find that the applicant had a profit motive or received money…

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