Friday, March 15, 2013

To Will or Not To Will

Chaudhary Law Office, PLLCIn many societies, or even families, individuals are uncomfortable with the idea of mortality.  Those living in the U.S. are no different.  Consequently, we put off making preparations for the inevitable.  

And while death and taxes may be life's only guarantees, less than half of adult Americans are prepared for this finality.  Minorities, and immigrants especially, make even fewer legal preparations, leaving their children and family members vulnerable to confusion and legal conflict over one's actual wishes.  

Moreover, immigrants face unique legal issues when disposing of a deceased person's assets.  Therefore, an Estate Plan is essential legal documentation to ensure long-term, family security--on par with investments, retirement savings, and life insurance.    

When one passes away, the remaining possessions, assets, and obligations are referred to as the "estate."  The law requires various aspects of an estate be disposed of in some way.  For example, if it is not known (in writing) who the parents wanted to care for their children, a U.S. court will decide on their behalf. This is the law.  However, if there is a document, such as a Will, stating the children would live with their aunt and uncle (for example), the law would enforce it.  

Unmarried visa holders are at particular risk in the U.S., because there is no chance of one's estate passing automatically to a spouse.  If parents or siblings do not reside in the U.S., there is a high chance one's assets will be distributed by a court and not according to the individual's wishes.

An Estate Plan simply refers to documents stating one's wishes for the estate upon passing.  A simple estate plan consists of a Will, Health Care Directive, and Power of Attorney.  Other plans consist of more complicated documents such as a Trust.  These documents make sure that your religious customs, family wishes, and financial assets are respected.  

If one is not a U.S. citizen, it is best that an experienced professional draft these documents and answer questions.  A simple Estate Plan can cost as little as a few hundred dollars, saving thousands of dollars (and heartache) in future legal expenses.

There are many other implications unable to be covered in this space, such as tax impact, life insurance distribution, and immigration status.  For a free brochure, contact Chaudhary Law Office, PLLC at, or (612) 206-3721, for a free consultation.

***Senator Satveer Chaudhary (rtd) was the first Indian Senator in American history, and is now owner of Chaudhary Law Office, PLLC, an immigration law firm primarily serving the Indian community.  For information at

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Massive Visa Changes Proposed

In a fit of productivity, Congress has been hard at work drafting immigration bills!  On Tuesday, January 29, 2013, Senators Hatch (R-UT),  Rubio (R-FL), Klobuchar (D-MN), and Coons (D-DE) introduced the “Immigration Innovation Act of 2013” (aka “I2 Act of 2013”).  The bill focuses specifically on well-educated foreign nationals who wish to live, study, and work in the United States.

The bill dedicates four sections to 1) employment-based non-immigrant visas, 2) student visas, 3) employment-based immigrant visas, and 4) STEM education funding.  (Read the short summary here.)  For each section, the bill aims to relieve the congestion of visa quotas foreign nationals currently face and enable smoother dual intent to migrate to the United States permanently for certain foreign nationals.
1.     Employment-Based Non-Immigrant Visas
Naturally, H-1B visas come immediately to mind.  So much so that Google’s SVP of People Operations, Laszlo Bock, even commented on the bill.  In essence, the bill, if approved, would allow for a scaling increase or decrease of H-1B visa quotas based on the economy between 65,000 to 115,000.  The sooner the H-1B cap is met, the larger number of new H-1B visas would be made available.
Dependent H-1B spouses would also benefit by being able to apply for work authorization.
There is also language to facilitate easier extensions of H and L petitions where no change has occurred between the employer or the foreign national.  It’s curious how USCIS adjudicators would actually interpret this section in practice….
Finally, the bill would allow for non-immigrant workers to transition from one employer to the next more efficiently, including being able to revalidate their E, H, L, O, and P visas.  From a practical perspective, this will certainly decrease the cost of travel and loss productivity.  Immigration practitioners may want to dust off their old Department of State legal briefs for visa revalidation!
2.     Student Visas
To stem the “brain drain” from leaving the United States (and going to Canada, Brazil, Chile, China or India, for example), this bill would allow students a means to pursue permanent residence in the U.S.  American colleges and universities should be preparing for a influx of foreign student applicants!
3.     Immigrant Visas
Similar to “roll-over” minutes on your cell phone, this bill would allow the recapturing of previously approved but unused immigrant (greencard) visas from previous years to be used in the current year and for any unused visas to “roll-over” to the next fiscal year.
To the cheer of many highly-skilled workers, visa quotas for certain employment-based immigrant visas would be lifted:
  • Dependents of employment-based immigrant visa holders
  • U.S. STEM advance degree holders
  • Extraordinary ability persons
  • Outstanding professors and researchers
Perhaps the biggest change would be lifting the visa quota based on per-country limits specifically for employment-based visa petitions.  This means that immigrants to the U.S. employers may sponsor permanent workers without the worry of per-country limits that have traditionally clogged the immigration system.  Our practitioners by now should be in full alarm mode as this section of the bill has the potential to uniformly affect both family and business immigration practices by significantly increasing caseloads.
4.     U.S. STEM Education
The bill’s foresight in funding the future is also evidenced by this last section.  Funds collected from H-1B visas and employment-based immigrant visas would help to fund and promote science, technology, engineering and math education and retrain workers in the United States.
Whether this bill survives Congressional review, it will certainly leave its mark on what will soon be a Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) package- one way or another!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Per Country Limits for EB Visas Stopped

The “Compromise” between the House and Senate eliminates per-country limits for EB immigration Visas.  This is a positive step for Indians and Chinese workers looking to move to the United States .  Unfortunately for other  immigrants wishing to utilize the EB status. this change is going to decrease the "slots" currently alloted.   and creates additional compliance for some employers.

While I couldn’t get everything that was included in the Durbin-Grassley visa reform bill, there is agreement to include in H.R. 3012 provisions that give greater authority to program overseers to investigate visa fraud and abuse.  Specifically, there will be language authorizing the Department of Labor to better review labor condition applications and investigate fraud and misrepresentation by employers.  There’s also agreement to include a provision allowing the federal government to do annual compliance audits of employers who bring in foreign workers through the H-1B visa program.

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals

The American Immigration Lawyers Association recently obtained filing statistics for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) requests from USCIS. (AILA InfoNet Doc. 12091449) The numbers are astounding! From August 15 to September 13, 2012, nearly an entire month after USCIS began accepting requests from DACA candidates, USCIS has received nearly 83,000 requests. Yet, only 29 have been approved! What other important details do the numbers reveal?
Rejections vs. Acceptance
Although 96% of DACA requests are accepted by USCIS for processing, that means 4% are not (about 2,800). What effect does this have on those requests that have been rejected? Rejected requests are not the same as denials, but rather, they are packages that have not been accepted by USCIS for filing because the original package was deficient in some way. For example, the packages could have been missing government filing checks, lacked the proper forms or sent to the wrong address. This is all the more reason for DACA candidates to seek professional, legitimate legal assistance from qualified representatives.
Geographic Presence
Which states have the most populous DACA candidates? No surprise the states that border-states California (20k) and Texas (11k) have the most DACA candidates. New York came in at 6,600+ and Florida at just over 5,000. Only nine other states had more than 1,000 DACA candidates. Practitioners in states that have high immigrant populations will likely be fielding many DACA requestors’ questions. The American Immigration Council also provides a very interesting map of New American populations which can be compared against these DACA statistics to see how the data aligns.
Foreign National Origins
While the majority of DACA candidate requestors are from Mexico (over 46,000), a surprising minority were from countries not located in South America, including: South Korea, Philippines and India. Although it’s still early, the data highlights the fact that the DACA directive can affect nationals from all over the world in spite of the fact that the media has focus almost solely on Hispanic communities in the U.S. Sadly, the data also highlights the need for immigration reform to address and alleviate the challenges that are the cause of these skewed immigration numbers.
Requests for Evidence (RFEs)
In the first month, there appeared to be an insignificant number of Requests for Evidence issued. This is good news and bad news. The good news is the trend towards the last week of receipts indicated the government is at least issuing RFEs before denying a case. This is bad news is that if the RFE is not overcome, these cases would be denied. This brings us back to the role of immigration counsels and/or qualified, accredited representatives (approved by the Board of Immigration Appeals “BIA”). The DACA process is by no means a simple process and we always encourage our readers, particularly DACA candidates, to consult legal assistance prior to filing a case in order to fully assess their risks.

Contact Us From Anywhere in the U.S.
(952)525-2285 ♦
Free consultation

Satveer Chaudhary is the founding lawyer of Chaudhary Law Office, PLLC.  In practice over 10 years, Chaudhary brings 14 years of legislative experience as a State Senator and Member of the Minnesota House of Representatives to each and every case.At Chaudhary Law Office, our clients come first. Every client is treated with courtesy and is guaranteed effective representation. Practicing in the areas of  Immigration Law, Wills, Divorce, Family Law, Small Business and Criminal Law, we provide free intial consultations to all our clients.

In 2004  Satveer Chaudhary was named the University of Minnesota Law School Alumni of the Year. He was also awarded the Governor’s Certificate of Commendation for the Legal Aid Society of Minnesota, served as Special Assistant to Minnesota Attorney General Hubert H. Humphrey III, and was recognized by the worldwide Asian-Indian community for  his dedicated work, Chaudhary was named to the top-50 non-resident Indians in the world (NRI World  magazine).  

The information provided is offered for informational purposes only. It is not offered as and does not constitute legal advice. Chaudhary Law Office, PLLC does not seek to represent you based upon your review of this brochure. You should not make legal hiring decisions based merely upon brochures, advertising or other promotional materials.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Marriage Melting Pot

A wonderful article about the changes in our culture and the melting pot it has become.  Remember, Chaudhary Law Office is experienced in handling Marriage Green Cards, Fiance Visas, and travel visa for families to share the joy of a wedding.

Don't leave your happiness to chance.  Contact attorney Satveer Chaudhary at Chaudhary Law Office for a free initial consultation.  (952)525-2285

Article: Brown, Black, Yellow – And The Shades in Between

The Perception of Interracial Marriage Today
Are mixed marriages more acceptable in society today? Anecdotal evidence seems to suggest a generally increasing openness towards mixed marriages, despite the lingering reservations of many parents.
From the article ‘Interracial Marriage Blossoms in Malaysia’ (2005) – The Christian Science Monitor:
Intermarriage between Sarawak’s 25 ethnic groups has been common for generations. But until recently most of the mixed marriages have been between indigenous groups with similar backgrounds. Now, though, mixed marriages have expanded to encompass unions with Chinese, Malays, and even Europeans and Americans.
“In those days, we didn’t want to marry other races,” says Tamah Saging, a retired chief who estimates he’s about 90 years old. “It must be between Kelabits and Kelabits.”
But when Mr. Saging’s only son – who until recently was director of immigration in the Sarawak state government – decided to marry an Englishwoman, Saging simply shrugged his shoulders. “What to do?” he says. “I can’t say anything.”
Many meet someone from another nationality when they leave their villages to attend boarding school in Marudi and often remain there afterward. “Nowadays, people with good education, they’re bound to meet another person … from somewhere,” says Jaman Riboh, the owner of a local guest lodge.
These bits effectively convey some key factors in this shift in perspective. Children have found for themselves greater opportunities for independence in recent generations. Take Sarawak for instance. Limited as its development may be, the fact is that the locals are no longer restricted to just staying in their villages – instead, opportunities to work in the cities, whether for the government or otherwise, have offered them a broader worldview. Working alongside locals of other ethnicities, or even foreigners, it’s no surprise that their minds are more open to mixed marriages. Education is another factor, and it’s definitely not limited to Sarawak. Besides the greater number of private education institutions that have emerged, offering a more diverse student populace, the higher level of education available to the people has also meant greater work opportunities. Jobs that take the people of this generation into different cities, overseas, or into multinational companies all mean that different ethnic groups are meeting more and more. Interracial marriage, in this sense, is inevitable.
Looking at another article, The Right Recipe for Unity (2008) from The Star:
We get a few perspectives from married multiracial couples today. Teh Soo Choon, who married her Indian husband M. Pusparajah several decades ago, notes how her parents were vehemently opposed to their relationship, threatening to ‘lie on the railway tracks’ if they ever wed. Eventually, however, the two families came to accept the decision – and all it needed was time and understanding.
Interestingly, she also shares how she and her husband ‘built a shared history and fusion culture to call their own’ – this meant mixing and matching cultural aspects like food, where every Chinese New Year would bring with it some Indian flavours, and vice versa for Deepavali. It’s interesting – and heartening – to see how a mixed marriage does not have to mean the erosion of culture; rather than the ‘one culture wins, the other loses’ mentality of fear that people hold, their marriage proves that given the chance, such relationships add rather than detract from culture.
DAP Assemblywoman Hannah Yeoh, who holds the Subang Jaya seat, ‘believes a uniting factor between her and her husband is their similar background’. This suggests that the common ground needed for a relationship to work is based on much more than just race or ethnicity. It’s a hopeful sign. As Yeoh herself claims, ‘race is not what good marriages are made of’; she also points out that many traditional marriages also end in divorce.

Difficulties Still Exist
But that doesn’t mean mixed marriages are in the safe and clear yet. Many families, even relatively modern and progressive ones, maintain their misgivings when it comes to interracial marriage (whether this is heightened when it involves marriage between Muslims and non-Muslims I cannot say, though logically it is certainly possible).
When Wong converted into Islam, her parents almost disowned her. Although they later acquiesced to her decision to convert, and then marry a Malay man, they still refused to attend her akad nikah (solemnisation of vows).
Her husband Shahrul says that one of the biggest fears among non-Muslim families when their children convert is that they will have to sever all ties with their families after they embrace Islam.
Sharmin Chong, 30, who has been married to Hussain Karim Ally, 32, for about two years, shares that the biggest misconception that people have about new converts is that they will automatically become a Malay if they embrace Islam.
“Although I am now a Muslim, my race is still Chinese. And unlike popular misconception, I don’t get special privileges for Malays. Anyway that is not why I converted,” she says.
As is evident from these excerpts, much of the stigmatisation and estrangement arises from misperceptions and fear. Parents are afraid that their children have not thought it through and are converting without considering that they cannot leave Islam. Parents don’t want their children to be stuck in a rut if they try and fail to revert to their original religions. Parents don’t want to ‘lose’ their children, so to speak. Their intentions are not misplaced; however, it seems that their worries are.
The same applies to marriages not involving Muslims. Eunice Tan, herself in a multiracial marriage, talks about her parents (who are both Chinese) had trouble with their relationship because her mother was Cantonese while her father was Teochew; their parents disapproved. If even the Chinese can nitpick marriages between themselves, is it at all surprising that trouble arises when different races clash?
There are two lessons we can learn from these stories. The first is that blaming these disapproving parents, while natural, will not do anything. This is because of the second lesson; the reality is that whether you agree with them or not, these are the perceptions that they hold – the real problem is that people are not being educated on the matter. Would you blame someone for failing an exam if he had never been educated? Or would you look to the system that didn’t educate him?
Looking at a reader-written letter to Malaysiakini, ‘Collateral Damage of Converting for Marriage’ (2005):
The author of the letter basically relates two stories of multiracial marriages, one concerning a friend and the other a friend’s brother. What’s striking about both stories is that the problem was never the marriage itself – the author makes no note of whether the marriage is working, or has ended badly. Instead, the families suffer – hence the ‘collateral damage’. Is it a stretch to say that all the bad feelings and disapproval do more to hurt the marriage than the marriage itself? I don’t think it is, and once again it highlights how the problem was much less the couple’s, and much more the cultural divide between the ethnicities. The couples taking part in mixed marriages have obviously found some common ground. But then the gap between the couples and their families, who have not yet bridged these differences, rears its ugly head.

The Models We Didn’t Know We Had
What I find most compelling is that if you do some digging (and not even deep digging; I’m talking about a first-page, first-ten-Google-results level of research) you’ll find so many great, even exemplary instances of mixed marriages that should really send home the message that nothing’s really wrong about it. Take a look at ‘Elite Malays and Mixed Marriage’ (2007) –Asia Sentinel:
[Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi’s] new wife is Jeanne Abdullah…Jeanne had originally been Jean Danker, a Catholic from a Eurasian family which spans Malaysia and Singapore and who converted to Islam when she married her first husband…
Mahathir Mohamad, Malaysia’s longest-serving prime minister. His father was a Muslim Malayali from Kerala in south India who migrated to Malaysia and took a Malay bride. Mahathir himself was classified as an Indian when at university in Singapore.
Of [Tunku Abdul Rahman’s] four wives, one was Thai Chinese, one English, one Malay and one Malaysian-Chinese. He never hid his fondness for whiskey, even while heading the Organization of Islamic Conference, or his student days in England pre-occupied, as he once put it, with “fast women, fast cars and not-so-fast horses.”
And these are only the more prominent examples. Here we have three of Malaysia’s six Prime Ministers, all of them former Presidents of Malay race-based party UMNO. Yet, they are either of mixed ancestry or have married non-Malays. As the writer succinctly puts it:
The good-natured Abdullah Badawi clearly has no problem with the mixed racial ancestry of his bride, or with the fact that she was baptised a Christian. Yet he heads a ruling party which is not merely race-based but at times makes a fetish of Malay racial purity.
Should we not be championing the fact that our Prime Ministers are such great examples of multiculturalism and Malaysian identities? Can’t we be proud that Tun Dr. Mahathir himself is proof that the sons and daughters of immigrants are every bit as Malaysian, and every bit as deserving as the rest of us? Doesn’t the fact that Tunku Abdul Rahman – Malaysia’s own founding father –clearly endorsed mixed unions make our widespread hesitance and fear towards such marriages a point of baseless concern? And yet the problems persist, just as I have outlined in the previous section. Why hasn’t a party, whose top leaders have been great examples of such multiracial success, advocate mixed marriages rather than trumpet the exclusive rights of just one group of people?
There really isn’t much to say about this, because that article really says it all. What I can add is that the fact that we haven’t sat up and taken greater notice of this is highly revealing. What does it say about us? Perhaps all it demonstrates is that the people as a whole are not ready or willing to move beyond petty issues of race and religion, even as living and breathing leaders have attested to the contrary.

Why do these cultural gaps exist? Obviously, these encompass details like differences in language, practices, and beliefs. A more pertinent question would be: Why do these cultural gaps still exist?
That answer, I believe, lies in education. The issue of unity appears here, and I won’t expand on it because it has been discussed many times – not segregating races, exposing children of all races to each other, cultivating a common Malaysian identity.
Have things improved in today’s society? The answer seems to be yes, and unsurprisingly so. Can it be better? Most definitely, yes. With only an estimated 150 000 mixed marriages, according to Asia Sentinel, there is a long way to go. What can we do? Besides educate ourselves and our children, we can look up to our leaders, in whom (political considerations aside) we should be able to find some respect for embracing mixed marriages.
I fully encourage you to read all the articles I have linked to. They’re all extremely insightful, particularly the Asia Sentinel one – if you have to read just one, read that one. Browsing through the letters section of Malaysiakini is also very eye-opening, because there are many personal accounts of such matters there. The parts I have quoted and mentioned in this piece aren’t even half of what’s there to be read – educate yourself today. If you thought only our leaders were engaging in mixed marriages, you’re wrong. Ethnic groups like the Peranakan show us that mixed marriages, even with all its problems, have been a prominent feature of our society.
In truth, the reality is that most of us probably aren’t really pure brown, black or yellow anymore – but rather, shades in between.

Contact Us From Anywhere in the U.S.
(952)525-2285 ♦
Free consultation

Satveer Chaudhary is the founding lawyer of Chaudhary Law Office, PLLC.  In practice over 10 years, Chaudhary brings 14 years of legislative experience as a State Senator and Member of the Minnesota House of Representatives to each and every case.At Chaudhary Law Office, our clients come first. Every client is treated with courtesy and is guaranteed effective representation. Practicing in the areas of  Immigration Law, Wills, Divorce, Family Law, Small Business and Criminal Law, we provide free intial consultations to all our clients.

In 2004  Satveer Chaudhary was named the University of Minnesota Law School Alumni of the Year. He was also awarded the Governor’s Certificate of Commendation for the Legal Aid Society of Minnesota, served as Special Assistant to Minnesota Attorney General Hubert H. Humphrey III, and was recognized by the worldwide Asian-Indian community for  his dedicated work, Chaudhary was named to the top-50 non-resident Indians in the world (NRI World  magazine).  

The information provided is offered for informational purposes only. It is not offered as and does not constitute legal advice. Chaudhary Law Office, PLLC does not seek to represent you based upon your review of this brochure. You should not make legal hiring decisions based merely upon brochures, advertising or other promotional materials.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Nuances of the Marriage Fraud Interview

Below is an article published in the newsletter of AILA, American Immigration Lawyers Association.  AILA is considered the preeminent trade association for U.S. immigration attorneys, and Chaudhary Law Office is of course a member.   The article is written from the perspective of lawyer to lawyer, to help build best practices amongst the industry.  So you are getting a real insiders view on how to prepare for your interview with U.S. immigration!

Satveer Chaudhary, Esq.
Chaudhary Law Office, PLLC
(952) 525-2285

The Nuances of the Marriage Fraud Interview
By James W. Austin

Preparing your clients for a spouse petition interview is a simple, routine procedure. However, the more a couple’s marital relationship deviates from the officer’s imaginary norm, the more likely it will undergo additional scrutiny. The chances that the couple will be subjected to separate and intensive interviews increases if you are an aggressive practitioner who tells clients to not let the government decide how they structure their marriage. Atypical relationships, uncommon marital
circumstances, and hard-headed clients can all lead to the need to prepare for a long and detailed interview.Several different names have been given to what can be extensive and lengthy marriage interviews.

“Stokes interview,” “marriage fraud interview,” or just plain “fraud interview” have all been used to describe the appropriate government exercise of detecting fraudulent marriages. As long as counsel is convinced the marriage is not a sham, and the union meets the requirements of a marriage under the immigration laws, it is counsel’s job to defend your clients’ lifestyle choices and assist them toward an approved petition.

When to Expect a Fraud Interview

Fraud interviews are usually initiated after the government detects certain characteristics in the
parties or their relationship. There are two good sources for finding the “red flags” that may trigger a fraud interview—the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Fraud Referral Sheet3 and the day-today experiences of yours and your fellow practitioners. Although the purpose of the Fraud Referral Sheet is to forward a case for further investigation, it lists dozens of useful indicators of behavior or events USCIS considers suspect. The factors cited on the Fraud Referral Sheet include:

• Multiple applications/petitions by single applicant/
• Short time between entry and marriage;
• Unusual marriage history;
• Children born during marriage to other parent;
• Unusual or large age discrepancy between spouses
(when found in conjunction with other indicators);
• Unusual associations between family members;
• Unusual cultural differences;
• Low employment/financial status of petitioner;
• Previous marriage to foreign nationals.

USCIS officers are cautioned to not solely rely on just one specific factor, especially if the suspect fact is a large age difference between the petitioner and beneficiary. However, local practitioners may not be so circumspect in what they feel can trigger a hard interview. Tap into the experience of your colleagues. Local lore will often be specific to the quirks and focus areas of specific examiners.

Screening your clients during the initial consultation for the likelihood of a fraud interview is always
a good practice. Also, when setting your fees, fraud interview cases almost always require more time and follow-up work. Remember, however, that separate interviews can occur even in the absence of the normal indicators. Your perfectly clean couple may still be interviewedseparately as training for new officers or as a way for an over-staffed field office to fill slack time.

Preparing Your Client—A Suggested Dialogue

While some attorneys only do a hard prep with clients when fraud indicators are present, others
prepare every couple before their interview. The reasoning behind this is simple: it is better to be
prepared than to have to clean up a mess later. Just as there is no limit to the potential questions
USCIS can pose to your clients, there is also no limit on the advice an attorney can dispense. 

What follows is a basic outline of the advice counsel should impart to a client before undergoing a fraud interview:

“You May Have a Hard Interview, and Here Is Why.”

Describe the practical handling of a fraud interview and let them start getting comfortable with the
thought that they might be individually questioned. Remind the parties that the interview may be videotaped so that they are not intimidated by an unexpected event. They should know that the videotape of the interview is a positive factor because it also helps ensure the professional behavior of the officer. Be honest with your client about why you feel USCIS may put them under close examination. Do not be timid about discussing topics that are sometimes considered socially incorrect. If your experience tells you that mixed-race marriages usually receive extra scrutiny (a recognition that USCIS officers might possibly hold prejudices contrary to USCIS policy), then
convey that information to your clients. Do the same with any other circumstances that may cause USCIS concern, such as educational/economic class disparities or unusual living arrangements. Telling a couple that their 30-year age difference might raise government suspicions is not telling them something they have not already considered. Having the conversation will give you a good indication of their commitment and how they will respond to the examiner.

Should circumstances warrant, warn the petitioner that threats of fines and jail time may be used in an effort to have the petition withdrawn. Further advise that if the marriage is real, they have nothing to fear. Not only does this help you gauge the resolve of the couple to continue with the process, but openly discussing the possibility helps to reduce the intimidation level of the government-issued threats.

“Is Everything on the Forms Accurate?”

USCIS can access a variety of information sources, including several private computer data-mining
services. Through these outside sources, USCIS can obtain public records, lease information, credit
applications, and requests made for public assistance. It is not unusual for people to give inaccurate address, wage data, or family information on credit or benefit applications, especially if the couple is of limited financial means. Question your clients on any past use of other addresses on any application or record. Is the petitioner currently receiving public benefits or subsidized housing? Has he or she applied for them in the past? If there is incorrect information floating around in these records, then spot it now. For example, if the addresses on the Form G-325A, Biographic Information, are not exactly accurate, then take an amended version to the interview and be ready to explain any discrepancies between the G-325A and other addresses located by USCIS.

“They Can Ask You About Anything, but Rarely
About Your Intimate Relations.”

Although some officers recite questions from a script, there is no limit to the potential topics they
can explore. Memorizing vital facts is not adequate preparation. You can demonstrate this with a short Q&A session during your interview preparation time. Ask a sample question, then develop follow-up questions based on each new response. For example:

Q: When was the last time you and your wife ate out with a non-family member?
A: Last Friday.
Q: Who was at the dinner?
A: Me, my wife, and a friend.
Q: What was the friend’s name?
A: Willie Beale.
Q: How did you meet Mr. Beale?
A: At my work.
Q: When did your wife first meet Mr. Beale?
A: At my work.
Q: When was that?

When asking the questions, do not allow the other spouse to answer or even talk. No exceptions.
Demand an actual answer to each question. Be firm in your demeanor and keep digging for one or two minutes. This exercise will direct their attention to what may be in store for them at the interview.

“Listen to the Question, Then Answer That Question.”

Do not allow clients to start an answer with some rambling explanation leading up to a possible future answer. If the question is closed-ended and calls for a direct answer, then the answer is usually “yes”, “no”, “I don’t know”, “I don’t remember”, “I think ...”, “I don’t understand your question” or “I’m confused” if the question is not simple and clear. Answer the question. Then, give the explanation if one is needed.

“Tell the Truth Whether You Like the Truth or Not. Do Not Give an Answer Just Because You Think It Is What the Officer Wants to Hear.”

Even one lie can quickly lead to another in support of the first lie. Once that happens, you have a very big problem. Do not try to hide negative factors in the relationship. There are reasons why people have separations, no joint property, separate tax returns, and have not told their family about the marriage.  Admit these bad indicators and be ready to give an explanation.

“If You Do Not Know an Answer, then Say You Do Not Know. If You Are Unsure or Guessing, Then Say You Are Guessing.”

Nobody remembers everything, and part of what is remembered will be incorrect. If your client is
unsure, have them say so. There is no limit to the topics that can be explored. Let the officer move on to other answers for comparison.

“Do Not Say a Document Exists When It Does Not. Do Not Exaggerate Anything!”

There will be opportunities to submit additional documents after the interview. There is no reason to be flustered if the officer asks for something unavailable at the interview. Also, do not misrepresent what a document says. At the end of the interview, your client may be asked to produce any document that was discussed. The document should exactly match
any statement made during the interview.

“Do Not Accept an Officer’s Statement if Part of It Is Not Correct.”

Sometimes, an officer will assume or misstate a fact when asking a question. For example, if the officer asks, “So, you fixed your wife’s breakfast Monday before she went to work. Who did the dishes?” If the answer is, “She did,” then he has also admitted to that on Monday, he fixed breakfast for his wife and that she worked. If any fact in the question is incorrect, such as if she did not work Monday, then fix the error before answering the question.

“Keep Relaxed and Focused.”

People are not accustomed to thinking and answering questions for an extended period of time,
no matter how polite the questioner. We are simply not accustomed to being interrogated. After 15 minutes of specific questions, fear mounts and anxiety sets in. The interviewee wants
to leave the room and, consequently, gives thoughtless and sloppy answers. Most avoidable inconsistencies happen in the last portion of the interview. Tell your clients that when they start getting tired of the questioning, they should take a very deep breath, sit up straight, stomp their heels on the floor, and force themselves to concentrate on the very next question and an honest answer.

“If You Know You Gave an Incorrect Answer, Go Back at Any Time and Change It.”

Clients should know that if they lie, or make a mistake, then they must fix it. The sooner the better, but at any time it is appropriate to say, “Let’s go back to the question about ...” At any time, they can say, “Stop a minute,” and then talk about the question of concern from 10 minutes earlier. Fixing the answer is more important than whatever reason is given for needing to make the correction. They can say they were confused, thinking of some other event, momentarily brain dead or lied. Whatever the reason, correct the answer.

“Get a Good Night’s Sleep. Come to the Interview Rested.”

They usually will get little sleep the night before, but it never hurts to give the advice anyway. Also, after a hard interview preparation, it serves as a reminder that you, as their attorney, really are concerned about their welfare.

Attorney Role in a Fraud Interview

Just as clients must prepare for a long interview, so must the attorney. Fraud interviews often exceed an hour, so inform your office that you may be unavailable for a longer than normal period of time. Bring sufficient writing materials. If a break is taken during the interview, such as when the spouses switch places, consider that any discussion you might have with the next interviewee may be viewed by USCIS as an intentional hindrance of its attempt to verify the parties’ relationship.

The attorney is a perpetual scribe during the interview in anticipation that USCIS may later try to disallow the petition. A Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID) may soon be issued if sufficient inconsistencies result from the interview. 

***The attorney’s detailed interview notes are irreplaceable when responding to the NOID**
Since most NOIDs consist only of negative factors, it is not uncommon that for every inconsistency
noted by the officer in the NOID, the attorney can respond with 10 examples of consistency. This
ability to show overwhelming positive results, along with reasonable explanations for the inconsistencies, forms the foundation of the response to the NOID. In many cases, the USCIS officer will wish to limit the attorney’s role in a fraud interview to that of just an observer. While observation and note taking are vitally important tasks, this does not negate the other useful services available when an attorney is present.

Different attorneys hold widely divergent opinions of what actions constitute proper representation
during a fraud interview. Obviously, a tactful interruption to correct a misunderstanding or a
substantial misstatement by the officer can benefit both the client and the examiner.

Dealing with inappropriate questions or behavior of the officer will also, although hopefully infrequently, fall within the range of actions an attorney may take at a fraud interview. Intervention by an attorney can include politely asking the officer if the line of questions are appropriate, instructing the client that he or she need not answer, and in serious cases, stopping the interview and requesting to consult a supervisor.

The attorney can submit a Freedom of Information Act request for the videotape of the interview. Even the act of verbally requesting the officer to preserve the video can alter the tenor of an interview. If a timely FOIA request later shows that the video was deleted, the erasure of what you consider exculpatory evidence adds substance to later litigation.

James W. Austin is a partner with Austin & Ferguson,
LLC, a firm exclusively practicing immigration and
nationality law. The author’s views do not necessarily
represent the views of AILA nor do they serve as legal
advice or representation.

1. Stokes v. INS, No. 74 Civ. 1022 (S.D.N.Y. 1976). Additional note omitted.
2. Adjudicator’s Field Manual (AFM) ch.15.4(a)).
3. USCIS Internal Form, “Fraud Referral Sheet,” AILA InfoNet at Doc. No.