In making an application for asylum in the United States, the applicant's honesty and truthfulness is critical. After all, most asylum applicants don't arrive in the U.S. with documents or other direct evidence of the threats or persecution that they experienced in their home country. Winning a grant of asylum is largely up to their ability to recount their experiences completely, consistently, and persuasively.
By the same token, any indication that the asylum applicant is lying or fabricating even minor portions of their claim puts the whole story into doubt.
Fraud is taken very seriously by the decision makers at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR). At the least, a fraud finding by USCIS will result in a denial of the person's affirmative asylum application, which (unless the person has some other right to remain in the U.S.) will automatically put the applicant into removal (deportation) proceedings before an Immigration Judge at the EOIR.
Also, if any material element of someone's asylum claim appears to have been knowingly, deliberately fabricated, and the person can't account for the related discrepancies or implausibility, that person's claim may be found frivolous. (See 8 C.F.R. § 1208.20 and Section 208(d)(6) of the Immigration and Nationality Act or I.N.A.) After such a finding, the person will be permanently ineligible for any U.S. immigration benefits, whether asylum, a visa, or something else.
Fortunately, not everyone who is denied asylum is considered to have committed fraud.
Some applicants might tell a truthful story, but one which simply fails to meet the qualifications for asylum. Or, some applicants' stories might contain minor discrepancies that don't appear to be outright or deliberate lies, but that undercut their overall credibility.
If USCIS denies an applicant's asylum request, but the person has some other valid status in the U.S. to fall back on, such as a student or work visa, it's possible the person will be able to keep that status and remain in the United States.
The USCIS officer reviewing the case is, however, expected to refer any instances of fraud to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). That agency will then follow up and investigate the matter further. If it believes the applicant to have committed fraud, it can place the person in removal proceedings and strip them of their alternative status.
USCIS's first opportunity to ferret out fraud usually occurs when reviewing the Form I-589 and supporting documents that an applicant submits in order to request asylum. The reviewing officer will look for such things as:
These aren't the only ways in which USCIS might spot fraud, of course, but they are ones that USCIS will consciously and systematically look for.
Everyone who applies for asylum must appear for an in-person interview before an officer of USCIS; and if the officer doesn't grant asylum, before an Immigration Judge. The officer or judge will listen, ask questions, and seek to hear the person's complete story before making a decision on the case.
Again, consistency, plausibility, and the basic coherence of the story are key. But the decision maker may also look at the person's behavior for signs of fraud, watching for such things as:
If you're planning to apply for asylum in the U.S., stay away from any lawyer, notario, or other person who advises you to commit fraud in the course of doing so. (Also see Applying for U.S. Asylum: How Much Will It Cost?.)
But do make sure you understand the grounds for asylum eligibility, and do your best to submit and document a claim that will meet the legal requirements. A lawyer is the best resource for help with this. Many nonprofit organizations will help you find free or low-cost legal help with an asylum case.
Need a lawyer? Start here.