In making an application for asylum in the United States, the applicant’s apparent 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. Winning a grant of asylum is largely up to their ability to recount their experiences completely, consistently, and persuasively. Any indication that the 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) or the Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR). At the very least, a fraud finding by USCIS will result in a denial of asylum, 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.
Fortunately, not everyone who is denied asylum is considered to have committed fraud. Some applicants may tell a truthful story, but one that simply fails to qualify them for asylum. Some applicants’ stories might contain minor discrepancies that don’t appear to be outright or deliberate lies, but that undercut their overall credibility.
However, 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.
What if USCIS denies the 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? The USCIS officer reviewing the case is 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 may place the person in removal proceedings.
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. But do make sure you understand the grounds for eligibility, and do your best to submit 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.