Can You Cheat the USCIS Background Checks and Get Away with It?

In the preceding blog post, we wrote about the subject of background checks—background checks that sometimes raise the temperature of USCIS interview rooms. This blog post will illustrate the background checks in action.

In 2017, the Administrative Appeals Office examined the case of an Australian–we’ll call her “Kim”–living in the United States.

With a storm brewing in the background and with sharks in the foreground, things don’t look so good for the man on the boat in Winslow Homer’s “The Gulf Stream”

Kim wanted to be a US permanent resident, so she applied for permanent residence based on her 1980 marriage to a US citizen.

USCIS reviewed her application and, after providing her with an interview, the agency found that the law did not permit her to become a permanent resident (in the parlance, she was “inadmissible”). But Kim would learn she did still have a path to permanent residency: she could ask for forgiveness, for un perdón, for—in the parlance of the law–“a waiver of inadmissibility.”

(USCIS did more specifically describe the reason for Kim’s predicament: according, to the agency, Kim could not become a permanent resident because she committed misrepresentation or fraud in seeking a visa or permanent residence.)

Although putting together a well-documented, well-prepared application for forgiveness is an onerous task, Kim could ask for forgiveness. And, Kim decided, she would.

To merit the forgiveness she sought, Kim needed to show that USCIS’ refusal to give her permanent residence would cause “extreme hardship” to her US citizen spouse. The legal standard was clear.

But, how did she meet it?

She didn’t.

Her application for forgiveness was shot down, denied. And the Administrative Appeals Office, which reviewed the denial, saw nothing wrong with it.

The background check appears to have doomed Kim.

Kim stated in her permanent residence application that she had married her US citizen spouse in 1980. However, on two US temporary visa applications in 2003, Kim provided that married another gentleman from Guinea. Then, in 2007, she reported in a temporary visa application that she had married a citizen of Sierra Leone. The AAO had doubts about whether the 1980 marriage was valid.

In all, the AAO found there were numerous inconsistencies relating not only to Kim’s marital status, but also to her country of birth, her dates of birth, and the name of her spouse, which called into question her true identity and whether she was married to a US citizen.

Things did not work out well for Kim.

Her case provides helpful example of how background checks can bring doom and gloom, like the tempest and the sharks in Winslow Homer’s “The Gulf Stream” painting.