Amidst Fear of Terrorism, US CIS Sets Goals for Screening Fraudulent Green Card Applications
Published January 6, 2009

Recently, the U.S. Congressional Committee on Homeland Security commissioned a study of fraud among immigrant Adjustment of Status applications, after a 2004 warning from the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (the 9/11 Commission) that members of terrorist organizations could easily “embed” themselves in the U.S. by becoming Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs). Last month, the findings were presented to the Congressional Committee, along with recommendations of ways that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) might apply more scrutiny to each individual application.

First, however, CIS faced the task of purging the back-up of roughly 329,000 Adjustment of Status applications that were awaiting FBI name checks. This name check, which identifies individuals who have been investigated by the FBI on national security or public safety matters, is an additional screen beyond two fingerprint checks – within the Treasury Enforcement Communications System watch list and the Department of Justice (FBI) records of criminal convictions – conducted by CIS for each application. For several months, the FBI name checks were causing large delays in the adjudication of Adjustment of Status applications, allowing individuals with questionable FBI records to remain in the country. From mid-2007 to fall of 2008, the FBI hired additional staff and contractors to address these applications, and the agency decreased the pending applications from 329,000 to 32,000, promising a wait time of 30-90 days for this portion of the process.

Last month’s Committee study (conducted by the Government Accountability Office) reported that, beyond dealing appropriately with name check delays, CIS’s Office of Fraud Detection and National Security has identified six specific categories of vulnerability in application fraud, and has conducted research studies in each area.

  • petitions for religious workers,
  • petitions for skilled and unskilled workers,
  • applications to replace green cards,
  • petitions for alien spouses,
  • petitions for alien relatives from Yemen and
  • applications for asylum.

To date, however, CIS has developed and presented findings on only the first and third categories. The remaining vulnerability areas are still being addressed – with no definitive end in sight. The Congressional Committee study concluded that in order to reduce the country’s vulnerability in immigration applications, it was imperative that CIS set a timeframe for completing these reports, then address the issues contained therein as soon as possible.

Lastly, the Committee study found a lack of standard procedures in adjudicating Adjustment of Status applications – in particular, the lack of guidance as to which pieces of information contained within the application should require verification. Its final recommendation was that these requirements be established, so that individual adjudicators are held to a high standard in verifying potentially fraudulent applications.

For more information on the study, see: 

Copyright © 2009, By Law Offices of Richard Hanus, Chicago, Illinois