The Criminal Past of U.S. Citizens Filing Petitions for Foreign Family Members
June 1, 2006

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (“CIS”) recently issued a policy memorandum setting forth circumstances under which the criminal history of a U.S. citizen filing a visa petition on behalf of a foreign family member will be disclosed to the foreign family member.

Although federal privacy laws generally prohibit the dissemination of the details of an individual’s criminal history to any third parties, exceptions do exist if “compelling circumstances affecting the health and safety of an individual” justify the disclosure of such information. In the context of immigration filings, CIS has now adopted a policy whereby a visa petitioner’s criminal history of violent or sexual offenses will now be communicated to the individual being petitioned – or their legal guardian, as long as the CIS officer in question determines that the criminal history is relevant to the “health and safety” of the individual being petitioned.

As an example, the CIS memo cites a U.S. citizen’s conviction as a sexual predator as a circumstance that would justify the release of information to the visa beneficiary who is the petitioner’s child or stepchild.

If the family member being petition is in the U.S., the disclosure of information will be made in writing to the individual’s last known U.S. address. If the visa beneficiary is overseas, CIS will communicate the relevant information to the U.S. Department of State consular post in question and from there, the information will be passed on to the intending immigrant.

Copyright © 2006-2008, By Law Offices of Richard Hanus, Chicago, Illinois