The Board of Immigration Appeals recently issued a sobering decision that underscores the importance of understanding your own immigration case and knowing what you are filing. In Matter of Valdez, 27 I&N Dec. 496 (BIA 2018), the Board discounted the appellant's claim that they should not be held accountable for false statements contained in their applications because they were not fully aware of what the preparer was asserting on their behalf. In the case of the Valdezes, their green card applications were approved on the basis of Mr. Valdez serving as a religious worker. However, Mr. Valdez never worked as a minister with the church that sponsored him. His defense in court was that English was not his native language and he did not understand or appreciate that his application contained false information. Neither the immigration court nor the BIA gave much credence to this argument. The BIA essentially held that ignorance of the contents of an application prepared by someone else does not absolve the applicant. When an individual has signed an immigration application, there is a strong presumption that the signer knows and understands what he/she is signing off on. In fact, "given the nature and significance of immigration documents...it is reasonable to expect that aliens will take steps to ascertain the accuracy of documents they sign and obtain a translation, if necessary." Eschewing reading or translation of an application's contents does not constitute a legitimate excuse. Of course, there are genuine instances where applicants were deceived and truly unaware of what was being filed for them. However, in order to overcome this strong presumption of knowledge, the onus is on the applicant to demonstrate fraud, deceit, or malfeasance.
Late last year, USCIS began implementing its expansion of in-person interviews for adjustment of status applicants. Prior to October, interviews for employment-based I-485 petitions were largely waived unless there were issues that needed to be addressed, ie., criminal arrests, violation of status, etc. Now, the protocol is that nearly all employment-based green card applicants will need to appear for an interview before their cases can be approved. This includes employment based preference categories 1 through 3.