By Attorney Farhad Sethna © 2015
It should be no surprise that the San Bernardino killings will make it harder to get fiancé (and family-based) visa approvals.
On December 2, 2015, Tashfeen Malik and her husband Syed Rizwan Farook shot and killed 14 victims at a holiday party in San Bernardino, California, and wounded many more. Syed was a native born US citizen of the Muslim faith, and had recently brought his wife Tashfeen into the USA on a fiancée visa. There is even some unverified reporting that Tashfeen posted “jihadist” comments on a social media site.
According to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, a Republican from the State of Virginia, who has reviewed Tashfeen Malik’s immigration file, at least two errors were committed in the course of approving Ms. Malik’s visa:
- The immigration authorities approved the fiancée visa application even though there is no proof that the two parties met in person. Under the law, in order to obtain a fiancée visa, the two parties – the US citizen and the alien fiancé – must show that they met in person within the last two years unless such a meeting would be contrary to religion or custom; and
- Even after the petitioner-Syed Rizwan Farook- was asked to provide additional proof of the couple’s actually meeting in person and never did, the application was nevertheless approved.
If found to be true, that leaves the USCIS with another black eye – similar to the black eye that the (then) INS suffered in 2002, when it issued visa extensions to two of the dead hijackers who were involved in the 9/11 attacks.
The new allegations come even as the State Department refuses to publicly disclose the couple’s immigration file.
What does this mean for individuals who now seek to apply for a fiancée visa?
What this means is that these individuals will now have to provide additional proof of their meeting together and their relationship. As I previously advised my own clients, and have written elsewhere on this blog, immigration is not simply filling out a form. The San Bernardino attacks have now raised the bar on fiancé visas, as well as for other immigration applications, especially family-based petitions. The echoes of the San Bernardino shootings will reverberate in immigration practice for years to come. Not only will couples have to show additional proof of their relationship together and their in person meeting, but it is also likely that immigration authorities will now start searching through social media sites in order to uncover facts about applicants.
Will this affect applications for other family-based visas?
Absolutely. It would be foolish to consider that USCIS will continue its current procedures. It will add another layer of screening – this time combing through social media and other undisclosed sources – possibly even terrorist “watch lists” for suspicious behavior. This will doubtless require additional resources, add additional time to processing, and cause delays if indeed an applicant or beneficiary is “flagged” for further investigation.
How can an applicant’s case withstand such scrutiny?
Obviously, in the face of such increased scrutiny, all applicants for immigration benefits must consider the truthfulness of their assertions, avoid statements which are not based on facts, and refrain from posting “off-the-cuff” comments, half truths, allegations or incorrect information on social media and other publicly viewable websites.
For further information on this and other topics, stay tuned. Please visit my blog at www.immigration-america.com for updates on this important issue and other cutting edge immigration items as they develop.
About the author: Attorney Farhad Sethna has practiced law for over 20 years. Since 1996, he has been an adjunct professor of Immigration Law at the University of Akron, School of Law, in Akron, Ohio. He is a frequent speaker at Continuing Legal Education and professional development seminars on various immigration-related topics. His practice is limited to immigration and small business. With offices in Cuyahoga Falls, Akron and Dover, Ohio, Attorney Sethna represents clients in all types of immigration cases. Our number is: (330)-384-8000. Please send your general immigration questions to AttorneySethna@immigration-america.com. We will try to answer as many questions as possible.
This is only general legal information. Please consult a qualified immigration attorney for advice on your specific case.