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When foreign nationals enter the U.S., CBP often questions individuals about their immigration history, the purpose of the trip, and who they are visiting. Failing to truthfully answer CBP questions can have dire consequences.
CBP Questions and the “Misrepresentation” Grounds of Inadmissibility
The Immigration and Nationality Act has a section with a list of things that make individuals “inadmissible” to the United States. This means that someone who is “applying for admission”, whether by submitting a visa application, requesting to be let into the country at customs or the border, or trying to adjust status and become a green card holder, may not be allowed to do those things if they fall into one of the mentioned categories. INA Section 212(a)(2)(6)(C) is entitled “Misrepresentation” and reads as follows:
Any alien who, by fraud or willfully misrepresenting a material fact, seeks to procure (or has sought to procure or has procured) a visa, other documentation, or admission into the United States or other benefit provided under this Act is inadmissible.
An individual entering the United States on a visa is “requesting admission” at the time her or she speaks to Customs and Border Patrol. Therefore, if he or she lies (or in some other way misrepresents) something when CBP questions them, they can be found inadmissible.
What is Inadmissibility and What Can You Do About It?
If an individual is rendered inadmissible, he or she generally will not be eligible to enter the United States, obtain a visa, or change or adjust status from within the United States. Basically, it can totally screw up someone’s ability to come to or remain in the United States.
On the bright side, some individuals who are deemed inadmissible may be eligible for a waiver of inadmissibility. If you are applying for an immigrant visa or adjustment of status (i.e. a green card), then you would need an I-601 waiver. If you are applying for a non-immigrant visa or non-immigrant status, then you would generally need a 212(d)(3) nonimmigrant waiver. There are a few exceptions to these rules, but they are rare. Not everyone qualifies for these waivers, and they can be expensive and complicated, so its best to avoid them if possible.
How Will USCIS or the Consulate Find Out About a Misrepresentation?
USCIS and U.S. consulates have the ability to request records from CBP regarding encounters at the border or other point of entry. Sometimes those records contain information about what an individual stated in response to CBP questions.
Additionally, there is now a question on the new Form I-485 that specifically asks about misrepresentations. And as much as it might be tempting to simply mark “no” to this question even if you’ve made a misrepresentation, this could cause extreme problems in the future, including a finding of immigration fraud and revocation of a green card.