\ afm \ Adjudicator's Field Manual - Redacted Public Version \ Appendices \ Appendix 15-2 Non-Adversarial Interview Techniques. \ Appendix 15-2 Part 2
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Appendix 15-2 Part 2
B. Information the Officer Needs to Elicit at the Interview
The basic information the officer needs to elicit during the interview must answer the following questions:
1. Who is the interviewee?
2. Is the applicant or beneficiary eligible for the benefit sought?
3. If the applicant or beneficiary is not eligible for the benefit, is there a waiver of ineligibility available to the individual?
4. Did the applicant or beneficiary participate in any activity that would make him or her ineligible for admission to the United States? (Even if this issue may not bear directly on eligibility for the benefit sought, it could prove relevant to a subsequent application. For example, determining that an I-130 beneficiary is inadmissible would not affect the adjudication of the I-130 petition, but would bear upon the subsequent applicant for an immigrant visa or adjustment of status. Accordingly, in such sit
uations, the inadmissibility should be noted (and if possible, documented) in the file.)
5. If the law provides for administrative discretion in the adjudication of the application before the officer (or any concomitant waiver application), what are the positive and negative discretionary factors involved in this case?
C. Officer’s Duty to Elicit Information
The officer has the affirmative duty to elicit all relevant and useful information bearing on the applicant or beneficiary’s eligibility for the benefit sought.
1. “Eliciting” information means more than simply asking questions, receiving responses, and moving on to the next topic. The officer often must draw forth additional information from the interviewee that has a bearing on the applicant or beneficiary’s eligibility.
2. Although the officer must cover the information that is requested in the form, he or she should not merely ask the same questions that are on the form. Rather, the officer must expand upon this information by asking additional questions in order to probe into all the issues involved in the adjudication. An answer to one question may lead to additional questioning that is necessary to have a complete picture of the events that occurred or issues involved.
3. The officer must not limit the inquiry to what the interviewee believes is important in the claim. Most interviewees do not know U.S. immigration law and may not be aware of what is important to present in their testimony.
4. For a variety of reasons, an interviewee sometimes may give a vague or non-responsive answer to the officer’s question. The officer cannot simply move forward to another line of inquiry; instead, the officer must ask follow-up questions to expand upon and clarify the interviewee’s statements.
Eliciting the interviewee’s testimony by probing for additional information and following up on his or her statements are critical .
III. PRE-INTERVIEW PREPARATION
Prior to conducting the interview, the officer should review the file and supporting documents, as well as any background information that is available and necessary. This review can provide the basis for determining lines of questioning to pursue during the interview. The officer should have an idea of the issues raised in the application or petition that need to be expanded upon in the course of the interview. However, the officer must not let this pre-interview preparation of questions prevent him or her
from exploring additional issues that arise during the interview.
IV. TYPES OF QUESTIONS
There are various types of questions, some that are useful in the adjudication context and others that are not. Officers must be aware of the effects of their questions and the kind of information that the questions do or do not elicit. Officers must be flexible in changing the types of questions they use to fit the circumstances of the interview.
Educators and linguists have categorized questions in a number of different ways. For purposes of the adjudication interview, we are using the following categories.
A. Open-Ended Questions
As the name suggests, an open-ended question is framed in such a way that the interviewee is given the opportunity to expand his or her response to give a full and open answer. The open-ended question generally begins with an interrogative such as “what,” “why,” or “how,” and elicits either descriptive or narrative information, such as a factual account of a situation or event, or an opinion.
Why did you leave your former spouse?
What did you do after your ex-spouse attacked you?
What happened then?
How did the authorities arrest your spouse?
Is there anything that you feel is important for me to know that we did not discuss?
Open-ended questions usually yield significantly more information than most other types of questions. Open-ended questions require that the officer be prepared to listen carefully in order to identify all points that are relevant to the applicant or petitioner’s claim. A complete response may expand beyond the original question to raise other important points that must be pursued with further questioning. The officer should take note of any additional questions or lines of questioning that come up while the
interviewee is responding to an open-ended question so that he or she will remember at a later point in the interview to ask the additional questions. The officer should be mindful that open-ended questions can also lead to lengthy discussions that include matters not relevant to the claim.
B. Closed Questions
These are questions that normally attract the basic answer “yes” or “no” or elicit a statement of fact that is strictly limited. Closed questions should be framed in such a way as to not suggest an answer.
a. elicits yes/no—usually begins with “did,” “does,” “do,” “is,” “are,” “was,” “were,” “has,” “have,” etc.
Did you and your spouse have breakfast together?
Did you go to the police for help?
b. elicits limited information.
What is the name of your spouse’s employer?
How many rooms are in your apartment?
How long have you worked for ABC company?
A “yes/no” question is very limited in the information it elicits; it usually does not elicit a complete description of the events. A limited information question elicits a brief reply and generally does not encourage the interviewee to explain the circumstances surrounding the information in the reply. For example, the question: “How long have you worked for ABC company?” may fail to elicit the fact that the interviewee only worked there on weekends and had a full-time job elsewhere.
Although closed questions, especially “yes/no” questions, can be limiting, closed questions may be useful in eliciting specific information. Appropriate closed questions can be used to probe into answers elicited by open-ended questions. Sometimes an interviewee may not give certain information unless it is specifically asked for, so certain closed questions may be used to elicit specific information. Responses to closed questions should often be followed-up by further questioning.
C. Multiple Choice Questions
A multiple choice question gives the interviewee a choice of two or more options.
a. limited options—usually points the interviewee in a particular direction by giving limited options to choose from.
When you left your house, did you tell anyone you were going or did you leave without talking to anyone?
b. open options—usually opens up a number of possible responses or indicates to the interviewee the type of answer the question is eliciting.
Approximately how often did you visit your mother-in-law: once a week, once a month, or daily?
This form of question limits the available answers the interviewee can give. It sometimes gives the impression that the officer already has an idea of what the answer is. Example “a” above gives the interviewee only two options—to indicate that he or she did or did not talk to anyone prior to leaving. It does not elicit an alternative answer such as: “I told my ex-husband I could never live under his tyranny, but I did not tell him that I was leaving or where I would go.”
Some multiple choice questions, however, are useful in structuring a response without leading the interviewee. Example “b” above is an example of a multiple choice question that may be useful in an interview, particularly if the interviewee is having difficulty forming a response. Generally, officers should try to recognize when they are asking limited option multiple choice questions and attempt to change these questions into open option questions or another type of question.
D. Leading Questions
Leading questions focus the interviewee’s answer in a particular direction. A leading question may indicate that the officer is expecting certain information.
“So, did you ever meet your future mother-in-law?”
“That really frightened you, didn’t it?”
The answer is “put into the interviewee’s mouth.” The interviewee may give an answer that he or she thinks the officer is suggesting, particularly when the interviewee feels under pressure, even though it may not be the answer the interviewee wants to give. Officers must remember that their task is to elicit information from the interviewee, not provide it.
Under some circumstances, leading questions can speed up the interview process in an acceptable manner, such as when confirming biographical information. “Do you still live at….?” is faster than “Where do you live?” (unless the officer has questions about the address.)
In general, however, the use of leading questions during a non-adversarial interview must be avoided, because interviewees are far more likely to fully disclose information if they are not asked leading questions.
E. Multiple Questions
Multiple questions are several questions asked together. If the officer asks multiple questions, it is usually done unconsciously. The officer may want to ask a question that actually has several parts or may change the question in mid-stream.
“How were you threatened and why, if you were so fearful for your life after receiving the threats, why did you wait six months to leave the country?”
“What were your experiences in jail, such as how long you were detained, the conditions of the jail, and how were you able to escape?”
In a normal conversation outside of the immigration interview context, individuals who speak the same language and know each other may use multiple questions without mis-communicating. At an immigration interview, however, a second language and an interpreter are often involved. In addition, culture presents another filter in this exchange of information. Therefore, multiple questions must go through more than one “filter,” and parts of what is said may be filtered out, creating problems in communication.
The interviewee may become confused and not know what to answer. This may cause the interviewee to hesitate before answering, possibly causing the officer to suspect that the interviewee is not being truthful or forthcoming.
If working through an interpreter, the question may not be translated completely. The officer may think the interviewee is answering one part of the question, when, in fact, the interviewee is answering another part of the question. This could lead to erroneous conclusions by the officer that the testimony is internally inconsistent or inconsistent with other information.
As a result, it is best to recognize that there is no advantage to asking multiple questions, they have the potential of compromising an interview, and multiple questions should be avoided.
F. Loaded Questions
A loaded question may indicate that a particular response may cause the officer to judge the interviewee. The tone of voice the officer uses can also convey to the interviewee that a particular answer is expected or that a certain answer will receive a negative or positive judgment from the officer.
“Why in the world did you do that?”
“Why didn’t you stay and protect your children instead of leaving them to fend for themselves?”
The use of loaded questions during adjudication interviews places the interviewee on the defense. This may impede the open flow of communication, since an interviewee who feels defensive may be reluctant to openly relate his or her experiences. Loaded questions must be avoided.
V. PROBE / FOLLOW-UP
“Probing” or “following-up” is
at an adjudication interview. The response to one question may lead to a number of additional questions in order to elicit further information about the particular topic or event. If responses are not followed-up with further questioning, the officer may discover after the interview that he or she does not have all the information needed to make an appropriate decision on credibility and the applicant or beneficiary’s eligibility for the benefit sought. Probing and following-up should become second nature
to the officers as an interviewing skill.
A. Probe into the Circumstances Surrounding an Event
1. The officer will often need to probe the testimony regarding a particularly important issue in order to gain a complete understanding of the circumstances surrounding the issue and the basis of the applicant or petitioner’s claim.
2. When probing, the officer must often base subsequent questions on the interviewee’s preceding responses. For example, if the interviewee says she was threatened, the officer must ask questions to determine
the content of the threat was,
made the threat, and
it was made.
3. If an interviewee cannot articulate the reasons for another person's actions, asking probing questions around the event(s) may assist in determining the other person's motive.
The officer will often need to clarify the meaning of an interviewee’s statements by asking follow-up questions.
1. Clarifying terms
If an interviewee uses a term such as “mistreated” or “abused,” the officer needs to find out exactly what the interviewee means. If the interviewee says that he or she was “hit,” the officer needs to elicit from the interviewee a description of what happened by asking such questions as “How?” “With what?” “Where?” and “Please describe… .”
2. Clarifying statements
Sometimes the officer will need to clarify statements that appear to be illogical or that have several meanings. For example, when asked how many children the interviewee has, an interviewee may state that she is the mother of five children; however, she may also have several step-children that she is not including because she did not give birth to them, or she may be including children who are deceased. Such matters must be clarified.
C. Ask Questions About Events in Relation to Background Information
A thorough knowledge of background information and precedent decisions is essential in order to ask appropriate follow-up questions. An officer who is well versed in such matters will be better able to ask relevant follow-up questions and will be less likely to miss important facts.
D. Connect Statements Made at Different Points in the Testimony
The officer may often need to connect statements the interviewee made at one point in the interview with statements the interviewee made at another point in the interview, asking follow-up questions about the relationship between the two statements. For example, an applicant for a section 212(e) waiver based on persecution states at the beginning of the interview that she has two brothers in the military. Later she states that guerrillas targeted her house when they raided her village but that she does not
know why they targeted her house. It would be appropriate to probe further to determine whether there is any connection between her brothers’ membership in the military and the guerrillas’ attack on her house.
E. Review Pertinent Documents in Relation to Interviewee’s Testimony
The applicant or petitioner may submit documents in support of his or her claim. The officer must review these documents carefully and compare the information contained in the documents with the information the interviewee presented during the interview. The information in the documents may raise further lines of questioning that the officer must pursue.
For example, at the beginning of the interview an applicant for HRIFA adjustment states that he entered the U.S. on June 10, 1995, after escaping from prison. Later in the interview, the interviewee submits a Haitian arrest document that is dated July 1, 1995. The officer must determine the reason for the discrepancy in dates. It is possible that the interviewee actually came to this country in July and made a mistake when giving the date, that the interpreter misinterpreted the dates, that the arrest docum
ent is incorrect or false, etc.
F. Follow-Up on Vague or Non-Responsive Answers
The officer must always follow up on non-responsive answers. If the interviewee’s answer is vague or does not directly answer the question, or if the interviewee does not answer the question at all, this may be a signal that the officer, the interpreter, or the interviewee, has not communicated clearly, or that the interviewee is not being forthright.
G. Be Alert to Issues Raised at Any Time During the Interview that Require Follow-Up Questioning
At any time during the interview, the interviewee may make a statement about which the officer needs additional information. This may open lines of questioning that are not apparent from the application form. The officer needs to be alert to any situation in which follow-up questioning is appropriate.
As noted above, probing or following-up on an interviewee’s statement is crucial at an adjudication interview. Without such follow-up questioning, the officer may miss important points and may not have enough information to make a well-reasoned decision.
VI. QUESTIONING TECHNIQUES
During the interview, the officer will have to draw on a range of question types and questioning techniques to elicit all the necessary information in a non-adversarial manner within time constraints. The officer must keep in mind the following techniques when interviewing:
A. Be an Active Listener
1. Listen carefully to the interviewee. It is imperative that the officer pay attention and listen to what the interviewee is saying so that the officer does not miss important information or critical lines of questioning.
2. Look at the interviewee rather than the interpreter when asking questions. Bear in mind that eye contact may have different meanings in different cultures and to survivors of severe trauma.
3. Show interest in what is being said. The officer must indicate that he or she is interested in what the interviewee is saying and should convey this impression to the interviewee through appropriate posture and facial expressions. The officer should conduct him or herself in a professional and business-like manner and should refrain from appearing bored, distracted, or disinterested.
4. Give encouragement to the interviewee to continue when appropriate. General leads, such as “go on” or “and then?,” leave the elaboration of the subject up to the interviewee, and encourage the interviewee to continue if he or she appears to have stopped without finishing a thought. This type of encouragement also indicates that the officer is following what has been said and is interested in what is to come next.
B. Keep Questions Simple
1. Use questions that are clear, short, and simple. An example of this would be the following string of questions: “Who would suffer hardship if you were to comply with your 2-year foreign residency requirement?” “What hardship do you think he/she would suffer?” “Why?”
2. When an interpreter is involved, and a long question is asked, break up the question into short phrases that can be easily translated. Likewise, if the interviewee has a long answer, he or she should be asked to break up the question into shorter phrases to be translated one at a time. Questions such as “Apart from the incident regarding the threat of kidnapping your son and the incidents of being robbed and beaten, did you have any other problems?” should be broken down so there is no confusion.
3. Avoid using several negatives in one question (i.e., “Isn’t it true that you didn’t get married until you found out that your I-140 petition had been denied?”). Such questions are difficult to understand and may cause problems in translation.
C. Clarify Understanding of What the Interviewee Has Said
The officer may need to confirm or clarify the meaning of parts of the interviewee’s testimony.
1. Repeat or rephrase questions. The interviewee may give a vague or unclear response because he or she did not understand the question. The officer may need to repeat or rephrase the question so that the interviewee understands the meaning of the question. The officer may also advise the interviewee that he or she does not understand, so that the interviewee can clarify. For example:
Q: “When did you meet your husband?”
A: “He belonged to a student group at school.”
Q: “You met your husband at school?”
did you meet him?”
2. Repeat or summarize what was said, or ask the interviewee to repeat or summarize parts of his or her claim. Repeating what was said can ensure that the officer does not miss any information. When the officer summarizes what he or she heard, the interviewee is given an opportunity to point out any misunderstandings or misinterpretations.
Summarizing parts of the testimony also brings together the important points of the discussion and gives each participant at the interview an organized picture of what was said. When summarizing, the officer should omit any irrelevant issues and should organize the pertinent information presented at the interview.
3. Ask the interviewee or interpreter to repeat the officer’s question. If an interviewee’s response does not answer the officer’s question, the officer can ask the interviewee or interpreter to repeat back to the officer the question asked to be certain that the question was understood.