\ afm \ Adjudicator's Field Manual - Redacted Public Version \ Chapter 15 Interviewing. \ 15.4 Interview Procedures.
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15.4 Interview Procedures.
(a) Basic Interview Procedures and Techniques
Conducting successful interviews is a skill which requires knowledge and experience. Successful approaches will vary widely depending on the interviewer, the interviewee, and subject and purpose of the interview. Certain standards (such as those relating to the rights of the individual and the need for professionalism) remain constant; others change according to the circumstances.
Interview proceedings are not to be adversarial in nature. The purpose of the interview is to obtain the correct information in order to make the correct adjudication of the case, not to prove a particular point or to find a reason to deny the benefit sought. The purpose is to cover (and discover) all the pertinent information, both favorable and unfavorable to the applicant.
The following observations apply to all interviews:
(b) Preparing for the Interview
- The successful interview process begins when USCIS issues a call-in notice. In addition to accurately explaining the purpose of the interview, the notice should instruct the attorney (or in an unrepresented case, the person(s) being interviewed) on what to bring to the interview. In all cases, the notice should at least instruct the attorney / person being interviewed(s) to bring the originals of all documents previously submitted as photocopies.
- Do not commence an interview, even though time may be limited, until you have reviewed the application or petition and relating material, including submissions made by the applicant or the applicant’s attorney or representative. Depending upon the case, this may range from a rapid scanning of the file to an intensive study of all available material. However, it is essential that the review of the material be made before commencing the questioning in order for the adjudicator to have the requisite knowledge and understanding of all the facts and circumstances involved in the case. Otherwise, the questioning may not cover all pertinent points. The review should be sufficiently thorough to enable the adjudicator to cover all issues necessary for an adjudication, thereby avoiding any need for recalling the applicant, petitioner, or witness for further questioning on an issue which could have been covered during the initial interview. Review of the applicable provisions of the law and precedent decisions also should be made, if necessary, to ensure thorough familiarity with any legal issue that may be developed by questioning. In addition, when possible the adjudicator should review submissions made at the time of an interview that may assist in resolving legal issues. The more complete the preliminary preparation of the case prior to beginning the interview, the better equipped you will be to conduct an efficient interview, without time-wasting repetition or needless questions.
- If complex issues are involved, prepare an outline of the logical sequence of questioning to be followed, the information to be developed, and the evidence to be utilized. Such outlines are most conducive to eliciting all essential facts. Additionally, it may be advisable to select certain material from the file or relating files and arrange such material in the sequence of the plan of questioning. The extent of necessary preliminary preparation depends upon the issues involved in the individual case.
(c) At the Interview
- Greet the interviewee in a polite, dignified manner to put him or her at ease.
- Identify yourself, giving your name and title.
- Begin the interview with an explanation in non-technical terms of the purpose of the interview.
- Obtain identification from all parties to the interview, including interpreters, attorneys, and/or other representatives, unless identity has been previously established.
- Administer the following oath: "Do you solemnly swear (or affirm) that the statements you are about to make will be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?"
- The oath or affirmation should always be administered in such a manner as to impress upon the person being interviewed the solemnity of the occasion and the importance of the testimony that he is about to give. The adjudicator and the person(s) being interviewed should stand and raise their right hands during the administration of the oath or affirmation. The fact that the interview is being conducted under oath or affirmation should be noted in the transcript or in the file. If a verbatim question and answer statement is taken, the exact wording of the oath or affirmation should be included in the transcript. If such a statement is not taken, the memorandum record of the interview should show that the person being interviewed was under oath or affirmation.
- An applicant or his or her attorney or representative should be permitted to present documents or other evidence that may help to clarify an issue of concern to the interviewer. When possible, such evidence should be submitted and reviewed before the interview, and when relevant, should be added to the applicant's file.
- In certain other types of cases where more than one individual is to be questioned, it is generally best to question each party separately, asking each party several of the same questions in order to identify inconsistent answers. It may be necessary to recall either party for further questioning if contradictory answers are provided. In other types of interviews, an entire family group may be interviewed collectively.
- In a case where there is reason to believe that a witness under oath has given or may give false testimony, it may be advisable to inform the subject that willfully giving false testimony on a material matter under oath constitutes the crime of perjury, and that a person convicted of perjury is subject to a penalty of a fine, imprisonment or both. (However, see the comment below about challenging every false statement immediately.)
- Should the interviewing officer be required to leave the office for any reason during the interview, the relating file(s) should be removed to avoid unauthorized review during the officer's absence.
(d) Questioning Techniques
- All questions are either "closed-ended" or "open-ended."
- Closed-ended questions call for specific, factual and usually brief responses (e.g., "Have you ever been arrested?").
- Open-ended questions solicit views, opinions, thoughts and feelings and generally call for longer, narrative-type responses (e.g., "Tell me about any arrest you have had."). Open-ended questions are normally more useful in assessing an individual's credibility and for eliciting statements which may later be supported or contradicted.
- Leading questions, which assume a controversial fact or suggest the answer, should be avoided except to expedite obtaining preliminary identifying material. For example, the leading question "You have never been arrested?" anticipates and assumes the subject's answer.
- The person(s) being interviewed should be permitted to give a full explanation of any issue involved in the case. Fairness requires consideration of all relevant evidence. In some instances, detailed questioning may be desirable in order to make it more difficult for the subject to disavow his statements at a later time or to fabricate a new story. USCIS officers are reminded that the purpose of the interview is to develop the facts, favorable as well as unfavorable, with equal fairness to the subject and to the interests of the Government, in order to properly adjudicate the application or petition.
(e) Concluding or Terminating an Interview
An adjudicator should not unnecessarily prolong an interview, but should conclude it when all necessary information has been elicited. The person(s) being interviewed(s) should be thanked for cooperating and providing information.
On some occasions it may be necessary to terminate an interview even though all essential information has not been elicited; however, termination should be avoided whenever possible. Termination may be necessary in the following situations, which are not intended to be exclusive:
- The person being interviewed is unable to communicate without an interpreter, and one is not available.
- An interpreter clearly has difficulty translating effectively.
- The officer has reasonable doubts about either the ability or impartiality of an interpreter supplied by the interviewee, and a USCIS or DHS interpreter is not immediately available.
- An attorney or other representative of an applicant or petitioner insists on responding to questions or coaching the person being interviewed.
- An attorney or other representative of an applicant or petitioner insists on interpreting for his or her client during an interview.
- The person being interviewed refuses to respond to questions essential to the successful completion of the interview.
- The conduct of the attorney or other representative has exceeded the bounds of zealous representation and interferes with the ability of the officer to conduct the interview.
The interviewing officer should explain the reason(s) for the termination. When appropriate, the interview should be rescheduled and (if needed) arrangements made for a competent interpreter. If the person being interviewed(s) or the attorney or other representative insists on continuing, a supervisor should be informed of the reason for the termination. It is the responsibility of the supervisor to determine if termination is warranted and to deal with the subject(s) and/or the attorney or representative if they refuse to accept an unfavorable determination.
(f) After the interview
- An applicant or petitioner, or attorney or accredited representative with a properly executed "Notice of Entry of Appearance as Attorney or Accredited Representative" (Form
), may request a copy of the record of proceedings, including any written record of an interview conducted before a USCIS officer, by filing a Freedom of Information/Privacy Act Request (Form
Appendix 15-2, Techniques for Interviewing and Preparing Sworn Statements.]