\ afm \ Adjudicator's Field Manual - Redacted Public Version \ Chapter 15 Interviewing. \ 15.6 Sworn Statements.
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A very important and often overlooked aspect of the district adjudications officer’s job is the ability to take useful sworn statements. Because these statements often result in action at higher levels, it is incumbent on the adjudicator to do the best job possible. The sworn statement becomes part of a permanent, official record; successful prosecution may depend on the evidence gained in the statement.
As with any other report writing responsibility, an adjudicator conducting an interview must learn to focus in on an answering the following questions: when? who? what? where? why? and how? More importantly, the adjudicator must structure the statement in a manner that is logical, using a clear progression of facts and questions and not jumping back and forth. Each relevant fact uncovered in a statement should be explored by further questioning and developed to the extent necessary before changing t
The interviewing adjudicator should clearly understand the distinction between interviews and interrogations. An officer conducting an interview will sometimes find that the facts revealed in that interview will lead to the conclusion that a more detailed inquiry is required. This type of inquiry is generally referred to as an interrogation and frequently involves eliciting information a subject wishes to conceal.
is the questioning of a person who is believed to have knowledge that is of official interest to the officer. Although it may occur under oath, it is non-adversarial and informal in nature. Routine interviews are generally conducted for naturalization, adjustment of status, etc. An interview ordinarily does not include questioning which extends much beyond the standard questions contained on the application or petition itself.
is the questioning of a person suspected of having committed an offense or of a person who is reluctant to make a full disclosure of information in his possession which is pertinent to the investigation. It is a detailed and formal event, generally employing an organized written record in either narrative or question and answer format. Interrogation is often lengthy, detailed and may become adversarial if the person being questioned wants to conceal information detrimental to his or her own interests.
In both cases, however, the officer must possess basic qualities that will maximize the chances of obtaining the information needed. Questions often deal with topics of great sensitivity to the subject. Techniques for conducting effective interviews and taking proper statements are discussed in Appendix 15-2.
The ideal format for most interviews and simple statements in most situations is
. Videotape records not only the answers, but also the demeanor and actions of the interviewee. Properly done, there can be no doubt as to what the interviewee actually said or did. (Improperly done, it also records answers which are indistinct or unintelligible.) Videotape can be transcribed at a later date for use in removal proceedings, but is also immediately available for confronting the interviewee (and/or the interviewee's spouse) with inconsistencies; it allows the conversation to flow without i
mpediments caused by limitations on the officer's typing speed or other factors; it can be reviewed by supervisors during the course of the interview so that suggestions on alternate tactics or questions may be made; and it enables the officer and his supervisor to more effectively review the officer's interview techniques to improve future interviews. Although audio tape can also be used, it is not nearly as effective as videotape.
Under certain circumstances an officer may deem it appropriate to obtain a detailed written record of the interview. Depending on the particular circumstances of the case, this may take the form of a narrative affidavit or a question and answer statement. There are several reasons that may warrant a written record. When the information elicited during the interview will be used as the basis for a denial of the application or will constitute the basis for further inquiry at the consular office, that infor
mation must be recorded in a narrative affidavit or a question-and-answer statement.
If the issues are not controversial or involved, a narrative affidavit on Form I-215W is a practical and effective way of taking a statement. The narrative affidavit form makes it possible to reduce the essence of a statement into a concise and compact form. It requires less time and is less difficult to prepare than a question and answer statement. However, the adjudicator must be satisfied that the affiant understands and reads English. If the alien does not understand and read English, an interpreter
must be employed. If the adjudicator is fluent in the alien's language, he or she may interview the alien in that language and note the record accordingly. If a separate interpreter is employed, affix to the affidavit a signed statement from the interpreter that he or she read the affidavit to the affiant in his or her own language and that the affiant, before signing, stated he or she understood the contents of the affidavit. An affidavit should be typed, or written in legible longhand by the adjudicato
r, and signed by the affiant. If prepared in longhand, where feasible, the affidavit should be reproduced in typewritten form and again signed by the affiant. It is also desirable to have a narrative affidavit witnessed by another officer if adverse material is contained in the affidavit, as duress or undue influence may be claimed later.
The verbatim question and answer statement is preferred where the issues are controversial or involved. It leaves little ground for misinterpretation or claims that important information given to the adjudicator has been omitted or misunderstood. However, care must be taken that immaterial and irrelevant matters are not introduced into the transcript. Generally, question and answer statements are recorded by a stenographer or on sound recording equipment. However, if neither a stenographer nor sound rec
ording equipment is available, the questioning may be recorded in legible longhand.
is used for the face sheet in question and answer statements.
Examination and cross-examination, if necessary, should be conducted to develop all known applicable facts. The adjudicator must keep in mind the purpose of the statement and neither engage in a "fishing expedition" nor allow the person being questioned to take the initiative and litter the record with extraneous material. Irrelevant and "off the record" statements should be discouraged. The stenographer or interpreter, if either is employed, should be encouraged to call the adjudicator's attention to an
y factor which makes it difficult to obtain a complete and clear stenographic record.
The statement should generally be developed in chronological and logical sequence with respect to all pertinent details. This will assure clarity and completeness. Even when a statement is written or dictated by the adjudicator, it is essential to use the peculiar phraseology of the subject. The affiant’s exact words should be used. Otherwise, it could be shown that he or she did not understand what was signed, and it could be argued that the statement was not made freely and voluntarily, and that it doe
s not represent a true record of what was said. In controversial matters, background information should be thoroughly covered for positive identification purposes. The background information, by its intimate detail, indicates to a certain degree that the statement was obtained in a free and voluntary manner.
Signatures and Jurat
The signature, jurat and witnessing of a narrative affidavit statement should be executed using the following format:
I have read the foregoing and verify that it is true and correct to the best of my knowledge and belief, and that it is a full, true and correct record of my statement before the above-named officer of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. I have initialed the first page of this affidavit and the correction(s) noted on page(s)
Subscribed and sworn to before me at
District Adjudications Officer
Citizenship and Immigration Services
Witness (if USCIS officer, identify by title) (address of office)
If the question and answer format is used for the statement, Form I-263A may be used for this purpose.
If a statement is transcribed by a stenographer, it should be certified by the stenographer as a true and complete transcript of the shorthand notes or of the recorded interview, as the case may be. The shorthand notes or sound recording should be retained in the file in a property envelope, appropriately labeled, for possible future use, such as in a contested case. Transcripts of statements should, if possible, be prepared immediately after the statement is taken and the signature of the person obtained
before he leaves the office.
Statements should be signed in the presence of the officer executing the jurat (normally the officer taking the statement), and a witness. Another officer may sign as a witness. Witnesses should be in a position to testify, if necessary, that the subject:
reviewed the entire statement with the officer;
consented to and knew of any changes made and initialed each change,
appeared to understand the contents of the statement;
appeared to know what he or she was doing;
acted of his or her own free will; and that acknowledged the statement to be true and correct.
If an individual is unable to sign his or her name, but indicates approval, he or she may sign by a mark. It is desirable to have two witnesses in such case. The adjudicator or other witness should write the person's given name before the mark the affiant’s surname after the mark. The word "his" or "her" should be placed over the mark and the word "mark" below.
In order to avoid claims of alterations or substitutions in a sworn question and answer or narrative statement, each page should be signed or initialed by the affiant. Any change or correction should be initialed by the person making the statement. Deliberate errors may sometimes be introduced into the statement for correction and initialing to indicate that the maker of the statement has read and observed the contents of that particular page.