\ afm \ Adjudicator's Field Manual - Redacted Public Version \ Appendices \ Appendix 15-2 Non-Adversarial Interview Techniques.
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Appendix 15-2 Non-Adversarial Interview Techniques.
Interviews conducted by adjudication officers are non-adversarial in nature (as opposed to a court proceeding involving two attorneys, each representing a particular side before a judge). The following text contains information which has proven to be most useful in conducting non-adversarial interviews, regardless of the type of benefit being sought.
INTERVIEWING PART I: OVERVIEW OF THE NON-ADVERSARIAL INTERVIEW
An immigration officer will conduct an interview for each applicant, petitioner or beneficiary where required by law or regulation, or if it is determined that such interviewed is appropriate. The interview will be conducted in a non-adversarial manner, separate and apart from the general public. The officer must always keep in mind his or her responsibility to uphold the integrity of the adjudication process. As representatives of the United States Government, officers must conduct the interview in a profe
The results of the interview hold enormous consequences for the interviewee:
1. The interview may be the only, and frequently is the best, opportunity for the officer to elicit and clarify information upon which a decision is based;
2. The officer’s decision, whether an approval or denial, will have a significant impact on the interviewee’s life;
3. An applicant or beneficiary wrongly found ineligible for the benefit sought may suffer significant economic or personal consequences.
Due to the potential consequences of incorrect determinations, it is incumbent upon officers to conduct organized, focused, and well-planned, non-adversarial interviews to elicit sufficient facts to make intelligent and well-informed decisions.
II. PURPOSE OF THE INTERVIEW
One of the main tasks of the immigration officer is to interview applicants, petitioners and beneficiaries. The interview is often crucial in the adjudication process and serves the main purpose of gathering information. The officer cannot be passive during the interview; rather, the officer must elicit all relevant and useful information bearing on the interviewee’s eligibility for the benefit sought. “Eliciting” information often means more than simply asking questions and receiving responses. The officer
may need to draw forth from the interviewee information that has a bearing on his or her eligibility for the benefit. The officer must gather information in order to:
Establish the identity of those present at the interview;
Evaluate the credibility of the interviewee; and
Make a determination of the applicant or beneficiary’s eligibility for the benefit sought.
III. NON-ADVERSARIAL NATURE OF THE INTERVIEW
A. Concept of the Non-adversarial Interview
A non-adversarial proceeding is one in which the parties are not in opposition to each other. This is in contrast to adversarial proceedings, such as civil and criminal court proceedings, where two sides oppose each other by advocating their mutually exclusive positions before a neutral arbiter until one side prevails and the other side loses. A removal proceeding before an immigration judge is an example of an adversarial proceeding, where the Service trial attorney is seeking to remove a person from the U
nited States, while the alien is seeking to remain.
The interview is part of a non-adversarial proceeding. The principal intent of the Service is not to oppose the interviewee’s goal of obtaining a benefit, but to determine whether he or she qualifies for such benefit. If the interviewee qualifies for the benefit, it is in the Service’s interest to accommodate that goal. On the other hand, if he or she does not qualify for the benefit, it is in the Service’s interest to deny the application or petition. Therefore, unlike an adversarial proceeding, the intere
sts of the Service and the applicants are not mutually exclusive. In this determination, the officer is a neutral decision-maker, not an advocate for either side.
The non-adversarial nature of the interview allows the interviewee to present a claim in as unrestricted a manner as possible, within the inherent constraints of an interview before a government official. An interview before a government official may be intimidating for various reasons, including:
Prior negative experiences with authority figures;
The differences between the interviewee’s culture and the culture of the person conducting the interview; and
Fear of exposing information of a highly personal or sensitive nature.
B. Points to Keep in Mind When Conducting a Non-adversarial Interview
The officer’s role in the non-adversarial interview is to ask questions formulated to elicit and clarify the information needed to make a determination on the petitioner or applicant’s request. This questioning must be done in a professional manner that is non-threatening and non-accusatory.
1. The officer must:
Treat the interviewee with respect
. Even if someone is not eligible for the benefit sought based on the facts of the claim, the officer must treat him or her with respect. The officer may hear similar claims from many interviewees, but must not show impatience towards any individual. Even the most non-confrontational officer may begin to feel annoyance or frustration if he or she believes that the interviewee is lying; however, it is important that the officer keep these emotions from being expressed during the interview.
Be non-judgmental and non-moralistic
. Interviewees may have reacted to situations differently than the officer might have reacted. The interviewee may have left family members behind to fend for themselves, or may be a member of a group or organization for which the officer has little respect. Although officers may feel personally offended by some interviewee’s actions or beliefs, officers must set their personal feelings aside in their work, and avoid passing moral judgments in order to make neutral determinations.
Create an atmosphere in which the interviewee can freely express his or her claim
. The officer must make an attempt to put the interviewee at ease at the beginning of the interview and continue to do so throughout the interview. If the interviewee is a survivor of severe trauma (such as a battered spouse), he or she may feel especially threatened during the interview. As it is not always easy to determine who is a survivor, officers should be sensitive to the fact that every interviewee is potentially a survivor of trauma.
Treating the interviewee with respect and being non-judgmental and non-moralistic can help put him or her at ease. There are a number of other ways an officer can help put an interviewee at ease, such as:
Greet him or her (and others) pleasantly;
Introduce himself or herself by name and explain the officer’s role;
Explain the process of the interview to the interviewee so he or she will know what to expect during the interview;
Avoid speech that appears to be evaluative or that indicates that the officer thinks he or she knows the answer to the question;
Be patient with the interviewee; and
Keep language as simple as possible.
Treat each interviewee as an individual
. Although many claims may be similar, each claim must be treated on a case-by-case basis and each interviewee must be treated as an individual. Officers must be open to each interviewee as a potential approval.
Set aside personal biases
. Everyone has individual preferences, biases, and prejudices formed during life experiences that may cause them to view others either positively or negatively. Officers should be aware of their personal biases and recognize that they can potentially interfere with the interview process. Officers must strive to prevent such biases from interfering with their ability to conduct interviews in a non-adversarial and neutral manner.
Probe into all material elements of the interviewee’s claim
. The officer must elicit all relevant and useful information bearing on the applicant or beneficiary’s eligibility. The officer must ask questions to expand upon and clarify the interviewee’s statements and information contained on the form. The response to one question may lead to additional questions about a particular topic or event that is material to the claim.
Provide the interviewee an opportunity to clarify inconsistencies
. The officer must provide the interviewee with an opportunity during the interview to explain any discrepancy or inconsistency that is material to the determination of eligibility. He or she may have a legitimate reason for having related testimony that outwardly appears to contain an inconsistency, or there may have been a misunderstanding between the officer and the interviewee. Similarly, there may be a legitimate explanation for a discrepancy or inconsistency between information on the form and the int
On the other hand, the interviewee may be fabricating a claim. If the officer believes that an interviewee is fabricating a claim, he or she must be able to clearly articulate why he or she believes that the interviewee is not credible.
Maintain a neutral tone throughout the interview
. Interviews can be frustrating at times for the officer. The interviewee may be long-winded, may discuss issues that are not relevant to the claim, may be confused by the questioning, may appear to be or may be fabricating a claim, etc. It is important that the officer maintain a neutral tone even when frustrated.
2. The officer must not:
Argue in opposition to the applicant or petitioner’s claim (if the officer engages in argument, he or she has lost control of the interview);
Question the applicant in a hostile or abusive manner;
Take sides in the applicant or petitioner’s claim;
Attempt to be overly friendly with the interviewee; or
Allow personal biases to influence him or her during the interview, either in favor of or against the interviewee.
IV. COMPONENTS OF AN INTERVIEW
There are several components of an interview. Unless the interview is discontinued, the officer must include each of the components, which are:
1. Pre-interview preparation;
4. Verification of basic biographic information;
A. Pre-Interview Preparation
Upon receiving the case file, the officer should prepare for the interview before the interviewee is present. The officer should perform the following tasks:
1. Review the file to:
Ascertain if the application is complete--if the application is not complete, the discrepancies must be resolved during the interview or through submission of additional documentation after the interview;
Become familiar with the interviewee’s background and claim;
Identify issues to cover during the interview;
2. Review the background information. If the officer has a need to obtain information about a specific issue that is apparent in the case file, the officer should do so, if time allows and resources exist.
Each officer will develop his or her own style and technique for handling the introduction component of the interview. The interviewee will probably be feeling anxious about the interview that is about to take place. As soon as the officer meets the interviewee, the officer should attempt to establish a rapport with him or her. This can help to place the other person at ease during the interview so that he will be more comfortable explaining his or her claim. The officer can help alleviate some of the inter
viewee’s nervousness by explaining the process of the interview so that he or she will know what to expect. Whatever the officer’s individual style is, the following should be covered in a non-adversarial manner.
Greet the parties
. The officer should greet the interviewee and others and introduce himself or herself. The officer must verify the identity of the interviewee and all others, checking any identification documents, where appropriate. The officer should determine who may remain at the interview, taking into consideration that some interviewees may be reluctant to provide testimony either in the presence of others due to the sensitive nature of the testimony, or in their absence due to the anxiety of being alone.
Explain the purpose of the interview
. The officer should explain that the purpose of the interview is to give the interviewee an opportunity to present his or her claim and to allow the officer to gather the information that is necessary to make the correct determination.
. The officer should explain that the information that the interviewee provides remains within the United States government and is not shared with those outside of the United States government. Interviewees may be hesitant to disclose information if they believe it is not confidential for a variety of reasons. For example, descriptions of past events may be of a highly personal nature.
Explain the interview process
. The officer should explain that, during the interview, the officer will be asking questions about the applicant or beneficiary’s eligibility for the benefit being sought, and that the answers will be written into the file. The interviewee should be told that he or she will be given an opportunity to speak at the end of the interview on matters that he or she believes the officer should know.
Explain the interviewee’s responsibilities
. The officer should explain that the interviewee must:
Answer questions truthfully and to the best of his or her knowledge;
Tell the officer if he or she does not know the answer to a question, rather than guess at an answer or supply an answer that he or she thinks the officer wants;
Advise the officer if he or she does not understand a question; and,
Ask questions at any time during the interview.
Interviewees must be placed under oath prior to giving testimony. Some persons may have religious objections to using the term “swear” or “so help me God.” The officer should adapt the oath to accommodate such objections, ensuring that the interviewee understands that he or she is promising, under the law, to tell the truth. In addition, the interpreter must also be placed under oath. If the same interpreter is used for more than one interview, the interpreter only needs to be placed under oath prior to the
D. Verification of Basic Biographic and Entry Information
The officer must verify the biographic information that is contained on the application.
1. Information on the application must be verified and updated or corrected if necessary. Information about the applicant, petitioner or beneficiary may have changed between the time that the application was prepared and the interview, and the changes should be made on the application forms. Any corrections should be done in red ink (and numbered) to differentiate the correction from the original information.
2. Officers must be sure to compare information between the application documents and other documents that the interviewee may have, such as birth certificates, passports, marriage certificates, etc.
The officer has the affirmative duty to elicit information from the interviewee in a non-adversarial manner.
1. Although the officer must cover all of the information requested in the application or petition, the officer should not simply ask the same questions that are on the form. Instead, the officer must ask questions that give the interviewee a full opportunity to explain in his or her own words the reasons he or she is seeking the benefit.
2. If any information in the form conflicts with the interviewee’s oral testimony, or if there are any inconsistencies within the interviewee’s testimony, the officer
give him or her an opportunity to explain the discrepancies. The officer must make corrections on the form when necessary, advising the interviewee of the corrections.
3. The officer must pursue all relevant lines of questioning until he or she is certain that all pertinent information has been gathered in order to make a determination on the application or petition.
4. The officer must also allow the interviewee to ask questions as appropriate.
5. The officer must accept any additional relevant and material documents provided by the interviewee in support of his or her claim, although once the claim has been established, he or she may choose not to retain those which amount to “overkill.”
6. The officer should close the interview by asking the interviewee if he or she has any additional information that he or she believes is important for the officer to know, anything else he or she would like to state, or any questions he or she would like to ask.
V. TIME CONSTRAINTS
Officers must work under time constraints. Officers may interview as many as 20 or more persons per day, which allows for an average time of as little as 20 minutes per case. The tasks and time involved in completing a particular case may increase due to factors such as a complicated story that takes additional time to fully elicit and difficult issues that may arise during the course of the interview. To be able to successfully accomplish all of the tasks required, officers need to be able to work expediti
ously under the time constraints. This includes developing interviewing skills that will enable officer to quickly and efficiently gather all of the information needed to adjudicate the request.
Interviews should be conducted in a non-adversarial manner by an immigration officer, separate and apart from the public.
B. The Purpose of the Interview
1. Establish the identity of those present at the interview;
2. Evaluate credibility of the interviewee; and
3. Determine the applicant or beneficiary’s eligibility for the benefit sought.
C. Points to Keep in Mind When Conducting a Non-adversarial Interview
The officer must:
1. Treat the applicant with respect;
2. Be non-judgmental and non-moralistic;
3. Create an atmosphere in which the interviewee can freely express his or her own claim;
4. Treat each person as an individual;
5. Set aside personal biases;
6. Probe into all material elements of the claim;
7. Provide the interviewee with an opportunity to clarify inconsistencies;
8. Maintain a professional and neutral tone throughout the interview.
The officer must not:
1. Argue in opposition to the claim;
2. Question the interviewee in an adversarial or abusive manner;
3. Take a side in the interviewee’s claim;
4. Act in an overly friendly manner with the interviewee;
5. Allow personal biases to interfere with the interview.
D. The Components of an Interview
1. Pre-interview preparation—review the file and perform any necessary research;
2. Introduction—make introductions, explain the purpose and process of the interview, explain roles;
3. Oath—administer the oath to the interviewee(s);
4. Verification of basic biographic and identity information; and,
5. Testimony—elicit testimony, in a non-adversarial manner, regarding the facts that form the basis for the claim; pursue all lines of questioning that have a bearing on the claim; accept additional documents; allow interviewee to ask questions when appropriate.
E. Time Constraints
Officers must work under time constraints and must develop interviewing skills that will enable them to expeditiously and efficiently gather all of the information needed to adjudicate the application or petition.
INTERVIEWING PART II: ELICITING TESTIMONY
This segment discusses:
how to elicit information from an interviewee in a non-adversarial manner;
how to appropriately elicit necessary information;
the types of questions to ask; and
the questioning techniques to use.
When interviewing, the officer controls the interview. However, the officer only has control over his or her own actions, and not those of the interviewee. Therefore, when the interview is not going smoothly, the officer should change his or her own approach, not the interviewee’s behavior, to remedy the situation. (However, if the interviewee’s behavior is so unacceptable as to preclude an effective interview, an officer may–with supervisory approval–terminate the interview.) Each interview is different an
d each interviewee is different. The officer must be aware at all times of the direction in which the interview is proceeding, and change the direction by adjusting questioning techniques when necessary in order to obtain all necessary information about the claim. This discussion will help officers identify their own style of interviewing, learn new interviewing techniques, and adapt interviewing techniques to fit each interview.
Using the application or petition and the supporting documents for background information, the officer must conduct the interview with the following goals in mind:
1. To give the interviewee an opportunity to relate the information contained in the application or petition in his or her own words;
2. To give the interviewee an opportunity to provide additional information that is not in the form in order to provide the officer with a complete understanding of the events that form the basis of the claim;
3. To have the interviewee address any inconsistencies:
within the application or petition and the supporting documentation,
between the form and the oral testimony,
between the claim and known information (or logic), and
within the interviewee’s testimony; and
4. To find out if the applicant, petitioner or beneficiary participated in any activities that would result in a denial of application or petition (e.g., if an I-130 petitioner had previously engaged in marriage fraud or if an adjustment applicant is inadmissible to the United States).