US can detect fake PH immigration arrival-departure stampsBy Lourdes Santos Tancinco
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Vivian has been a permanent resident of the United States since 1999. She lives with her children. A few months after she was diagnosed with an illness, Vivian decided to return to the Philippines. She stayed in her hometown for more than two years where she eventually recovered. She then decided to return to the US to reunite with her son.
Vivian was worried that her lengthy stay would affect her green card status. So she approached a man who was introduced to her as having “connections” to Philippine immigration officials. In order to conceal her length of stay in the Philippines, the man told Vivian he could place a stamp on her passport to indicate that she stayed outside the US for less than six months. Vivian agreed to a deal and gave him her passport.
After a few days, Vivian’s passport was returned to her with what looked like an official Philippine immigration stamp showing a false arrival and departure date in the Philippines. The stamp indicated that she stayed only for a few months.
Caught at the airport
Vivian returned to the US last month and presented her passport to the US immigration inspector. She was taken to secondary inspection where she was questioned more extensively on the dates stamped on her passport. She was warned prior to answering questions that she could be prosecuted for perjury regarding false testimony and may face a fine or imprisonment. Vivian eventually gave in and admitted the truth to the US immigration inspector. She cried and begged to be released and allowed to enter the US.
The immigration inspector asked Vivian to sign her written testimony. She had spent more than five hours at the secondary inspection office and was handed a notice to appear at a deportation hearing. She was given a temporary permit to enter the US but would face charges of fraudulently presenting a falsified document to gain entry to the US.
Will the immigration judge take away Vivian’s green card and send her back to the Philippines?
A noncitizen seeking entry into the US must have a valid visa and travel document. Those who are non-green card holders may be refused entry at the airport.
Unlike nonimmigrants, green card holders like Vivian may not be subject to expedited airport-to-airport removal. She will be asked to leave only if she voluntarily signs an “abandonment” of permanent resident status at the port of entry. It is possible to request temporary entry on parole to be allowed temporary entry. Such entrants can exercise their right to a hearing in order to defend their immigration status or get new visas.
Fraud and willful misrepresentation is a basis for refusal of entry or removal from the US. The initial findings of fraud by the US immigration inspector may be contested in an immigration court. Unfortunately, there are those who are fearful and decide to give up their green card immediately, including their right to a hearing.
Warning vs fraud
The US Department of Homeland Security maintains a database that easily detects actual dates of travel of those entering and departing the US. Backdating will only cause more harm than good.
At best, an individual who plans to stay in the Philippines for a lengthy period of time must plan on getting a reentry visa prior to departing the US. If the extended stay in the Philippine was not really planned but was due to circumstances beyond the control of the green card holder, obtaining a returning resident visa at the US Embassy in Manila is a better option than falsifying passport stamps. Backdating just does not work.
(Tancinco may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 887 7177 or at 721