Immigration Benefits: Circumstances under Which Petitioners' Sex Offenses May Be Disclosed to Beneficiaries

GAO-06-735 Published: Jun 14, 2006. Publicly Released: Jun 14, 2006.
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In fiscal year 2005, U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents filed about 730,000 petitions with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to sponsor noncitizen family members, including spouses, fiances, and children, to immigrate to the United States. Those doing the sponsoring are called petitioners; those benefiting from the sponsoring are called beneficiaries. If USCIS approves the petition, overseas beneficiaries must also file a visa application with the Department of State to enter the United States. In January 2002, USCIS started to conduct background security checks on all petitioners in addition to the beneficiaries. These background checks revealed that some of the petitioners had convictions for criminal sex offenses; further, some of those criminal sex offenders were filing family-based petitions for children (those under the age of 21). This report addresses the number of convicted sex offenders who filed family-based petitions in fiscal year 2005 based upon a computer match of USCIS data with individuals in the Federal Bureau of Investigation's National Sex Offender Registry and discusses USCIS's and the Department of State's framework for disclosing a sponsor's criminal sexual background to the beneficiary. DHS, the Department of State, and the Department of Justice reviewed a draft of this report. Only technical comments were provided and have been incorporated into this report.

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