Know Your Audience

by Joseph Whalen

I write a lot about various subjects under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) and related laws but even when writing about the same concentrated area I might be writing to different audiences. Most of the time I write to immigration professionals, who may be either "practitioners" or "adjudicators". However, sometimes I differentiate between those two groups. Lastly, there are the petitioners, beneficiaries, applicants, and sponsors, in other words, "customers" as in the actual people seeking some kind of benefit from the INA or related laws for themselves or on behalf of someone else. In short, there are various perspectives from which people view an article or essay.

The readers need to keep in mind that THEY too may be preparing something to be read and interpreted by an "audience" of one sort or another. The practitioners or direct customers must prepare a case and present pertinent evidence to the adjudicators. The practitioners or customers need to educate their audience by preparing and presenting the case within a proper, specific, well-defined "context". The adjudicator who will delve into the case may not know the first thing about the particular scientific sub-discipline or whatever context for which the self-petitioner is seeking an "extraordinary ability" or "exceptional ability" visa, and/or "national interest waiver". Whoever prepares the case bears an obligation to make the case.

Adjudicators often prepare requests for evidence (RFEs) and in doing so need to keep these same principles in the forefront of their minds. Adjudicators need to be observant of context when preparing their RFEs. Are you talking to a college educated petitioner, or someone who fled a totalitarian regime and grew up in a refugee camp scrounging for food just to survive, or their paid legal representative, or all of them at the same time? Are you seeking readily available documentary evidence from a country with superb computerized records or will the petitioner have to seek out the village elder to swear out an affidavit? Have you consulted the State Department's country specific information about what is available and what should be expected? A well-written RFE will be one that is tailored to the specific situation. Many customers have similar situations so many RFEs already exist as base "templates" which may be sufficient "as is" for the present need or at least as a starting point to be tailored. Lastly, when preparing a denial, the adjudicator not only needs to speak to the "customer" but also to any potential reviewer. A denied case might eventually be reviewed by the BIA, AAO, BALCA, or some other administrative appellate body and eventually federal judges at various levels. I think that is enough to get the conversation started. That's my two-cents, for now.

About The Author

Joseph P. Whalen is not an attorney. He is a former government employee who is familiar with the INA. His education is in Anthroplogy with a concentration in Archaeology and has both a BA (from SUNY Buffalo) and an MA (from San Francisco State University) in Anthroplogogy. He previously worked as an Archaeologist for the U.S. Forest Service before becoming an Adjudicator with INS which became USCIS.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.