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Whenever I enter the US, I need to fill out a little green form. The front page asks all sorts of reasonable questions: Name, passport number, date of birth, address I plan to be in the US etc.

The backside, however, asks questions such as whether I was involved in the crimes of Nazi Germany between '33 and '45, or whether I have ever been involved in crimes against humanity such as genocide etc: enter image description here

This always gives me a chuckle and I ask myself: Even if I HAD been involved in genocide, why would I tick "yes" on that box?

Yet, somewhere in the government someone must think that this is an important thing to ask, and about this is what I am skeptical about. Is there any case in history that someone ticked yes on one of these forms and got caught that way? What is the purpose of these questions anyway?

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Caught, probably not, but someone may need to answer yes because he committed something, then paid for it, then got free. –  Sklivvz Jul 26 '11 at 22:37
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I think it's pretty much CYA (Cover your ass). Can you imagine the press debacle if immigration let someone who had committed something of that nature into the country without asking? Paper is cheap, and the immigration officials can say they are (barely) helping. –  Fake Name Jul 27 '11 at 7:23
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wouldn't it allow immediate deportation of these who lied in their form? –  vartec Jul 27 '11 at 8:39
    
@vartac - that's exactly what I thought - you've got an immediate offence/reason to deport or arrest them for lying on their form - even if the offence was committed in another country etc. –  NotJarvis Jul 27 '11 at 11:15
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It serves two purposes: (a) to get difficult issues [those who answer yes, such as retired spies] considered by US Embassies and Consulates before travel and (b) to get rights of appeal waived so deportation cannot be delayed. If you want your rights then apply for a visa, though the apparently unnecessary application is a red flag so may make it harder to get into the country. –  Henry Jul 27 '11 at 23:56
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up vote 27 down vote accepted

The questions precisely lay out the legal objections to getting a United States visa.

As was said in the comments, it's most likely a method for refusing/deporting people if they have lied on their visa applications without having a major court case. In general, the punishment for lying to a United States official about citizenship can be greater than the punishment for committing the offence (relevant law).

Here is a case where the US government found it easier to deport a woman for lying on her visa application than to build a case for war crimes.

Rinkel neglected to mention her SS job on a US visa application in 1959, and the Justice Department caught up with her in late 2004

Here's another case where someone was immediately deported for lying on her form.

Marie Casafina, 26, said immigration officials cuffed her legs to a chair because she did not state on her visa-waiver form that she had previously been denied entry to the US. She was deported less than 24 hours later.

I know this is not conclusive evidence, but it seems reasonably straightforward to build up a simple case for deportation if someone lies on his or her visa application.

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