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:

little green form

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 this is important to ask, and 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?

  • 2
    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
    Commented Jul 27, 2011 at 7:23
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    wouldn't it allow immediate deportation of these who lied in their form?
    – vartec
    Commented Jul 27, 2011 at 8:39
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    @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
    Commented Jul 27, 2011 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
    Commented Jul 27, 2011 at 23:56
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    Friend of a Friend accidentally checked "Yes" on one of these several years ago and is still questioned every time he comes to America. My favorite question is "as a government official, been responsible for...particularly severe violations of religious freedom?" "Particularly severe? No, not particularly severe." Commented Sep 19, 2014 at 17:30

1 Answer 1


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.

  • I am not sure how this helps in case of genocide. In order to prove that a person A lied about a genocide he/she was part of, they will have to prove that he/she was involved in a genocide anyways. So the advantage of building a simple case is not evident. Your example of Rinkel shows that. It took them 45 years to prove that. Commented Sep 17, 2014 at 18:44
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    @san1646 - I think the advantage is that the wording on the form is much looser than what would be required to convict you of a crime. The wording "involved with" in the question about Nazi Germany and terrorism and the like is broad enough that it would take much less to prove that you lied about that than it would take to prove you committed any specific crimes.
    – Jack
    Commented Sep 18, 2014 at 6:39
  • @san1646 I think it is because the amount of evidence required to deport person A for lying about being involved with genocide is much less than would be required for a conviction in court. Even if person A subsequently tried to sue for having been unjustly deported (I have no idea if this is possible under U.S. law), the authorities could defend against the lawsuit on the grounds that they reasonably believed that person A had lied on their form.
    – Senex
    Commented Sep 19, 2014 at 15:35
  • @tempusfugit people applying for entry under the Visa Waiver Program also waive their right to challenge an immigration officer's determination of inadmissability or any removal action. See law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/8/1187. So the real advantage here from the government's point of view is that it's not necessary at all to build a case. The same grounds for inadmissability apply to visa applicants, too, but those are processed outside the US.
    – phoog
    Commented Aug 10, 2016 at 16:35

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