GN 00302.970 Chinese Confession Cases

A. Rule

SSA claims personnel must be aware of the Chinese “confession” procedure and give due consideration to it in evaluating the INS arrival record as evidence of age.

B. Background: restrictive laws

Because of severely restrictive and discriminatory Federal immigration laws (e.g., the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882), many persons of Chinese ancestry born abroad were able to enter the U.S. only by assuming fictitious identities.

Chinese immigrants who entered the U.S. before the passage of the Exclusion Act could remain; however, their families could not join them and, if they left the U.S., they could not reenter. Persons of Chinese ancestry who had been born in the U.S. could leave and reenter the U.S., but their spouses could not join them. Children of such individuals (and certain classes of individuals not born in the U.S., such as professionals, students, authors, artists, etc.) could enter the U.S. if unmarried and under age 16. Merchants were excepted from the general rule and could bring in unmarried children under age 21. Individuals in the excepted groups were required to prove their exempt status each time they entered the U.S. and to retain this status while in the U.S.

C. Creation of fictitious identities

INS carefully documented arrival, departure, reentry, etc., concerning all Chinese. This fact and the fact that the Chinese Government had no public records of birth, aided the Chinese immigrants in devising ingenious means to circumvent the laws. There were various combinations of opportunities for smuggling relatives, friends, clients, etc., into the U.S. through use of fictitious identities as children of the Chinese “travelers” authorized to reenter the U.S.

D. Chinese confession procedure

In 1956 INS instituted a program to eliminate the creation of “paper families” by Chinese immigrants. The purpose of this “confession” program was to encourage and assist all aliens (not just Chinese) who illegally entered the U.S. to adjust their status to that of an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence, which in turn paved the way to naturalization. The program extended into the 1960's.

The Chinese applied the term “Hon Pak” (“To Confess”) to the new program.

E. How procedure worked

The “confession” program worked as follows:

Stage What Happened
1 The Chinese immigrant, accompanied by his/her attorney, visited INS district office to “adjust his/her status.”
2 Immigrant presented his/her “personal history statement,” which included information about:
  • His/her family

  • Trips to and from China

  • The fictitious “paper family” which he/she described on previous occasions to INS



  • Immigrant pointed out which parts of “paper family” were true and which were false

  • He/she corrected names, dates and places of birth, etc., and revealed correct identities of those in “paper family.”

4 INS conducted an investigation based on “confession” statement regarding the immigrant and others named in his/her statement.
5 INS changed their illegal alien status to that of an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence and eligible for naturalization. The statement was also used as the basis for petitions for immigrant visas by the individual on behalf of family members still living outside the U.S.

F. Note

INS' acceptance of the “confession” statement as sufficient evidence for the administration of immigration laws based on:

  • All information available in INS files, and

  • Interviews with the individuals and others involved, and

  • Information from other agencies, and

  • INS' long experience with Chinese immigrants.

How other agencies, including SSA, evaluate the statement is not of concern to INS.

G. Additional information

Additional background information regarding INS' Chinese “Confession” procedure and the Chinese calendar and customs is available in PSC's and ODO reference rooms and in FO's servicing Chinese-American communities.

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GN 00302.970 - Chinese <Quote>Confession</Quote> Cases - 10/26/2001
Batch run: 10/26/2001