Are you facing an immigration interview? While many people worry about meeting with an official from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), taking time to prepare can help you feel more confident about your interview and will boost your chances of success.
Tips for Your Immigration Interview
1. Arrive on time.
Immigration officers expect you to be on time for your immigration interview. If you are late, the officer may deny your application. Plan to arrive at least 30 minutes early in case you encounter long lines at the entrance of the immigration building or to allow for unexpected traffic.
2. Wait for your Attorney.
Occasionally an immigration officer will call you for your interview earlier than your appointed time, before your attorney has arrived in the waiting room. In these cases the immigration officer may pressure you to go ahead with the interview without your lawyer present. He may ask you to sign a form agreeing to be interviewed without the presence or assistance of your attorney.
It is a huge mistake to agree to be interviewed without your lawyer present. In this situation the wise thing to do is to respectfully ask the officer to allow sufficient time for your lawyer to be present at your interview. Without an experienced immigration attorney present to protect you, the immigration officer may trample all over your legal rights, and deny your case.
3. Dress appropriately.
The immigration interview is a serious, official and formal situation, and it is best to dress conservatively for the interview. No shorts or flip flops. Modest clothes and makeup and a groomed appearance is best.
4. Listen to the Questions Asked and Respond Appropriately.
It is important to answer questions honestly and directly. The immigration officer will ask specific questions and he or she will expect specific, direct and logical answers. For instance, if the immigration officer asks, “When did you first meet your wife?” The answer should not be, “I met her at my friend’s house.” The correct answer would be the date you met your wife. If more than one question is answered in this way, the officer may determine that you are being evasive (lying) and may deny the case. That is why it is important to pay attention to the questions and make sure you understand what the immigration officer is asking.
If you aren’t sure about the answer to a question, do not just guess or make up an answer. Responding with “I do not remember” or “I do not know” is the appropriate answer if you do not know or do not remember. Guessing at an answer or making up an answer to avoid embarrassment will destroy your case.
Example 1: The husband is asked what he gave his wife for her last birthday. In fact, he did not get her anything for that birthday, however he is too embarrassed to admit that. So he tells the officer that he gave her a bottle of perfume. When the officer asks the wife what her husband gave her for her last birthday, she says that he did not get her anything. Because of the differences in the responses, the officer doubts that the marriage is real.
Example 2: The officer asks the husband the date that he and his wife were married. The husband is nervous and as a result forgets the exact date. Instead of admitting to the officer that he is nervous and as a result could not recall the exact date, the husband guesses at an answer and gets it wrong. If the husband had just admitted that he could not recall the exact date, he might have saved his case.
5. Bring an Interpreter.
Applicants who are not fluent in English are required to bring their own interpreter. The interpreter must be lawfully present in the United States. The officer may not allow a relative to interpret. The interpreter must only interpret the questions asked and the answers given, or else the immigration officer may get annoyed, which can hurt your case.
6. Bring a set of original documents and a duplicate set of copies.
Bring a set of originals (or certified copies of the original documents) to your immigration interview. Also bring photocopies of each of these documents. The immigration officer will examine the original and will ask for a copy to keep in his file.
7. More is better than less.
A common mistake in marriage residency cases occurs when the husband and wife wait until they get the immigration interview notice before they start gathering documents and photos to prove that they have a real marriage and live together.
It may take several months to more than a year from the time an application is filed to the time of the final residency interview. Some couples wait until the last minute to open a joint bank account, and as a consequence, at the interview they can only produce one or two bank statements in both their names. Or they wait to have both names put on an apartment lease, even though they have been living at that address for a long time. When the lease they present at the interview is only dated a few days before the interview, the immigration officer may be suspicious of the marriage and lower the chance of the application’s success.
Another mistake is for the for either spouse to wait until its too late before applying to have a driver’s license changed to reflect the address where they are currently living. If the addresses on the driver’s licenses do not both accurately reflect the marital address, the immigration officer will likely doubt that the marriage is real.
Another big mistake is when the tax return does not properly identify the couple’s marital status. Instead of going to a certified public accountant (CPA), they go to an unprofessional tax preparer, and in many instances the tax returns will fail to correctly identify the marital status. If an immigration officer sees that you were married in 2008 but your taxes for 2009 and 2010 list you as single, the officer may well use that fact to question the bona fides of your marriage.
One of the worst missteps a marriage-based residency applicant can make is coming to the interview with little or no proof that the couple resides together. This failure to provide a sufficient quantity of documentation could doom the case. That is why when it comes to documenting your marriage, more is far better than less.
Photos of a married couple should be plentiful. If a married couple is really living together in a normal, healthy, loving relationship, they should be able to produce photos of a wide array of situations and over a period of time. The photographs should not only be of the both of them together, but should reflect their wider world of friends, family and acquaintances.
Wedding pictures are great, and photo albums of the wedding are very persuasive. Clients who have come into the interview with boxes full of photos and other evidence in support of the bona fides of their marriage may see their interviews proceed more smoothly than those who come in unprepared and without much evidence proving their relationship.
8. Before your interview, make sure you practice answers to potential questions including:
*The date you arrived in the U.S.;
*The reason why you chose to move to the U.S.;
*Your work history;
*Your banking information (be sure to bring documentation regarding your accounts. Also be prepared to explain any offshore investments you have);
*The names and birthdays of your parents and children/stepchildren.
*If you have a marriage-based residency application:
- The date and place of your marriage;
- How and where you met your spouse;
- When and where was your spouse born;
- Details about your spouse’s family (ages, where they live, etc.);
- It is a good idea to spend time talking with your spouse about your relationship history to make sure you both remember details of your story together. Go over the photos you plan to bring to the interview, as well. The immigration officer may ask you for the stories behind some of your photos.
- As a couple, what was your last fight about and when did it happen;
- What color toothbrush does your spouse use, and other such details.
Best of luck to you as you prepare for your interview. If you have do not yet have an immigration attorney to represent you, please contact us today to schedule your consultation.