A blog about U.S. immigration matters by Paul Szeto, a former INS attorney and an experienced immigration lawyer. We serve clients in all U.S. states and overseas countries. (All information is not legal advice and is subject to change without prior notice.)

Contact: 732-632-9888, http://www.1visa1.com/

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

How to Prepare for Immigration Interviews

Attending interviews is a nerve-wrecking event.  Going before an immigration or visa officer to explain yourself is even more difficult.  You've filed applications after applications, with tons of documents, certificates, photographs and other evidence. And now it is time to face the moment of truth. This single meeting with an immigration or visa officer will decide whether you can get your green card or stay in the United States.  However, with proper preparation and mental readiness, you can survive the interview and ultimately obtain your green card or visa.

Preparation is the key to have a successful immigration interview. After you have received the interview appointment notice, you should start preparing for it immediately.  Preparation involves three main aspects:  documentation, answering questions and logistics. 

Collect all required documents as early as possible

First, you must collect all required documents well in advance.  Some documents such as renewal passports may need extra time to obtain. There are two types of documents, original and copies.  For most immigration interviews such as adjustment of status, you must bring originals of your ID and civil documents such as passports, birth certificates, marriage certificate, divorce judgment, driver's license, green card and naturalization certificate (of the sponsors), EAD cards, etc.  The immigration officer needs to review these originals to make sure that they match the copies that you have submitted.  Copies of other documents are also required to prove your immigration status (I-94, visa stamps, status approval notices such as I-797s, etc.) and employment status (job letters, pay and W-2 statements).  

For employment-based petitions, you must also provide educational and employment documents to prove your eligibility and also a bona fide job offer.  If your case involves a family relationship or if dependents are involved, you must also provide relationship documents such as photographs, birth certificates, joint financial and legal documents, insurance and employment benefits documents, etc. Special types of cases (e.g., DACA, asylum) require additional documents such as proof of residence and past persecution.  Make an appointment to speak to your legal counsel to discuss them. If you are not sure about a document, just bring it anyway. 

How to answer questions in immigration interviews

For most applicants, facing a stoic immigration officer and answering questions is the most challenging part of the process.  To clarify, not all of them are serious and not smiling.  Some of them are quite friendly and nice.  However, understand that they are not your friends. They are there to do an important job, and they are required to follow the law. So be very careful how you answer their questions. A mock interview with your lawyer is the best way to prepare for the interview.  Anticipate the types of questions that will be asked and rehearse it with your lawyer.  A good attorney should know about the special issues about your case and how to prepare for the related questions. 

There are two main points to remember.  One, you must tell the truth when you answer questions.  If you do not remember or not sure about something, just say so. Do not make up anything untruthful.  Making false statements under oath is a very serious offense, which can destroy your eligibility to obtain any immigration benefits.  

Second, you should listen very carefully to the questions asked.  I have clients who are nervous and try to remember answers about a subject before the interview.   As soon as the officer starts to talk about that subject, they would just spill out the memorized answers automatically, which can cause problems.  Oftentimes, the officer was not even asking about that question. Hence, before answering a question, especially a "sensitive" one, take a moment to think and organize your answer first before speaking. 

Plan the logistics ahead of time

Logistics here means things like transportation, parking, meals, clothing, and coordination with your lawyer. If you have never been to the location of the interview, take a trip there at least once to get familiar with the streets and traffic.  Interviews are often scheduled during morning rush hours, and not knowing where to go could cause delay.  What floor of the building will the interview be held? Are you going to use public transportation or drive to the venue? 

For an overseas consulate interview, you may have to plan to travel to the consulate location at least one day before.  What breakfast will you be having?  You don't want to attend an interview empty-stomach or fully-loaded. If your lawyer and other witnesses are coming, how and where do you meet?  Also plan what to wear. You most likely will have to go through security check with metal detectors. Hence, wear something easy to take off.  Dress appropriately.  You don't have to wear a suit, but tank-tops and shorts are out of the question. 

A final note, in most cases, you won't be able to get a definite answer about the result after the interview.  Immigration officers are required to do some final and updated security checks in all cases. Or sometimes, they may need to get a missing file about you from another office.  Hence, don't be alarmed if there are delays or requests for additional documents. Just try to cooperate and comply. 

In short, with proper preparation and mental readiness, you will likely walk out with a smile on your face after your immigration interview. 

(Immigration laws and policies change regularly.  If you have any questions regarding this article, please visit www.1visa1.com to schedule a legal consultation.) 

No comments: