The very first tip is one that will avoid delays at immigration interviews – to always make sure USCIS has received a certified copy of all your criminal cases. Not only will this simplify the questions you are asked but it will avoid USCIS needing to ask for more evidence afterward! A certified copy should include, at the very least:
- the complaint;
For any immigration agency, you must always tell the truth about every criminal incident
But that doesn’t mean you have to guess.
A common example is when USCIS asks how much alcohol was consumed during a DUI arrest. Most individuals, particularly for crimes occurring years earlier, do not recall the exact amount. Any attempt to answer this question would be a guess. Here, the best answer is the truth “I do not remember exactly how much.”
The same is true of jail sentences, especially if the crime is so old that the court records no longer exist. For immigration purposes, there can be different consequences if a sentence in criminal court exceeds 90 days, six months or 12 months, depending on the type of application. So if the court records no longer exist but you remember whether a crime was more or less than these thresholds, the key is to let the officer know in a manner that is honest, composed, and believable.
Every applicant should express remorse for the crime or crimes committed, even when not prompted
You do not have to deliver a soapbox special – it is enough to state calmly why you regret the incident and what you learned about its impact on your life. This is especially true for applicants of U.S.citizenship, who must show present good moral character despite any past criminal incident.
Applications involving a criminal history should include letters of good moral character
Even if these were not submitted with the original application, they can be added at the time of interview. These letters demonstrate initiative and also reflect the fact that members of the applicant’s community consider this person someone worthy of taking the time to write a letter about and reflect positively on.
Overall, the easiest way to lose when discussing crimes with USCIS is to become defensive or combative. Cases, especially in court, can also be won or lost in whether an applicant shows remorse rather than attempts to blame everyone else for their problems. USCIS does not require applicants to be perfect at all times in their lives. But if they cannot be honest today about what they have learned from their mistakes, it becomes more difficult to win any case on discretion.
Next month, we will be kicking off a three-part series titled “What does it mean for me?” The topic for next month: DUI’s.