Going through the green card process can be very stressful from the beginning: collecting documents, filing your application, appearing for a biometrics appointment, and then waiting for up to six months to appear at an interview.
Once applicants receive their notice to appear they tend to become even more stressed. The uncertainty of what will take place at the interview, what kind of questions they will be asked, and all the “what if’s” begin to cause even more stress. Having represented many clients at their USCIS interview, I have compiled a list of the top 5 mistakes you should avoid making at your interview:
- Do not be unprepared.
Your interview notice will list the items you must bring to your interview. Read your notice carefully and gather each item you are requested to bring. Even if you have already submitted a copy of most items listed, you must bring your originals, such as:
- work authorization document
- passport and visa
- birth certificates
- marriage certificate
- certified divorce decree
- certified criminal records
If your adjustment of status is based on marriage, bring updated joint documents such as:
- utility bills
- bank statements
- lease agreements
Your documents should be well organized and labeled so you can retrieve them easily for the interviewing officer.
- Do not volunteer information.
During the interview, you should only answer the questions you are asked and you should only provide those documents you are asked for. Volunteering information and documents can cause the interviewing officer to pry into unnecessary information that may be prejudicial to your case. For example, providing the officer with full bank statements will allow the officer to see where you have spent money and time. If you have traveled a lot since your marriage, this may lead the officer to incorrectly believe you are not actually residing with your spouse causing him to question the legitimacy of your marriage, when in fact you have a valid marriage.
- Tell the truth.
Do not lie to the interviewing officer as this is a federal crime and could make you inadmissible. You must remember you are under oath, and while you do not want to volunteer unnecessary information, you must tell the truth when a specific question is asked. If you do not remember a date or event, do not make it up. The officer may try to lock you into an answer, but if you do not remember you must just say so.
- Do not be combative.
While most officers are professional, certain officers will have an aggressive approach to their interviews—especially during fraud interviews. The officer may phrase questions in a manner that will seem accusatory or offensive but you must maintain your composure. Remember that the interviewing officer will decide your case, so you want him on your side. Always address him as officer and answer his questions in a polite manner. As a last resort, if you feel you are being treated unfairly or disrespectfully, you can ask to see a supervisor, but again, remember you want the interviewing officer on your side.
- Bring an attorney.
If you have a case with any complications, you should hire an attorney to appear at the interview with you. Having an attorney can help you avoid denials, appeals, deportations and/or having to refile your case. Even when you do not have a complicated case, having an attorney will ease your stress allowing the interview to go smooth. A competent attorney can prepare you for the interview by going over the questions you will be asked, identifying and addressing any issues that may come up at the interview.