By Mitchell J. Cohen, Esquire
1. Showing up late (or not showing up at all).
If you are not on time for your USCIS appointment there is a good possibility that your application will be denied. A good idea is to do a test drive to the USCIS Office before your interview date, to make sure that you know the route. Failure to appear at your interview normally is deemed to be an abandonment of your application. Give yourself plenty of driving extra time to make allowances for traffic and lines getting through security at the building. Leave sharp objects, liquids, lighters and matches in the car.
2. Not bringing original documents.
The immigration officer conducting your interview will normally ask to see the original of copies you submitted with your petition or application. For residency cases based on marriage to a U.S. citizen, this will include a certified copy of the marriage certificate, certified copies of any divorces decrees, certified copy of birth certificate of applicant, the original U.S. passport or certificate of naturalization of the U.S. Citizen spouse or certified copy of U.S. state-issued birth certificate. Any certification must come from the official records custodian (for example, the clerk of court). In most cases, the Immigration Officer will want to see the passport that the applicant entered the United States on, and I-94 card, if any. The immigration officer also likes to see the original birth certificates of any children born of the marriage. He or she may also ask to see the originals of the copies you may have submitted demonstrating the bona fides (good faith nature) of your marriage, so have a set of originals of these as well (photos featuring the couple, driver licenses, joint bank statements, lease agreement, etc.) If you have been arrested or cited for a crime, certified copies of the arrest report, and court documents including the disposition will be requested by the immigration officer.
Failure to bring an original (or certified copy) may result in a delay in the processing of your case, or worse, a denial of your case if the officer is not in a charitable mood. If you have lost or cannot find one of your original documents do go to the interview however, as failure to show up will usually result in an automatic denial. I recommend that you try to bring to the appointment evidence that you have requested a replacement original or certified copy.
3. Not bringing an interpreter (if one of the interviewees is not fluent in English).
The USCIS does not provide interpreters for their interviews. The agency requires you to bring your own interpreter. Husbands and wives cannot interpret for one another. Attorneys are not allowed to interpret for their clients. If the immigration officer is having difficulty communicating with a petitioner or applicant because of a language barrier, he or she may reschedule the interview, or worse yet, deny the petition or application.
4. Being unprepared.
The old adage “if you fail to prepare you prepare to fail” rings very true in the area of immigration interviews. Like in any important test in life, those who are prepared are more likely to succeed, whereas those who fail to prepare may be walking into a nightmare scenario. Failing to bring enough proof of the marriage may result in the immigration officer having serious doubts about the marriage, and conduct a separation marriage interview, in which each spouse is interrogated separately, and their responses looked over with a fine tooth comb, looking for any discrepancies in the answers. An unprepared applicant’s answers to seemingly harmless questions may result in a denial (and even placement in removal proceedings). Many applicants are unpleasantly surprised when they find they are being asked questions that the officer has about previous applications they filed with immigration. In fact, an officer will deny a marriage petition if he or she determines that a previous marriage was entered into solely for immigration purposes. Some applicants have outstanding orders of deportation or removal that they do not even know about and may face arrest at the interview. Others do not understand the implications of their arrest or admissions to crimes. These may completely disqualify the applicant from the benefit sought, or require a waiver to be filed and approved in order to obtain residency.
5. Not realizing that the immigration officer is a human being.
Immigration officers are human, and they experience the same range of human emotions as the rest of us, including frustration and annoyance. When someone goes to an immigration interview and is giving non-responsive answers, or spends the majority of the interview digging through bags looking for documents, the officer’s level of frustration may increase – which in turn may increase your chances of being denied. Attending an important interview by a USCIS officer is a formal matter, and one should dress appropriately for the interview (translation: no flip-flops or shorts). That way, the immigration officer will at least see that the interviewees are taking the interview seriously.
Given the perils, high stakes and complexities involved in a residency (adjustment of status) application, it is a wise idea to be represented at every stage of the process – including the immigration interview – by a competent attorney well versed in immigration law.
Mitchell J. Cohen, Esquire is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA). This article is general in nature and should not be construed as legal advice for any particular matter. Looking for an Immigration Attorney in Hallandale Beach or Fort Myers areas? Call the law offices of Mitchell J. Cohen, P.A.
Mitchell J. Cohen, P.A.
1250 E Hallandale Beach Blvd., Ste. 500
Hallandale Beach, FL 33009
Tel. (954) 457 – 1941
Mitchell J. Cohen, P.A.
3620 Colonial Boulevard
Fort Myers, FL 33966
Tel. (239) 931-6558
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