Many attend immigration interviews without their attorney and get approved; most of these are very well documented without any negative factors, such as visa overstays, entering without inspection (EWI), criminal issues, other immigration violations or removal orders, etc.
Just as many have something go wrong, leading to serious consequences such as denial, findings of fraud, being placed in removal proceedings, or getting picked-up by ICE. The officer may conduct a marriage-based interview by separating the spouses to determine if they entered into a marriage for immigration purposes, or the officer may ask a naturalization applicant about his or her history of paying child support to a child they met once 17 years ago. There are many of these pitfalls to avoid.
You should have an experienced immigration attorney handle your application from the beginning to approval. However, even if you filed on your own or with the help of a paralegal or notario, you should hire an attorney to accompany you to the interview immediately upon receiving the interview notice to avoid scheduling conflicts and lack of preparation. You may have an easy interview and think afterwards that it was unnecessary to hire an attorney. However, the attorney’s presence is probably what made the outcome successful. What is your future worth? How much would the delays or negative outcomes cost you in terms of money, time, reputation?
Here are the 3 main reasons you should have an attorney go with you to the interview:
1. Prevent delays and complications
It used to take six months to have a green card or naturalization application approved. Now it takes two years (or longer in some places). If you are missing documents or something needs clarification, it could take a few months for USCIS to send you a Request for Evidence, to which you have a short period of time to respond. Your attorney can help you avoid these delays by figuring out what you should bring to the interview and what you should prepare for after the interview, depending on what occurred.
2. Clarify questions
When a USCIS officer asks a vague or unclear question, the attorney may request clarification to ensure the applicant understands what is being asked. If the attorney knows the answer is factually or legally incorrect, he or she may also ask the officer to rephrase the question or point to the record in the file to show the applicant is mistaken.
3. Protect YOU
When the officer believes the applicant is committing immigration fraud, is a danger to the community, or is ineligible for or undeserving of the benefit sought, he or she may become more inquisitive. While your attorney cannot respond to questions, having the attorney present at the interview helps you determine when it’s better to answer, ask for clarification, or object (for good cause).
If USCIS instructs you to provide a sworn, written statement on certain points, the attorney can verify that you understand what you are providing and signing.
The applicant may be detained by ICE at their interview, if they have outstanding removal orders, are unlawfully present, or there are outstanding warrants. Your attorney can evaluate the risk of attending the interview. Attorney appearance encourages the USCIS officer to remain professional and courteous and stick to relevant issues.
Without the attorney present, it will just be the USCIS officer and you (maybe your interpreter also) in the interview room. The officer will take notes for the file, but you typically will not have access to them unless you submit a FOIA request, which will take several months to process. Your attorney will also take notes on questions and answers. If USCIS issues a denial based on perceived inconsistencies at the interview, the attorney may provide an explanation on what was said in the interview and how it was conducted. It won’t just be your word against the allegations of the interviewing officer.
These are only some of the benefits. While you may certainly attend the USCIS interview alone, you should seriously consider having an experienced immigration attorney present.