An experienced immigration law attorney should help prepare you for the interview portion of the immigration process. Your interview will take place either in the United States or at the appropriate U.S. Consulate abroad, depending on where you filed and your eligibility category.
If your interview occurs at the U.S. Consulate, then a consular officer will review your case and ask you questions. If your interview occurs within the United States then a USCIS immigration officer will interview you at the local USCIS district field office that has jurisdiction over where you live. The interviewing officer uses your personal interview as an important tool to assess your eligibility. Officers review applicants’ case filings, the results of their background checks and other information, and they ask probing questions to the person being interviewed. Sometimes the interview is recorded or videotaped.
An experienced immigration attorney should prepare you for your interview. Aside from what has been already mentioned, you will receive valuable tips such as the importance of listening carefully to the questions that are posed to you and that your answers should be concise and to answer the question clearly. You may bring an interpreter to your interview if needed. You may ask the interviewer to repeat or rephrase questions that are unclear to you. Just having an attorney present with you at your interview can be a great comfort.
An example of one common case for which our immigration law office has successfully represented many clients for over 20 years is when the spouse of a U.S. citizen applies for a green card inside the United States using the Adjustment of Status process. Our office represents our clients by directing and managing the case on our clients’ behalf. Working in close coordination with our clients, we prepare their cases including providing detailed guidance about how the U.S. immigration process works and what our clients should expect from start to finish. We prepare the many complicated immigration application forms for our clients and we provide detailed checklists and instruct our clients about exactly which documents that they should gather and provide to us in order to submit their cases. We also provide many other important legal and practical insights and tips that our clients need to know about their individual U.S. immigration cases.
Once our clients’ case preparation is complete our office files their cases to the U.S. government, including petition, green card application, interim work and travel applications if appropriate, required supporting documents such as federal income tax returns and birth certificates, and the correct government filing fees. We then monitor, direct, and provide continuing guidance to our clients about the next stages in their immigration process, such as required fingerprinting, the status of their pending work and travel applications, additional document requests from USCIS if that occurs, personal interview scheduling, and other important respects.
Adjustment of Status cases are filed to the appropriate USCIS Service Center. When the Service Center has completed case processing on its end it then coordinates interview scheduling with the local USCIS district field office with jurisdiction over the clients’ case and sends the clients’ case file to that district office.
The local USCIS district office conducts the personal interview. There is one USCIS district field office for all of San Diego County. That San Diego USCIS office is conveniently located in the same office building as our law office, in downtown San Diego.
Our law office prepares our clients for their personal interviews with USCIS with detailed guidance about how the interview process works. We inform our clients about the types of questions that the USCIS officer will likely ask them, which additional documents to bring to their interview, including originals of certain documents and photocopies of others. We also routinely represent our clients at their actual interview in order to monitor the process and to protect our clients’ rights and interests when they are being interviewed.
It is important to be well prepared for your interview. Some instances of immigration fraud in which the married couple is only married on paper for immigration purposes do occur. Marriage fraud is defined as entering into a marriage contract in order to evade any U.S. immigration law. Marriage fraud is a federal crime punishable by up to 5 years in prison or a fine of $250,000, or both. In addition, it is punishable for up to 5 years in prison or a fine of $10,000, or both, for knowingly and willfully falsifying or concealing a material fact or using any false document in the immigration process.
Unfortunately, some genuinely married couples also run into trouble at their Adjustment of Status interview because they are not properly prepared for it. They often do not know what to expect during their interview and they are not sufficiently prepared for interview questions that are directed at them. Equally as important, they may fail to prepare and bring necessary documents as proof of valid marriage to their interview. Coming unprepared to your interview can sometimes lead the USCIS officer to doubt the legitimacy of the marriage. The U.S. citizen (or permanent resident) and foreign national spouse have the burden of proof to show the U.S. government that the foreign national is eligible for a green card.
It has been the experience of our office that some applicants attempt to apply to immigrate without using a competent immigration attorney and then run into difficulties, only later contacting our San Diego law office for legal assistance. That is not the best scenario.
If USCIS doubts the validity of the marriage or suspects that the marriage has been entered into primarily for immigration purposes, then USCIS can schedule a second, follow-up interview. That interview is much more extensive and intrusive than the initial interview. The second interview usually involves the couple being interviewed separately, which can last many hours. This is sometimes called a “Stokes” interview. This involves the couple being interviewed separately, which can last many hours. USCIS will ask each person detailed, probing questions. USCIS will compare the respective responses to detect inconsistencies in the answers. USCIS will note any inconsistencies and further question the couple about those. The interviews can be videotaped with a supervising USCIS officer monitoring the interviews in real time.
USCIS can also refer the case for a field investigation. Investigations can take months or even years to complete, leaving the foreign national in uncertainty and legal limbo in the meantime.
To try to avoid such unpleasant complications and to make your immigration journey as smooth as possible, it is best to have a good immigration lawyer represent you from the beginning of your case.