One of the most important parts of an immigration application is the final interview with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officials, which sparks great anxiety because of fears of a denial.
Almost all applications for immigration benefits require the feared interview, among them citizenship through naturalization, affirmative asylum, adjustment of status, permanent residence and green card through marriage.
Applicants must be very well prepared for the personal interviews in the USCIS offices, because a misstep can cost them their permanent residence in the United States and force them to start the process all over again or even face deportation.
In an effort to help legal immigrants, el Nuevo Herald consulted with Miami immigration attorney Elina Magaly Santana, on the board of directors of the South Florida chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA). Here are her tips for applicants:
1. Bring your own interpreter
USCIS does not provide interpreters, and your case may have to be rescheduled if you don’t have your own translator and run into an adjudicator who does not speak your language. You must register the interpreter before the interview using Form G-1256, Declaration for Interpreted USCIS Interview, in the presence of the official who will conduct the interview.
But keep in mind that if the interview is for citizenship purposes, it must be done entirely in English.
2. Look early for parking
Parking at USCIS offices is free, but it’s not always available — especially on days with naturalization ceremonies for new citizens. Make sure you arrive early enough to find parking, or check whether there’s other parking in the neighborhood.
3. Arrive on time
Immigrants can register at the entrance 30 minutes before their appointments, giving them sufficient time to pass through security controls and avoid losing the interview by being late.
4. Don’t bring prohibited items
Because of security measures, you cannot enter USCIS with weapons, matches, lighters, scissors or other dangerous items. Remember to turn off your telephone during the interview. Do not take photos and follow the code of conduct in USCIS facilities.
5. Dress nicely
First impressions are always important, and an immigration interview is a formal procedure. Your goal is for the interviewer to know that you’re serious. Dress as though you’re going to a job interview, and never wear shorts or sandals.
6. Study your application thoroughly
Review your application closely before going to the interview, because most of the conversation will cover information you submitted in your application. You should be familiar with its content and be prepared to update anything that has changed since you submitted your application.
7. Hold on to the original documents
Depending on your case, you may be required to present the original versions of the photocopies that you submitted with your application. So it’s better to have all original documents in hand, including passports and identity documents.
8. Take copies of everything
Take copies of documents if you don’t want to leave the originals with USCIS. For example, if you’re applying to remove conditions on permanent residence based on marriage and you bring your wedding album, also bring a copy of the album that the USCIS interviewer can keep.
9. Update your ID cards
Your driver’s license and other ID cards issued by the government should have your current address. USCIS officials will demand updated ID cards.
10. Plan to spend the entire day at USCIS
Most of the interviews last no longer than one hour, but sometimes the wait is lengthy. Don’t make any other plans for the day and take the day off from work, so you don’t feel any sort of additional pressure.
Daniel Shoer Roth is a journalist covering immigration law who does not offer legal advice or individual assistance to applicants. Follow him on Twitter @DanielShoerRoth. The contents of this story do not constitute legal advice.
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