An interview with USCIS officials is often one of, if not, the final steps in the adjustment of status process. When someone receives a notice from USCIS stating that they have a mandatory interview with immigration, it is an understandable scary event. Thus, the attorneys at Reddy and Neumann, P.C. have put together a list of the most common questions that we have received during our practice of assisting to prepare individuals for their interviews. While not exhaustive of the types of questions one may have as they reach this step, it is our hope that this article is of some used to those getting ready to tackle this momentous task.
- I have been notified by USCIS that I have an interview. What is the purpose of the USCIS interview? Is there something wrong with my application? Am I in trouble?
There are a number of reasons in which an individual may be chosen for an interview after the filing and not all of them are a bad thing. The purpose of the I-485 interview is to allow a USCIS official to ask questions and gather more information pertaining to a petitioner before making a decision as to whether to approve and/or deny their application. In order to do that, they send out notices to individuals who have elements of their case that may need some more clarification before a decision may be made.
It is possible that the company that an individual works for may have issues and they are looking into any petitioners from that company. It is also possible that you’ve been flagged for an interview because of something in your background such as criminal history, violations of status, education at certain flagged institutions, etc. It is also entirely possible that your application was simply chosen at random for interview.
It is important to remember that while it may be scary to get a letter asking you to come in for an interview, this is also a fairly routine and common occurrence and isn’t something that should be indicative of bad news.
- I have been notified by USCIS that I have an interview. What should I bring with me?
On the I-797C interview notice sent to you by USCIS, there will usually be a list of items that it is suggested that you bring with you. Among these items will include things such as the interview notice, government issued identification, all copies of your passports —both old and new, your birth certificate, all of your immigration documents, all of your travel documents, and other such documentation. This list is not exhaustive and you should refer to your interview notice for a full list of suggested documentation.
In addition to the documents listed on your interview notice, we also suggest that you bring a copy of your income taxes from the past five years, copies of your W-2s from the past five years, copies of your latest paystubs, copies of your submitted I-485 petitions, a copy of your employer letter, and any additional documents that you believe may help the adjudicator make a more well informed decision concerning your petition.
If you are attending your interview based on your marriage, the documents required of you may be a bit different. Common items requested for deeds with both of your names on it, mortgages showing both of your names, driver’s licenses showing the same address, birth certificates for your children (if you have any) denoting both of you as the parents, copies of bill statements showing the same address, family photos, and other assorted documents that show your connection to your spouse.
- When should I arrive to the interview?
It is our suggestion that you should arrive to the field office that your interview will take place at about thirty minutes before your interview. You will not be allowed to enter the building until about fifteen minutes before your interview. However, arriving early allows you time to get your bearings and mentally prepare yourself for the task ahead.
- Am I allowed to bring anyone with me?
If your eligibility for adjustment of status is based on your marriage, you are allowed to bring your spouse with you. For adjustment based on employment or based on your marriage, you are allowed to have an attorney or authorized representative present, an individual to assist you if you have some form of disability, or a parent or guardian with you if you are a minor. If you are a minor under the age of 14, a guardian must accompany you.
- What happens if I don’t speak English? Will USCIS provide an interpreter for me? May my family member interpret for me in the event that I require an interpreter?
USCIS affords the opportunity for anyone who does not speak English the opportunity to have someone to interpret for them. They will not provide an interpreter for you, however, thus, you should arrange to have one if you should find yourself in need of one. In addition, an interpreter may not come to the interview with you. They may be present by phone.
If you wish to have an interpreter, however, USCIS regulations state that a G-1256 must be filled out and the interpreter must meet the minimum requirements. The USCIS policy manual states the interpreter must be fluent in English and in a language understood by the interviewee; competent to interpret in accordance with guidance provided by the USCIS officer at the interview; and impartial and unbiased throughout the interview. The interviewing USCIS officer will make the determination as to whether the proposed interpreter meets these core qualifications and may decline to permit the individual to interpret if at any time the officer, in his or her discretion, determines that the interpreter is not meeting these criteria. The interpreter also must be at least 18 years of age and cannot be a witness in the interviewee’s case. An individual under the age of 18, but between the ages of 14 and 17, as well as witnesses to an interviewee’s case may be allowed to act as an interpreter if good cause for a discretionary exception can be provided. Attorneys and accredited representatives cannot serve simultaneously as interpreters for their clients during the interview.
If USCIS declines to permit your proposed interpreter to interpret for you at the interview, you will be offered an opportunity to proceed with the interview with another acceptable interpreter, reschedule the interview in order for you to obtain an acceptable interpreter, or to proceed voluntarily with the interview without an interpreter.
- I am nervous about my interview. Am I allowed to bring an attorney with me?
Yes, USCIS regulations provide that you are allowed to bring an attorney or an authorized representative with you to your interview. They may appear in person or over the phone, if over the phone representation is permitted.
- Will bringing an attorney with me negatively impact my interview?
An applicant has a right to an attorney at the USCIS interview and bringing one is, and should not be, viewed negatively in any way. An attorney is able to prepare their clients, bring out relevant information and clarifications, and otherwise help the adjudicator reach a decision more efficiently and without having to delay a case by asking for additional information or clarifications at a later time.
Bringing an attorney with you to the interview does not make the adjudicator think that there is something “wrong” with the application or that they have something to “hide.” They understand that it is a part of your rights to have legal representation with you and, for some, having their attorney present can be a calming presence.
- Would it be smart to consult with an attorney before my interview?
Even if you choose not to have an attorney attend the in-person interview with you, it may still be beneficial to consult with an attorney beforehand so that they may prep you on what questions might be asked, to become aware of procedures and protocols for the interview, to set the record straight on the facts of your case including any flaw, inconsistencies, or problematics areas, and what the expected impact should be based on the law.
Even with the most airtight cases, it is completely possible to miss a detail that only a trained professional would notice that could potentially mean the difference between your approval and overall denial so we often advise our client’s about the benefits of consulting with an attorney about your interview.
- My interview is in one state and my attorney is in another. Will this be an issue? Can my out of state attorney still represent me?
No, you will not have an issue. Due to immigration law being federal law, your attorney will not need to be licensed in the specific state where the interview will take place. As long as they are a licensed attorney in good standing with the state bar where they practice, they can represent you at an interview in any state.
- I have a lawyer that my company used to file the I-485 application. Am I allowed to have a different attorney represent me at my interview?
Yes, the attorney who represents you at the in-person interview can be different from the attorney who prepared and filed your I-485 application. Your I-485 petition is filed in your name, as opposed to the name of a sponsoring company such as with an H-1B or an I-140 so it is completely up to you who represents you at your interviews. If you choose to go with a different attorney than the one who assisted you in the filing of your I-485, you will need to provide the USCIS interviewer with a new G-28 at the beginning of your interview to show that this attorney is representing you.
- How long should I anticipate the interview taking?
In our experience, you should expect your interview to take upwards of thirty (30) minutes to an hour (60), depending on the overall complexity of your case.
- What types of questions will USCIS ask at the interview?
It is possible that almost any question imaginable could be asked by your interviewer but, generally, USCIS interviewers will keep their questions pretty narrow. The majority of your questions will come almost directly from your I-485 petition. Usually, the questions will be standard and follow the path of the questions on the petition, often just ensuring that your answers match up. Additionally, you may also be asked questions about any document that you have previously submitted to them. However, this is not indicative of how your interview may go.
In our experience, adjudicators can, and will, go “off script” and ask you questions out of left field that may require more thinking on your part. It is best, at that time, to continue to answer the questions clearly and honestly to the best of your ability.
Moreover, if there is something of interest in your case, or, if you have been potentially flagged for some violation, USCIS may limit your questioning to merely those particular items, choosing to be more thorough there than to consume themselves with questions they presumptively already have answers to. In that case, prepare yourself to go in depth on that issue and have your paperwork ready in case you are asked for it.
Examples of the type of questions you may be asked are:
When did begin at your position?
How did you get your position?
Who offered the position?
What is the title of the person who was offered job?
What is the name of the person who hired you?
What client do you work for?
Could you please explain your job duties?
What does your company do?
Approximately how many people work with you?
How many interviews do you have to do to get the job?
- Oh no! Something has occurred and I may not be able to make my interview. What do I do if I miss my interview?
In life, things will occur that our outside of our control. While, it is preferred that you not miss your USCIS interview, if you absolutely must miss your interview, it is important that you let USCIS know. They should be able to reschedule your interview for another day if they are informed of you missing the meeting.
If you do not inform them, however, you may encounter some issues. First, it is possible that they may not be able to get you in for another interview for many months which will prolong the time that you are waiting to go into the next step. Additionally, and more consequentially, you could potentially lose your chance at obtaining citizenship all together if you are not able to reschedule your interview or you fail to notify USCIS that you will be missing the interview.
In the event that you must miss your interview, you should call the number listed for USCIS that is on your interview notice letter. There is no penalty for having to reschedule. If you, however, cannot make it AND fail to reschedule, USCIS will issue a notice to you at your last known address that your case has been administratively closed after which you will be given one year to reschedule the interview. If you fail to do so, your application will be denied.
- The COVID-19 virus has impacted a lot of protocols and procedures for many different things. How has COVID affected USCIS interview protocols?
Like other governmental organizations, COVID has affected USCIS processes in a myriad of ways, beginning with how they conduct interviews. Generally, at the top of each interview notice that is sent out, USCIS notes that if you are ill, have had any symptoms of illness, have traveled outside of the United States within the last ten (10) days (unless in a personal vehicle), had contact with a person who tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 14 days, or are at a heightened risk for serious illness due to being immunocompromised, underlying health condition, age, or any other reason; USCIS notes that you can reschedule your interview for the nearest available timeslot if you would like to avoid going in for the in person interview at the time.
At the interview, however, USCIS has enacted a preliminary check point that you will go through before going through the security checkpoint at which you will sign in, be asked questions about your health status, must make an affirmative statement that you are not currently or had not in the past 14 days being ill, have not travelled internationally in the previous 14 days, and may have you temperature checked. Additionally, you will not be allowed to enter unless you have on a facemask. The type of facemask is not important but you must have a facemask or you will not be allowed in.
- How do I prepare for my interview?
One of the first things we always suggest our clients is to take stock of all the documents that you intend to take with you to your interview. It is smart to double check all of your documents and ensure everything that has been asked of you to bring is available long before your interview because, if they are not available and you need to procure them, you will have adequate time to do so before the date of your interview.
Once you have a general idea of what you will be bringing with you, index the items so that they may be easier to find if your interviewer asks you for them. The last thing you want to do is stress yourself out by having to fumble around with your documents when your interviewer is waiting to receive the documents to continue on with your interview.
Additionally, another good practice prior to your interview is to make the drive to your interview location a day or two before so that you can ascertain about how far away the location is and estimate about how long it will take you to get there. This is especially important considering that you will not be allowed into the building until at least 15 minutes prior to your interview.
- My I-485 interview is tomorrow. How should I dress for this interview? Is it casual, business casual, or professional?
It is important that you show up to your interview looking your best. Thus, we always suggest that you dress in a business professional manner.
- Sometimes, I get tongue tied or do not remember things very easily when I am nervous. Am I allowed to defer to my attorney during the interview?
While you are allowed to have an attorney present during your interview, USCIS will speak to and ask questions to only you during your interview. If there is a need to clarify a question or an answer, your attorney may jump in and provide such clarification on your behalf. Similarly, if your case has an outstanding factual or legal issue, your attorney may draw the adjudicator’s attention to the pertinent facts or legal arguments and make them on your behalf.
- What do I do if I am asked a question I do not know the answer to or remember the answer to?
USCIS adjudicators understand that you are human and that being called in for an interview is a stressful event. Thus, they do not expect you to memorize your answers or answer them verbatim. All USCIS officials are expecting of you is to answer the questions to the best of your ability and, more importantly, honestly. If you simply answer honestly and keep your responses short, there is no need to worry.
- The interview is finally over —what now?
Congratulations! You have now made it through the hard part of the interview process. Once your interview is over, if you’re lucky, your interviewer will simply approve your case right then and there. However, this is not a guarantee. Sometimes, an officer will hold off on a decision upon your case so that they can look at it for a bit longer before sending you a decision in the mail. It is also possible that at the end of your interview, USCIS may inform you that additional evidence is needed and they will need you to send it in by a certain deadline. It is paramount that you comply with their demands by their deadline in order to ensure that USCIS is able to mail you a decision. Finally, it is also possible, that by the time you make it to your interview, your priority date could have regressed. If this is the case, the USCIS officer will inform you that your case will still be looked at and, assuming everything is good to go, whenever your date is current again, the file will be sent off for approval.
If, after your interview, you weren’t informed about anything at all, it would be prudent to give USCIS a call concerning your case. You will be able to set up an appointment to speak with a representative to get information concerning your case.
This Q&A is a general overview of some of the most common questions that the attorneys at Reddy and Neumann get concerning the adjustment of status interview process. If you have been scheduled for an interview and have questions or believe that representation is in your best interest, Reddy & Neumann, P.C. offers interview preparation for our I-485 clients. We also offer interview preparation services to applicants who have not otherwise used our services to file their applications. In limited cases, we are also able to accompany applicants in person to their I-485. Please contact us if our office can be of any assistance.