By Attorney Devin M. Connolly
There are countless numbers of people who dream about lawfully living and working in the United States. Making this dream a reality is a possibility for many of them, but only if they are able to successfully navigate the United States’ confusing and complex immigration laws. Given the incredible importance placed on being granted permanent resident status (green card) or U.S. citizenship, it is surprising how many people attempt to achieve their immigration goals without the assistance of an experienced attorney that specializes in immigration law. It is true that some do succeed, but many others fail. And this failure may lead to their ultimate nightmare – being deported.
A person that is presently living in the United States must file their request for immigration benefits with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). However, do not think that the process merely requires the completion of a simple form. First, the forms are not always easy to understand. Many of the forms contain complicated questions that require a person to understand terms and language which have a precise meaning unique to immigration law. This meaning may differ from what many people expect it to be. Thus, a person may deprive themselves of lawfully residing in the United States simply because they did not understand the question they were being asked.
More important than the forms though is that an applicant should carefully review their eligibility for the requested benefit before submitting any application to the USCIS. This assessment requires a review of many things, including dates of entries and exits from the U.S., type of visa (if any) held at entry to the U.S., the immigration status and history of the applicant and their family members, etc. The failure to make this assessment before submitting the application may lead to something much worse than a denial – it may lead to being deported, perhaps within a matter of hours.
After eligibility is established, the applicant must submit a well-documented request for an immigration benefit. The submission of sufficient documentary evidence, ranging from a birth or marriage certificate to complex medical records, is vital since it is the applicant who has the burden of proving that they are eligible for the requested benefit. Since it is the applicant who must prove admissibility, they should do everything they can to maximize their chances of being granted the requested benefit by submitting evidence that is thorough and persuasive.
It is clear that an assessment of eligibility is important, as are properly completed forms and sufficient supporting documents, but perhaps the most important reason to retain an experienced immigration attorney is to be adequately represented at your personal interview before a USCIS officer. A decision on the application will frequently be made based off statements made by the applicant during their interview.
These interviews can be stressful, nerve-wracking experiences, but the aspiring immigrant needs to do everything possible to ensure their personal interview is successful. That is not always easy though. It may be the applicant’s first time attending a personal interview for an immigration benefit with the USCIS, and they are likely to be questioned by an experienced USCIS officer who has conducted many of these types of interviews. In addition, the USCIS officer may aggressively question the applicant, they may pressure them to answer questions to which they do not know the answers, and they may also allow the applicant to make statements that are harmful to their case. Saying the wrong thing during an interview can make it significantly more difficult to ever lawfully reside in the U.S. And while the applicant may later realize they misspoke or that they did not actually understand the questions they were being asked, it may too late to fix the problems created. The application may already be denied and the Department of Homeland Security may have already begun the process of deporting them to their native country. As you can see, the personal interview is extremely important.
In conclusion, it is always advisable for immigrants to retain the services of an experienced and knowledgeable attorney who is dedicated solely to the practice of immigration law. Hiring the right attorney may be the difference between obtaining a green card and being deported. It is therefore one of the most significant decisions that a person will make in their lifetime.