Let me get right down to it. The idea of having an immigration lawyer present at a relatively straightforward immigration-related interview at USCIS, such as the Adjustment of Status interview or the Naturalization interview may not be appealing to many people because of the dreaded attorney’s fees. But if you have hired an immigration lawyer who includes his or her attendance at the interview as part of the overall (usually flat or fixed) fee, then you won’t pay anything extra for the attorney to show up to the interview with you. Once you are sitting down with the USCIS adjudicator in his or her intimidating little office, you will be glad you have your immigration attorney there with you.
People often ask, “What can go wrong? Why do I need a lawyer at the interview?” The answer to that question is that there are quite a few factors about the interview that could lead to trouble (a denial, or worse, being given a Notice to Appear in removal proceedings).
First, you could find yourself with a young-ish USCIS adjudicator who thinks he or she has a lot to prove. This person I like to call “Young Person With a lot to Prove” (“YP”) You are not lucky if you get YP. YP will drill you (and your spouse, if at an AOS interview). Not only is YP hell-bent on fettering out a marriage fraud, YP is also inexperienced, meaning he or she doesn’t know the immigration laws very well. If YP asks you and your spouse, “why did you get married only a few days after your spouse arrived in the U.S. on a B-2 visitor visa?” Your answer is, of course, because you love each other and wanted to get married. YP may be confused about the 30/60 Day Rule (look it up) and deny the adjustment due to your spouse having an immigrant intent. Without an immigration attorney with you, how do you respond to this accusation? You probably can’t. You may leave the interview with a denial and perhaps even a Notice to file an I-601 Waiver of Inadmissibility based on INA 212(a)(6)(C)(ii), which is for fraud/misrepresentation. If, however, you have your immigration attorney present, he or she would simply point out that the 30/60 Day Rule is a Department of State rule, not a Department of Homeland Security rule, so it should not apply. Besides, there are USCIS Policy Memoranda addressing this issue, and they are favorable to you. There are also several key BIA decisions that your attorney will have printed out to show to the USCIS officer that getting married only a few days after arriving on a B-2 visitor’s visa does not preclude a favorable exercise of prosecutorial discretion from USCIS. In sum, your immigration attorney knows the law and will be prepared to fend off little YP and his/her misguided power trip.
Second, you may find yourself in a situation where the USCIS officer feels compelled to ask you and your spouse absolutely inappropriate personal questions (even regarding your sexual habits) because he/she thinks that will for sure weed out the fraudulent marriages. I call this type of person, quite aptly I think, “Pervy.” Having your immigration attorney present will put Pervy on his or her best behavior, thus minimizing the chance that Pervy asks you and your spouse inappropriate questions.
Third, your USCIS officer may suffer from an affliction I call, “Can’t-understand-foreign-accents-ism.” If you or your spouse has any sort of foreign accent (or can’t speak English at all), there is a chance that your USCIS officer will not understand or worse, will misunderstand you. In short, misunderstandings can lead to disaster in the immigration world. If he or she asks you your first child’s birthday and you say, “one-six-nineteen ninety six” the interviewer might write it down as January 6, 1996 even though you meant June 1, 1996. Simple misunderstandings like this have a tendency to snowball out of control in the immigration world. I have seen harmless date-mixups lead to charges of inadmissibility, which can lead to years of separation between family members. If your immigration attorney is present with you at the interview, he or she will not allow miscommunication to occur, thus paving a smooth immigration road for your future.
In sum, having an immigration lawyer with you at your immigration-related interview will, in all likelihood, be very helpful to you. Not all lawyers make it their standard practice to attend interviews without an additional cost. If you don’t mind paying more money, then that is fine. But if you want your attorney to attend the interview with you in addition to giving you legal advice and creating a bulletproof immigration petition for you all at one flat rate, then call around — they are out there, you just have to find them. Having an immigration attorney present at your interview will be well worth it.