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Do prepare for the meeting. Have all of your original documents in order and review your forms. Bring copies all of your forms and all your document originals. You should be able to respond to questions about your forms without extensive referencing and confusion.
Do be prepared to answer personal questions if you are at an interview related to your marriage to a U.S. citizen.
Do follow the directions of the BCIS officer. If the officer wants to interview you and your spouse separately, that is perfectly appropriate.
Do listen carefully and answer only the question that the officer asks you.
Do bring an interpreter with you if you do not understand English.
Do dress appropriately for the occasion. This is an important meeting for you and a good impression can’t hurt.
Do remain calm. If you don’t understand the question, ask the officer to rephrase it. If you really do not know the answer to a question, it is better to admit ignorance than make something up. It also helps to be prepared. If you know there is a part of your application that will raise suspicion, practice a truthful response.
Do show up on time. BCIS officers are notoriously difficult to reach and requests for changes in interview times are not well received. If you fail to show up for your appointment, you will have to endure a lengthy process to get another interview.
Do hire an attorney to accompany you if the thought of going through an interview alone is too overwhelming.
Don’t joke around with the BCIS officer. Particularly avoid joking or sarcasm related to drug dealing, communicable diseases, bigamy, or smuggling people into the country.
Don’t argue with your spouse or other family members in the middle of an interview. Agree before hand on what you will do if a disagreement arises during the interview.
Don’t argue with the BCIS officer. If the BCIS officer says part of your application is incomplete, ask for an explanation and attempt to remedy the situation by using the documents and forms you have brought with you.
Don’t lose your patience with the BCIS officer and refuse to answer questions. Questions that may seem inappropriate or unimportant to you are probably within the boundaries of what is allowed by BCIS policy. Just keep remembering what the payoff is for going through with the interview.
Don’t lie to the BCIS officer. If you feel you have something that would be difficult to explain, hire an attorney. Your attorney should be able to diffuse difficult situations during an interview.
In the mid-Eighteenth Century, Sir William Blackstone, a British judge and jurist wrote a comprehensive treatise on British law, based on lectures he gave at Oxford University. In his book, Commentaries on the Law, he summarized the right to speech and freedom of the press, as it then existed in England. In earlier times, publishers were required to have a license from the government, which effectively gave the government power to regulate and censor what was printed. Later, publishers were subject to a special tax, the Stamp Act of 1712, rather than direct censorship. Blackstone reports that the press had freedom to publish without that fear, within bounds.
“Although blasphemous, immoral, treasonable, schismatical, seditious or scandalous libels are punishable by the English law… the liberty of the press, properly understood, is by no means infringed or violated. The liberty of the press is essential to the nature of a free state; but this consists in laying no previous restraint upon publications, and not in freedom from censure for criminal matter when published. Every freeman has an undoubted right to lay what sentiments he pleases before the public. To forbid this is to destroy the freedom of the press; but if he publishes what is improper, mischievous or illegal, he must take the consequences of his own temerity. To subject the press to the restrictive power of a licenser as was formerly done, is to subject all freedom of sentiment to the prejudices of one man, and make him the arbitrary and infallible judge of all controverted points in learning, religion and government.”
As the thirteen states debated whether the new Constitution should be ratified, the notion emerged that the Constitution gave too much power to the federal government, and that people needed protection from that power. Various state legislative bodies proposed amendments, which were forerunners of the current Bill of Rights (the first ten amendments to the Constitution). One of the proposed amendments from the Virginia Constitutional Convention read:
“[T]he people have the right to freedom of speech, and of writing and publishing their sentiments; that the freedom of press is one of the greatest bulwarks of liberty, and ought not be violated.”
The Pennsylvania Constitution explicitly protected freedom of speech and freedom of the press:
“[T]he people have a right of Freedom of Speech, and of Writing and Publishing their sentiments, therefore the Freedom of the Press ought not be restrained.”
Thus people were concerned that, if they ratified the United States Constitution, they would be giving up the protections of their state Constitutions. A pamphlet from Boston and the minority of the Pennsylvania convention both described the freedom of press as the “scourge of tyrants.” Another pamphlet from one “John DeWitt” (a pen name) declaimed:
“Civil liberty, in all countries, hath been promoted by a free discussion of publick measures, and the conduct of publick men. The Freedom of the Press, hath, in consequence thereof, been esteemed as one of its safe guards. That freedom gives the right, at all times, to every citizen to lay his sentiments, in a decent manner, before the people. If he will take that trouble upon himself, whether they are in point or not, his countrymen are obliged to him for so doing; for, at least, they lead to an examination of the subject upon which he writes.”
Patrick Henry argued that England’s unwritten Constitution protected the rights of British subjects better than the United States Constitution, without the Bill of Rights, protected the rights of its citizens:
“Here is a revolution as radical as that which separated us from Great Britain. It is as radical, if in this transition our rights and privileges are endangered, and the sovereignty of the States be relinquished: And cannot we plainly see, that this is actually the case? The rights of conscience, trial by jury, liberty of the press, all your immunities and franchises, all pretensions to human rights and privileges, are rendered insecure, if not lost, by this change so loudly talked of by some, and inconsiderately by others. Is this same relinquishment of rights worthy of freemen?… Is the relinquishment of the trial by jury, and the liberty of the press, necessary for your liberty? Will the abandonment of your most sacred rights tend to the security of your liberty?… 23 years ago was I supposed a traitor to my country; I was then said to be a bane of sedition, because I supported the rights of my country… [Suspicion of governmental power] is a virtue, as long as its object is the preservation of the public good, as long it stays within proper bounds.”
But a proponent of the new Constitution, James Wilson, argued that the Constitution did not take away individual liberties:
“[I]t would have been superfluous and absurd to have stipulated with a federal body of our own creation, that we should enjoy those privileges of which we are not divested, either by the intention or the act that has brought the body into existence. For instance, the liberty of the press, which has been a copious source of declamation and opposition-what control can proceed from the Federal government to shackle or destroy that sacred palladium of national freedom?”
Alexander Hamilton, one of the authors of The Federalist Papers, also took the view that by agreeing to adopt the Constitution, people gave up none of their civil liberties. His analysis distinguishes between a bill of rights presented by subjects to their monarch, and a constitution founded by the people themselves.
“It has been several times truly remarked that bills of rights are, in their origin, stipulations between kings and their subjects, abridgements of prerogative in favor of privilege, reservations of rights not surrendered to the prince. Such was the MAGNA CARTA, obtained by the [English] barons, sword in hand, from King John… ” Such, also, was the Declaration of Right presented by the Lords and Commons [the two Houses of Parliament in Great Britain] to the Prince of Orange in 1688, and afterwards thrown into the form of an act of parliament called the Bill of Rights. It is evident, therefore, that, according to their primitive signification, they have no application to constitutions professedly founded upon the power of the people, and executed by their immediate representatives and servants. Here, in strictness, the people surrender nothing: and as they retain every thing they have no need of particular reservations. “WE, THE PEOPLE of the United States, to secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ORDAIN and ESTABLISH this Constitution… ” Here is a better recognition of popular rights, than volumes of those aphorisms which make the principal figure in several of our State bills of rights, and which would sound much better in a treatise of ethics than a constitution of government.”
Hamilton was just as emphatic about a declaration of the freedom of the press.
“What signifies a declaration, that ‘the liberty of the press shall be inviolably preserved?’ What is the liberty of the press? Who can give it any definition which would not leave the utmost latitude for evasion? I hold it too impracticable; and from this I infer, that its security, whatever fine declarations may be inserted in any constitution respecting it, must altogether depend on public opinion, and upon the general spirit of the people and of the government. And here, after all… must we seek for the only solid basis of our rights.”
In the end, the free press flourished in the early days of our nation. Alexis de Tocqueville, an assistant magistrate in France, went to the United States to study its penal system. He traveled throughout America in 1831 and was both amazed at and concerned about how free the press was. In his journal, which formed the basis of his best seller, Democracy in America, he made these several notes.
In a conversation with a Mr. Spencer, a lawyer from upstate New York who was also a member of Congress and a representative to the New York legislature, he asked, “What limits do you impose on [the freedom of the press]?” Mr. Spencer responded:
“We have a very simple principle in this matter. Everything that is a question of opinion is perfectly free. One could go to print daily in America saying that monarchy is the best of all forms of government. But when a paper publishes libellous facts, when it gratuitously suggests culpable motives, then it is prosecuted and generally punished with a heavy fine. I recently had experience of an example. At the time of the case in connection with the disappearance of [a member of the Masons, suspected of having been drowned in Lake Ontario by his fellow masons to prevent him from revealing Masonic secrets] a newspaper printed that the jurors had pronounced their verdict of guilty from motives of ‘party spirit.’ I prosecuted the writer of the article and had him punished.”
DeTocqueville had a follow-up question: “What in your view is the way to diminish the power of the press?” Mr. Spencer replied:
“I am completely convinced that the most effective way is to increase the number of newspapers as much as possible and not to prosecute them except in extreme cases. Their power gets less as their number gets greater, a fact which experience has incontrovertibly proved to us… With us there are an immense number of factors dividing our interests. There is no great centre of activity; it is almost impossible to get public opinion excited over a large area… Another reason why the personal opinions of journalists carry very little weight is the bad use they made of them in the first years of Independence. It was then proved that most of them had been bought by England. Since then they have lost public confidence.”
While traveling through Kentucky, DeTocqueville, who was at heart a dedicated tourist, noted that citizens living in Kentucky were sophisticated thinkers rather than “rustic folk.”
“These men… belong to one of the most civilised and rational peoples in the world. Their manners have nothing of rustic naivete. The philosophic and argumentative spirit of the English is found there as in all America. There is an astonishing circulation of letters and newspapers among these savage woods… I do not think that in the most enlightened rural districts of France there is intellectual movement either so rapid or on such a scale as in this wilderness.”
DeTocqueville was, however, leery of the press’s freedom. While he was reading a treatise on English common law, Kent’s Commentaries, he wrote in the margin next to the principle that in England, proof of the truth was not permitted in defamation cases, “Controversial question in America. Strong tendency to permit proof. Freedom of the press too unlimited, breaking all bounds. Curious.”
Do follow the instructions on your Bureau of Citizenship & Immigration Services (BCIS) forms exactly. If the BCIS (which took over responsibility for the issuance of green cards from the former INS) didn’t think the information was important, it would not have included it on the form. Failure to provide all of the information requested could result in significant processing delays.
Do attach all the documents called for in the forms and provide appropriate translations where necessary. In most cases, the BCIS will not process the forms if documents are missing.
Do follow the BCIS photograph instructions. Your local BCIS office may even have an onsite photographer. It is worth inquiring.
Do call your local BCIS office, or visit the office personally if you have questions. You can also access the BCIS website at www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis.
Do request an interpreter if you have trouble understanding English. Many INS offices have interpreters on hand. To be safe, bring your own interpreter.
Do hire an immigration attorney if you have been previously denied entry to the United States, deported, convicted of a crime, made misrepresentations to the BCIS (or the former INS), overstayed a visa, or are currently in the country illegally.
Do tell your attorney about any previously denied entries to the United States, deportations, convictions, misrepresentations made to the BCIS (or the former INS), unauthorized employment, or overstayed visas. Your attorney will be able to determine whether any of these problems can be remedied or whether they are significant relative to your current immigration goals. If your failure to reveal potential immigration problems leads to your filing immigration forms with false information, you could be deported and barred from returning to the United States.
Do consult an attorney if you are contemplating accepting public benefits such as welfare or AFDC. If the BCIS has reason to believe that you have become a “public charge,” you could lose your green card.
Don’t commit any crimes. Your green card will not keep you from being deported.
Don’t engage in politically subversive activities.
Don’t smuggle other foreign nationals into the United States.
Don’t charge others for legal advise. Even though your experience of obtaining a green card may have made you an expert, it is not legal to practice law without a license.
Don’t create the impression that you are not living in the United States once you have obtained your green card. If you leave the United States for too long, you may lose your green card.
Don’t lie on any BCIS form. If you feel you have something to lie about, contact an attorney.
Don’t lie to BCIS officers. If you feel you have something to lie about, contact an attorney.
Don’t leave parts of your forms blank, or assume that a part of the form is unimportant. If the information really does not apply to you, insert “N/A” or “none.” For example, if you are not married, you should put an “N/A” on the portions of the forms asking for spousal information. But if the form asks for your addresses for the past five years, you must supply complete addresses with no time periods unaccounted for.
Don’t open the envelope with your medical exam results in it. If you want to see the results of your exam, most physicians will supply you with a copy.
The general requirements for naturalization are:
After you have filed your naturalization application package, if you meet the requirements, the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (BCIS) will schedule you for a naturalization examination. During the interview, the examiner will test your English reading and writing skills by giving you a simple dictation test. You will also have to sign your name in English. However, you do not have to take the literacy examination if:
The following are questions you can expect to be asked:
The processes for obtaining green cards vary. If you are not in the United States, you will begin the process by applying for an immigrant visa at a U.S. consulate in your home country. If you currently reside in the U.S., you will seek an “adjustment of status” through the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (the U.S. government agency which took over responsibility for adjustment of status applications from the former Immigration and Naturalization Service). Individuals who are issued green cards will eventually be able to apply for U.S. citizenship, a process called “naturalization.”
Interestingly, green cards are no longer green; they are now high-tech and hard-to-forge cards with embedded identifiers and magnetic strip technology.
Don’t try to make light of the airport or border inspection process. It is serious and the government inspectors do not take their jobs lightly, even if they appear to be informal. To avoid the prying eyes of immigration and customs inspectors, remember to:
If you are uncertain as to whether particular reporting or registration requirements apply to you, if you fear that there is something in your background that may prohibit you from obtaining a green card, or if you have been contacted by a U.S. government immigration enforcement agency and threatened with deportation, it is well worth it to seek advise from an attorney before further contact with the government.
All asylum seekers must meet the definition of “refugee” under the Immigration and Nationality Act, which includes persons outside of their country (and some persons who are still in their home country) who are unable or unwilling to return to that country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution based on their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. Even persons who are in the country illegally may apply for asylum.
Asylum applicants can track the progress of their applications by contacting the office to which they applied. While the application is pending, applicants must obtain advance permission before leaving the United States. If they do not, the application is deemed abandoned and they may not be allowed back into the United States. Applicants must generally wait 150 days after applying for asylum to apply to the INS for employment authorization, unless asylum is granted before the expiration of the 150 day period.
Immigration matters are complicated and fraught with emotional implications. When something as important as asylum status is at stake, expert legal counsel is the best defense against an adverse decision.
Specific forms and accompanying documents that request a green card or a visa.
A foreign national who has been given permission to reside in the United States to avoid persecution in a home country. An asylee obtains his or her status after entering the United States.
The formal name for a “green card”.
Immediate relatives (usually your spouse and children under age twenty-one who will be entering the United States at the same time that you do) who are eligible to receive the same immigration benefits as you based on your application.
Documentation proving that a marriage is not entered into for immigration purposes.
The U.S. government agency that in 2003 took over responsibility for the immigration service functions that used to be performed by the Immigration and Naturalization Service. BCIS is part of the new Department of Homeland Security.
The U.S. government agency that in 2003 took over responsibility for the enforcement and investigative functions that used to be performed by the INS, the Customs Service, and the Federal Protective Service. BICE is part of the Department of Homeland Security Directorate of Border and Transportation Security.
The “green card lottery”. A yearly lottery program designed to assure that immigrants come from a diversity of backgrounds.
When an immigrant is forced to leave the United States as a result of a court proceeding.
The U.S. government agency that in 2003 took over responsibility for the immigration enforcement functions that used to be handled by the INS. The BTS is part of the Department of Homeland Security. Enforcement functions within the BTS are divided between two bureaus: the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (BICE), and the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (BCBP).
The immigration laws deem certain individuals “excludable” and thus prohibited from obtaining visas or green cards. Excludability arises from prior criminal records, subversive activities, inability to support oneself, and various other circumstances.
The popular name for the Alien Registration Receipt Card. The card (which is not really green) is given to foreign nationals who are legal permanent residents.
A small card given to a non-immigrant upon entry to the United States. It proves lawful entry to the United States. The expiration date on the I-94 determines the amount of time a foreign national may legally stay here.
The U.S. government agency that formerly had responsibility for matters concerning foreign nationals in the United States. In 2003, all of the, the INS ceased to exist. The INS’ functions were transferred to the new Department of Homeland Security. Within the Department of Homeland Security, the immigration service functions that were formerly handled by the INS were taken over by the new Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (BCIS). Immigration enforcement functions that used to be handled by the INS were transferred to the new Directorate of Border and Transportation Security.
A private company under contract with the Department of State that receives approved green card petitions and green card lottery registrations.
The legal process of becoming a U.S. citizen. Once naturalized, an individual has the same rights as a U.S. citizen who was born in the United States.
A visa obtained by a person who wishes to enter the United States for a particular purpose, but does not intend to permanently reside in the United States.
A foreign national who has been granted permission to live permanently in the United States. Permanent residents are given green cards and are allowed to work in and travel in and out of the United States.
INS forms and accompanying documents that request recognition of your eligibility for permanent residence or some types of non-immigrant visas.
Your status when the state assumes primary responsibility for your support. Being deemed a public charge can result in the loss of your green card.
Each year there are only a certain number of green cards available for particular categories of applicants. A greater number of applicants than the number of green cards available have created backlogs.
A foreign national who has been given permission to reside in the United States to avoid persecution in a home country. A refugee obtains his or her status prior to entering the United States.
What you file when you are applying for a spot in the green card lottery.
A marriage entered into for immigration purposes.
A procedure, applicable to noncitizens from certain designated countries and to other noncitizens deemed by consular officers to require closer monitoring, under which the noncitizens must be fingerprinted and photographed at U.S. ports of entry and must make subsequent reports to the U.S. government at certain specified times and upon certain events, such as changes of address, employment or school.
The privileges you receive with your immigration benefits either as an immigrant or non-immigrant. For example, your status as a green card holder is that of a legal permanent resident.
Branch offices of U.S. embassies. Most consulates process immigrant and non-immigrant visa applications.
Worldwide U.S. State Department offices that represent the United States in foreign countries. Embassies process immigrant and non-immigrant visa applications.
A stamp placed in your passport at a U.S. embassy or consulate that allows you to enter the United States.
The Department of Homeland Security often transfers aliens in removal proceedings out of State and houses them in detention centers. A detention center will often have onsite immigration judges who hear removal cases.
If necessary, we will order a client’s immigration file from the Department of Homeland Security and their criminal histories from the FBI and California Department of Justice to assist us in evaluating their removal case.
An alien may be placed into removal proceedings for many reasons. These reasons are referred to as grounds of inadmissibility and grounds of deportability. In many instances, aliens are placed in removal proceedings because of their criminal history and/or illegal status.
For aliens placed in removal proceedings because of a criminal conviction, the immigration attorneys at the Depew Law Group, P.C. are experienced in determining the effect that a conviction or convictions will have on an alien’s immigration status. In addition, our attorneys will explore with a qualified criminal attorney the possibility of vacating, expunging or reducing a criminal conviction when it is beneficial to the alien’s removal case to do so.
Immigration court proceedings general consist of a bond hearing and removal hearings. At a bond hearing, the immigration judge will decide whether the alien should be released on bond while removal proceedings are pending. At the Master Calendar hearing, an alien will admit or deny the allegations in the charging document called the Notice to Appear, concede or deny removability and inform the immigration judge of the immigration relief that the alien will be applying for to avoid being removed from the United States.
At the merits hearings, the immigration judge will decide if the alien will be allowed to stay in the United States after hearing all the arguments and evidence presented by the attorney for the alien and the U.S. government attorney. At the hearing, the alien’s attorney will present a legal brief which sets forth the legal argument on behalf of the alien; documents in support of the argument put forth for the alien; conduct a direct examination of the alien, alien’s family members and expert witnesses, if needed. The government attorney will also be given an opportunity to cross-examine any witness presented by the alien’s attorney.
In order to qualify for Cancellation of Removal for Non-permanent residents, the non-permanent resident must have resided in the United States continuously for ten years after entering the United States illegally without inspection. The alien must establish good moral character during the ten year period preceding the decision made. And, the alien must show that his or her removal would result in exceptional and extremely unusual hardship to a qualifying relative who is a US citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident parent, spouse or child residing in the United States. The hardship requirement is a very difficult standard to meet.
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This publication and the information included in it are not intended to serve as a substitute for consultation with an attorney. Specific legal issues, concerns and conditions always require the advice of appropriate legal professionals.