How to prepare for the interview for permanent residency?

In my column This week's Consulta Migratoria® answers a reader's question about how to prepare for your interview for permanent residency.

Each case is different and the answers vary depending on each person's immigration history.

Here I provide general answers to your questions. Please consult with an immigration attorney to receive personalized legal advice before starting any procedure.

This is the column:

I am Mexican and I entered the United States illegally in 1995 for the first time and I have not left the country. My citizen brother applied for me in March 1997 and the government approved the application. Next month I have an interview with immigration for my permanent residency. I never left the country and have been paying my taxes. 12 years ago I was found guilty of DUI for drunk driving. I was punished with community service and paid a fine. I have never been in trouble again. Will the DUI affect me? How should I prepare for my interview and do I need to bring a lawyer? -Andrés A.

Andres, congratulations because you are in the final stretch to obtain your permanent residency. You should prepare carefully for your interview and hire an attorney to review your immigration case because you entered the country illegally and got into trouble with the law. Because of this, it would be a good idea for him or her to accompany you to your appointment as well.

It may not affect your immigration status if you have been found guilty of a drunk driving offense. You should go to the criminal court where you were found guilty and ask for a certified summary of what happened in your case. Take that document to your immigration attorney to review and determine if the offense will affect your case.

In order for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to approve your application for adjustment of status, you will have to meet several requirements, including proving your relationship to your brother, that he is a U.S. citizen, and that he filed your family petition in March 1997. You will also have to show evidence that you paid the fine required by 245(i) for entering the country illegally, that your brother is able to support you, and that you deserve to be granted permanent residence by USCIS. The immigration officer will take into account the good and bad things you have done and determine whether or not to approve your application.

How to prepare for a permanent residency interview

The following tips will help you prepare for your adjustment of status interview:

  1. Carefully read the summons you received. There you will find the date, time and place of your interview and the documents you must bring with you.
  2. Study all immigration applications and supporting documents you submitted. The government will ask you questions about these documents and it is important that you do not contradict the information you previously wrote on your immigration applications.
  3. If there is any incorrect information on the forms you previously submitted, it is your duty to notify the officer and correct that information during your interview.
  4. Bring original documents of the copies you submitted to USCIS. For example, you will need to bring your passport, your original birth certificate along with a complete English translation and the certified criminal court summary of what happened in your case.
  5. On the day of your interview arrive early for your appointment and dress as if you were going to a job interview.
  6. Greet the immigration officer with confidence and a smile. Always look him/her in the eye and be respectful.
  7. Never lie to an immigration officer or present false documents. Before the interview begins, the immigration officer will make you take an oath that everything you say and the documents you present are true.
  8. Listen carefully to the immigration officer's questions. Only answer if you understand the question and do not be afraid to ask the officer to repeat the question. Your answers should be clear and to the point.
  9. If you do not speak English, you will need to bring an interpreter who is at least 18 years old and fluent in English and Spanish. The interpreter cannot be your attorney or a person interested in the case.
  10. Thank the immigration officer at the end of the interview and ask him/her to exercise his/her discretion and grant you permanent residency.

Follow these tips and good luck in your interview.