Should we bring a lawyer to my wife's visa interview?
January 24, 2012 10:57 AM   Subscribe

Should we bring a lawyer along to my wife's green card interview, or not? I am tempted to say yes, since it wouldn't cost me anything extra, but I heard from an acquaintance who brought a lawyer to her green card interview that the interviewer did not like this (thought she had something to hide) and was hostile towards her.

First, a little background:

I am a U.S. citizen. My then-girlfriend (now wife) entered the U.S. on a tourist visa from an eastern European country. We did not necessarily intend to marry (to enter on a tourist visa with intent to marry would be visa fraud) but nonetheless we were somewhat concerned that the authorities might interpret it that way. We were married more than 90 days after she entered, to avoid the so-called "30/60/90" rule.

Due to this concern, we hired a law firm to do the paperwork for an Adjustment of Status (AOS) to get her a green card -- we wanted to make sure that all the i's were dotted and the t's crossed. The law firm is now offering to send a lawyer to accompany us to the interview for no charge.

Do any of you have any experience with this? We have all our paperwork in order and a bunch of bona fides, so we don't really anticipate any issues.
posted by verdeluz to Law & Government (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I can't think of a single reason you wouldn't want to bring a lawyer, especially since you don't have to pay for it. I can think of several things that could go wrong if you don't, but none that could go wrong if you do.

Thing is, even if the interviewer doesn't like you having a lawyer, you have a lawyer, so she isn't going to be able to screw with you nearly as much.

Take the counsel.
posted by valkyryn at 11:03 AM on January 24, 2012 [8 favorites]

A friend of mine practices immigration law and I passed this question along. That attorney says,

"Yes bring an atty. The officer is actually less likely to be hostile. The atty should put an end to that shit real quick. An atty is also handy if the officer asks a ? In immigration lingo the applicant doesn't understand and makes sure the answers are legally correct."
posted by jayder at 11:09 AM on January 24, 2012 [5 favorites]

Another advantage of having a lawyer present is that if something does go wrong with the process somewhere down the line, you had your lawyer present who can vouch reliably for what was said in the interview and how it was conducted. It won't just be your word against their word, since you have a sworn officer of the court backing up your side.
posted by Nightman at 11:15 AM on January 24, 2012 [4 favorites]

I am a New Zealander married to an American. We had our attorney present at our green card interview and I can't think of any reason why anyone wouldn't.
posted by gaspode at 11:24 AM on January 24, 2012

I've been through this process without a lawyer and we didn't have any problems. When we were waiting for our interview there were several lawyers in the room, each of whom seemed to be juggling more than one client at a time. To be honest, they all seemed kind of bumbling and unprofessional (poorly dressed, running in late and breathless) - but if you have any concerns about the appropriateness of how your wife entered the country, I suppose it couldn't hurt to have an attorney present.
posted by jrichards at 11:25 AM on January 24, 2012

You have a lawyer; the lawyer says bring a lawyer; BRING THE LAWYER.

Assuming this lawyer is reasonably competent, they do this stuff all the time. They know the system. You're paying for their expertise (even if you aren't paying for this particular time). Take advantage of it.
posted by dpx.mfx at 11:37 AM on January 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yes. Bring the lawyer.
posted by Faint of Butt at 11:47 AM on January 24, 2012

I'll take the contrary view here: I did not have a lawyer present at my green card interview (I am a UK citizen, my wife is US born) and it didn't feel like a problem to me. Mind you, our case was pretty straightforward (we had been living together for years, bought a house and had cats and dogs), so YMMV. IANAL, etc.
posted by baggers at 11:53 AM on January 24, 2012

That interviewer in question was probably having a bad day or just didn't like your acquaintance, and had his or her back up anyway. Everyone I know who's gone through the process has taken their lawyer as a matter of course; I don't know why you wouldn't.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:53 AM on January 24, 2012

Anecdotally I have been through all this and did it all ourselves without a lawyer. We appeared to be the the only people in the waiting room without one. We were in and out in 10 minutes and we had no problems.

We did this as we couldn't see the point in paying someone to do paperwork I could do myself, however am obsessive about paperwork and had researched what would happen to death so we were prepared. If you have paid them already to process the paperwork this far, they will have more idea of what questions about it they are likely to ask based on the evidence they sent, and they are offering to go for no extra charge I can't see why you wouldn't take full use of it.
posted by wwax at 12:04 PM on January 24, 2012

Do any of you have any experience with this?

I went through exactly the same process, except my girlfriend is from the Antipodes rather than Eastern Europe. We hired a law firm to do the paperwork and they sent a lawyer along for our interview. I am surprised that anyone would think it might be a bad idea to bring a lawyer - most people there the day we went in had lawyers too, and the DHS staff were totally unfazed by it. It seemed to be standard practice.

It was nice, actually - the lawyer handled all the technical questions, and we answered the personal ones, and it was all over pretty quickly and she got her green card.
posted by Mars Saxman at 12:11 PM on January 24, 2012

Any time the question is "Should I have a lawyer?" regardless of circumstance, the answer is pretty much always "yes".
posted by mie at 12:23 PM on January 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

US Immigration is such a freaking mess. So many things can go wrong, with tiny technicalities, and the consequences are huge. Yes, you'd eventually sort it out, but it'll take lots of time, money and stress. Ergo, bring the free person who has a good chance of saving you from much of that.
posted by barnone at 12:49 PM on January 24, 2012

We brought a lawyer to the interview for my wife. It turned out to not be necessary. The interviewer and I worked in the same field in the past and we talked about that. He was also impressed with my photography for the pictures I brought to document our relationship. He didn't really ask many technical questions.

In summary, the interview was total BS and I was very lucky. I imagine he could have been in a bad mood and denied us for the same type of silly reasons he used to approve us.

I would bring a lawyer.
posted by Quonab at 1:02 PM on January 24, 2012

Followup: In the end, we decided to go sans lawyer (I know, I know -- why ask for help and then not follow it?). As others remarked, the majority of the other couples had lawyers with them.

We were in and out in 15 minutes and had zero problems. That said, our case was very straightforward and we had already filed a very complete application. I would say that if you don't have an "open-and-shut" case like we did, follow the advice posted above.

In case this helps someone else down the line, questions were as follows. I'm actually terrible at details so if you're like me, make sure that you get your dates straight. Nearly every question was directed at my wife (the one applying for the green card):

- When were you born?
- Where/how did you meet?
- Date of birth of the spouse
- Names of the in-laws
- Where/when was marriage
- Street address of where you live?
- How long have you lived there?
- What's your own phone number?

We brought all our documentation that they tell you to bring but they only asked to see wedding photos.

Thanks! Have a great day all.
posted by verdeluz at 12:14 PM on January 26, 2012

The questions you list are only a short sample of the questions that immigration may ask, and practices vary widely by office, (one of the many frustrating things about immigration law in the US is that despite it being federal in theory, it's provincial in many practices), so future mefis should not rely wholly on the list.

(Bias, I am an immigration attorney and I would insist I go to the interview as eyes and ears- officials get annoyed at attorneys who do too much during the interviews, but then the attorney is there to take notes and things.)

That being said, congratulations!
posted by t_rex_raaar at 1:42 PM on January 27, 2012

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