As an attorney, I trust my clients (unless they give me a clear reason not to!). When we start a case, we provide questionnaires and ask our clients to answer everything truthfully. If there’s a question about how to answer, I hope our clients feel secure enough to ask us. Our clients review the forms before they sign to make sure everything is correct. When we get called in for an interview, I schedule a prep meeting so we can go through a mock interview and go through all the questions on the forms one last time. We do all of this for a few reasons – 1) it ensures that what we’ve listed on the forms is correct and 2) gives the client several opportunities to ask questions or for clarification.
If a client suddenly remembers something at the interview or they haven’t been entirely truthful with me, but decide to tell the whole truth at the interview, there’s very little I (or any attorney) can do at that point. The only two options are that I stop the interview – risky because the officer could see this as an admission of guilt of some sort – or I can let the client share the updated information and deal with the consequences later. It also looks suspicious since we completed the forms based on information the client provided, but now the client says something different – did the attorney not do their job right? Is the client telling the truth about other things?
I’ve had clients not remember arrests (“my criminal defense attorney told me that it was taken off my record”). I’ve had clients not remember children or ex-spouses (“I didn’t realize you needed to know about children outside of the US or my ex-spouse in another country”). Recently, I had a client change her answer about making a false claim to U.S. citizenship. Throughout all the preparation, she said “no,” but when we got to the interview, she said “yes.” My heart stopped because making a false claim to U.S. citizenship is often fatal to an immigrant’s future in the United States – there is no forgiveness.
After the interview, we talked and it turns out that she didn’t make a false claim. She came close, but the blame was on her former employer. We were able to later document this and show USCIS that she never made the claim herself. Still, though, had she talked with me about this before the interview, we would have talked about how her specific situation wasn’t a false claim to citizenship. We would have avoided tears and uncertainty and she would have had her green card a month earlier.
If you have a doubt about something or wonder if a question should be answered “yes” instead of “no,” ask your lawyer! We are here to help you. We can’t tell you what to expect or explain why an answer should be a certain thing if we don’t know the truth. And we certainly can’t jump in during an officer to explain an answer when we’re just learning about it for the first time on the spot. We are a team – let us help you, support you, and make sure that your immigration experience is as drama-free as possible!