Despite the changes that President Obama announced last week, for many immigrants and their families, the immigration process continues unchanged and as planned. This includes going to interviews for citizenship and permanent residency at USCIS offices.
The Atlanta USCIS Office is like a second office to me. Seriously – some of the officers have joked that they will start charging me rent because I am there so often.
Today, I’d like to share a few tips and suggestions for people who have an interviewing coming up there.
You will need to pass through security before being allowed into the building. Be sure to bring your appointment notice and a photo ID. The ID doesn’t have to be issued in the U.S. and it can also be expired, but you do need something created by an official government agency. Your passport, even if expired, is generally your best option.
You can bring cell phones and tablets into the building, but you cannot bring their chargers. Leave anything with a cord in the car. Once you’re in the building, be sure to put your electronics into silent mode.
Bags and purses are allowed, but make sure you’ve taken out things like silverware (spoons, for example), mace, pocket knives or anything else that could be a weapon.
You are allowed to check in at the front desk up to 30 minutes before your scheduled interview time. If you get there too early, you’ll have to just wait until the time gets closer.
Expect to be at USCIS for at least one hour. Over the past few months, we’ve seen waiting times as long as three hours. It appears that the worst is over, though.
Still, be prepared by eating a good meal beforehand and by bringing a book or magazine to help the time pass.
DRESS FOR SUCCESS
You don’t need to wear a suit to get a case approved, but it does make a good impression on the interviewing officer if you appear to take your immigration matters seriously. This means not wearing shorts, t-shirts, flip-flops, or hats.
Some officers will make you spit out your chewing gum if you have any when you walk into their room. It always helps to look like you should be taken seriously.
There are 40 officers at the Atlanta Field Office, and they are 40 very different personalities. Some officers will engage you in small talk, others will never make eye contact.
Regardless of their individual quirks, all officers should treat you with respect and with professionalism. If you get an officer who never smiles, who sighs heavily and appears disinterested, don’t be daunted. Some officers are always a bit gruffer. But, all officers are fair.
Be honest, be yourself, and even if you get one of the more “difficult” officers, you should be fine.
This summer, the Center for Disease Control stated that USCIS should not accept medical exams that are more than one year old. This means if your medical exam was done with your filing, you should check the date to make sure it wasn’t more than a year before your interview. If it was, get a new medical exam done prior to the interview – it will save you a considerable amount of time.
One of three things will happen at the end if your interview: 1) You’ll be approved; 2) The officer will tell you they will contact you shortly, or 3) The officer will give you a Request for Evidence (RFE) because something is missing.
Nothing horrible should happen at the end of the interview – unless maybe there is an outstanding warrant or old deportation order against you.
The USCIS interview can be stressful, no doubt about it. I remember going to my husband’s adjustment of a status interview and struggling for a few moments to remember my own birthday.
Hopefully, these few tips will make the process a little less intimidating for you when you appear for your interview in Atlanta. Good luck!