I received a frantic call from a client recently at her naturalization interview. She was being advised by the interviewing officer that her application was going to be denied because she did not meet the residency requirements. In the run-up to the interview, the client and I had reviewed all of the relevant legal issues, including the physical presence and continuous residence requirements, and I assured her that she met the requirements for naturalization. The officer was kind enough to speak with me over the phone, but remained unpersuaded from her position that the residency requirements were not met. The client left the USCIS office and went home extremely upset, notwithstanding my attempts to calm her down and assurances that we were in the right and would be able to challenge any adverse decision.
And then, two hours after the interview, something strange happened: I received an e-mail notification from USCIS that her naturalization application had been recommended for approval. Minutes later, I received another e-mail notification that she was placed in line for the oath ceremony. Less than a month later, she was sworn in as a US citizen.
While this case had a happy ending, too often, individuals just accept the decision of the immigration authorities, without actually understanding whether the decision was correct or not. Sometimes, there is a cultural component: perhaps they come from a country in which it is useless to “argue” with the government, or they are afraid of some kind of retaliation if they dispute the decision. Or they think that the officers are extremely well-trained professionals and could not make a mistake on their application. Or they are not even aware that they have a right to an appeal or request reconsideration (the Department of State, for example, conceals this right from denied immigrant visa applicants).
As can be seen from the Case Studies section of this website and from the example above, consular and USCIS officers make mistakes all of the time. Counting days of unlawful presence; interpreting the term “crime of moral turpitude”; considering what is a material misrepresentation; understanding the availability of a waiver; applying the petty offense exception; jumping to conclusions of alien smuggling and sham marriages. These mistakes can be attributed to many factors: immigration law is very complicated; they do not have enough time to thoroughly review applications; or they do not have enough training or experience to deal with the myriad of issues that arise. While there are supposed to be buffers in place such as management oversight to minimize these errors, these mistakes do happen – and will continue to take place.
The key is to take action. This is not the time to be passive or inert or hope for the best. You need to assert your rights or at least verify the accuracy of the decision. If you were victimized by one of these mistakes, or just want to understand whether the decision was a correct one, feel free to contact us to discuss. The sooner you do so after the decision, the more likely your rights will be preserved.