COVID-19 has given rise to a number of changes that have dramatically transformed the practice and procedure of immigration law. New interview protocols have changed who can accompany clients to their citizenship and marriage interviews. In most cases, family members are not permitted to accompany applicants and wait in the waiting room, let alone enter the building. Applicants–even if elderly—must enter the building alone and proceed by themselves to the appropriate floor. Fortunately, what has not changed is an individual’s right to have an attorney present at the interview. Applicants for citizenship as well as green card interviews have the legal right to have their lawyers present.
Sadly, due to the pandemic, many attorneys’ offices are no longer personally attending interviews. However, even if an attorney cannot be physically present, he/she can still make a telephonic appearance under the new guidelines. Clients who wish to have their attorneys make a telephonic appearance are advised to inform the officer at the beginning of their interview and submit Form G-28, Entry of Appearance Form. The G-28 is an authorization form that apprises an officer that the applicant is represented by a lawyer. Unfortunately, there have been anecdotal reports that officers are not honoring G-28s and conducting the examinations without calling the attorney. Some have even made erroneous statements that attorneys are not permitted—which is not true and a gross deprivation of the client’s procedural and substantive due process. Accordingly, individuals represented by an attorney who will not be physically present at the interview must insist on their lawyer being called, or in the worst case, respectfully ask that a supervisor be brought in.
It is our office’s current policy to have an attorney, if practicable, attend the interview in person with our clients. In cases, of course, where an attorney is not available to physically attend the interview, our office can make arrangements to be available telephonically. Whether in person or telephonically, an attorney can have an appreciable effect on the outcome of a case. In cases where there may not be any issues, a lawyer will help to ensure that no superfluous or immaterial issues arise. On the other hand, if the case is sensitive or complex, the participation of attorney is even more critical. Counsel may not only need to explain legal issues but also protect clients from overreach, inappropriate questions, or failure to follow official interview guidelines.
The above is general information only. It is not specific legal advice nor intended to create an attorney client relationship. If you need advice, please consult with an attorney.