Due to logistical changes implemented as a result of COVID-19, it is not uncommon for some interviews to be conducted remotely by officers in different states. Some of our clients appearing for examinations in Newark, for example, have been interviewed by adjudicators who appear by video in states other than New Jersey. For some, this may understandably cause some apprehension, but there should be no cause for alarm.
A virtual interview is conducted the same way as an interview done in person. The main difference, of course, is that the applicant and interviewing officer are not in the same room. Otherwise, the interview or examination is conducted in normal fashion with the questions asked and answered via video instead of in person. Video interviews can happen for naturalization, marriage green card cases, as well as removal of condition cases.
That being said, there are nevertheless circumstances where an applicant can be disadvantaged by a video interview. For one thing, an officer conducting the interview from another state may not be familiar with local district office policy and procedure. (While immigration law is federal, there are different court decisions that apply to certain circuits, and some states handle issues differently than others.) Additionally, there may be audio as well as visual issues. For example, what happens when either the officer or applicant is not speaking audibly? What if the applicant has additional paperwork or materials that cannot be visually examined? Additionally, some individuals, especially elderly ones, may not be used to the technology and feel uncomfortable having an interview done virtually. There are also many intangible factors that are affected by whether the interview and interviewee are before one another. Video can arguably detract from an officer’s ability to accurately judge the interviewee’s sincerity, composure, and demeanor. While speaking by video is close to the real thing, all of us can attest that it is no substitute for being together in person. These types of issues can potentially detract from a smooth interview and frustrate the participants.
One way to mitigate the unpredictability of a virtual interview is to have an attorney present. Attorneys are allowed to sit inside the interview room with the applicant. While a lawyer cannot take a test for you or answer questions for you, a lawyer plays an indispensable role in ensuring that the interview is conducted in a fair manner. Attorneys are official witnesses to the proceeding, observing and if necessary, objecting, when questions are inappropriate or when there is a deviation from established procedure. Counsel can also make the officer aware of any technical difficulties such as low sound or poor video. Additionally, lawyers can explain legal issues and help applicants understand what is expected of them and what documents should be brought to the interview.
Our lawyers specialize in interview representation. If you or someone you care about think that you can benefit from having an attorney attend the interview with you, please contact our family immigration and citizenship lawyers to arrange for a confidential consultation.
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.