During the course of my practice I have found that many people become terribly nervous or unsure as to how to respond to questions at a consular visa interview or border crossing. While every situation is different, I have found that three simple rules make for good advice:
- Tell the truth. There is a saying that the cover-up is often worse than the crime. This is absolutely true in immigration law. Most past violations of the law can be forgiven, but not so with misrepresentation. If the consular officer or Immigration official thinks you are lying, you will be denied the benefit you are seeking (be it a visa or entry into the U.S.), even if his belief is mistaken.
- Keep it simple. Why is it that the majority of people cannot seem to answer a direct question with a simple yes or no answer? If a consular officer asks whether you like chocolate or vanilla ice cream, say “chocolate” or “vanilla”. Don’t give one of these “well I like vanilla but if I’m feeling depressed chocolate seems to cheer me up because chocolate reminds me of when I was five years old and…” The officer doesn’t want to hear it or your life story; he just wants a simple answer to a direct question so that he can make a decision.
- Don’t volunteer. This is another piece of advice which you would think would be obvious, but isn’t. Consular officers and Immigration officials are not shy creatures; if they want to know something from you, they will ask. So yes, be polite and friendly, and an occasional smile never hurts, but do not volunteer information. Most of the time you will only be shooting yourself in the foot. You are not a lawyer, and saying something which you may believe is innocent may end up really hurting you.