The whole point of a deportation defense consultation is to determine if you have a case for remaining in the United States.
For this reason, the attorney will likely ask you a series of questions to find out if you’re eligible for any of the various forms of relief available to individuals in removal proceedings.
Or, as a slightly more common workflow, your attorney will often ask you questions about disqualifying factors, or things that may automatically bar you from staying in the country (such as a criminal history or a prior deportation order), as a way of finding out if you have a defense or not.
Based on your answers to these questions, and the details you include in your story, your attorney will make a determination about whether you have a strong enough case to fight for your right to stay in the United States.
In this article we’ll outline 10 common questions you should expect to answer during a deportation defense consultation with an immigration attorney.
However, you should keep in mind that the questions your attorney will ask will largely depend on the facts of your case and whether or not they believe you have a defense.
What we outline below are just some basic questions to consider, and may not have a specific impact on your individual case.
What Questions will the Attorney Ask During My Deportation Defense Consultation?
Before we begin, you should take note that these questions will still apply even if you are consulting with an attorney on behalf of another person.
If you’re speaking with a lawyer because your friend or family member was picked up by ICE, the attorney will likely ask you for any and all information you have about the detained individual.
1. What is your “A-Number”?
One of the first and most important questions the attorney will ask is “what is your A-Number?”
An “Alien Registration Number” (“A-Number”) is basically an eight- or nine-digit number that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will use to identify individuals with ongoing immigration- or visa-related cases.
In the event that you are detained by ICE or otherwise placed in removal proceedings, this number is the easiest way to access information about your case.
Put simply, your attorney needs this number to make any headway on your case, which is why they’ll often ask if you have access to it at the start of the consultation.
You can find your A-Number on most documents that are related to your case, such as on a Notice to Appear in Immigration Court.
2. Can you tell me about any recent entries into the United States?
Generally, the way that you entered the United States is one of the most important elements in a deportation case.
This is because the distinction between a legal and an illegal entry is very important in immigration law.
For this reason, your attorney will most certainly want to hear every detail about any of your recent entries into the United States.
Did you enter illegally and then immediately claim asylum? Did you enter legally at a port of entry such as an airport? Did you leave the U.S. on business and then get denied entry upon your return?
Your attorney will want to know if you left the U.S. for an extended period of time, overstayed your visa, or did anything else travel-related that might affect your case.
Basically, if you traveled anywhere for any period of time you should at least mention it to your attorney.
Such information can greatly affect your case, either by immediately disqualifying you from staying in the U.S. or by providing you a lifeline by laying the foundation for a solid defense against removal.
Your attorney will be especially interested in any factors that might lead to an immigration bar.
For example, if you remained in the U.S. unlawfully for more than 180 days before the commencement of removal proceedings, you may receive a 3-year bar from staying in the country legally.
Similarly, if you stay in the U.S. unlawfully for more than one year, USCIS will bar you from entering or staying in the country for 10 years.
If you reenter (or try to reenter) the united states after staying in the country unlawfully for more than a year, you will be permanently barred from entering or staying in the United States.
As you can see, the way in which you entered the country, as well as how long you’ve been here, will have a significant impact on your case.
For this reason, you should always tell your attorney about any and all entries into the United States.
3. Do you have a criminal background, or have you ever been arrested?
USCIS and Immigration Judges generally don’t take kindly to immigrants (whether undocumented or not) that have criminal records.
Especially for individuals in removal proceedings, you must tell your immigration attorney about any and all criminal charges that have been brought against you; both in the U.S. and in your home country.
Even just an arrest could show up on a background check, so you’ll want to talk with your attorney about any previous interactions with law enforcement, no matter how small.
After all, even a minor offense such as driving without a license could snowball if not handled correctly.
By being completely honest and straight forward with your attorney, you can work on a defense or argument against such claims should they become relevant in your deportation case.
However, your attorney can only help if they know everything about your criminal background.
4. Can you tell me about your family members and their legal status in the country (if any)?
One of the most common defenses against deportation is a credible claim to a path to legal status in the United States.
For this reason, many attorneys will ask individuals in removal proceedings if they have any immediate family members who are living in the country legally.
This is because the spouses, children, parents, and other close relatives of U.S. citizens and permanent residents may be able to apply for a green card due to this relationship.
For example, if you are in removal proceedings but your spouse is a U.S. citizen, they may be able to petition for a green card on your behalf.
As a result of this petition, the judge in your deportation case may choose to push back your court date or dismiss it entirely, as you would have a credible claim to immigration relief.
For this reason, your attorney will likely question you about any family members you might have in the U.S., as their legal status and relationship to you will likely have an effect on your case.
5. Have you ever applied for immigration benefits in the past? What was the outcome?
Your attorney will also want to hear about any prior interactions you’ve had with the Department of Homeland Security or USCIS specifically.
Often, the outcome of a prior case will have a significant impact on your current situation.
For example, if you legally entered the country in the past (such as through a business or tourist visa), that decision may have an impact on your current case.
Similarly, if you have previously been removed from the country (or have been denied entry when trying to get into the country) you should bring this up to your attorney.
For example, if an Immigration Court has previously deported you, you may have been barred from entering the country for five, ten, or twenty years depending on the circumstances of your removal.
While you may be able to apply for a waiver for this bar in certain situations, it’s still highly recommended that you discuss any prior immigration cases with your attorney in the event you are in removal proceedings.
6. Have you ever claimed to be a U.S. citizen to a law enforcement officer (including ICE), or otherwise provided false information to law enforcement?
One of the worst possible things you can do in a deportation case is lie to the agent or otherwise provide them with false or misleading information.
You should remember that ICE, like most law enforcement agencies, uses massive databases to collect and search through information about detained individuals.
If you say something that conflicts with the information in their system, your case will only become longer and more complicated.
Your attorney will want to know everything you told the agents while in custody, no matter how small, as even a minor slip-up could negatively impact your case.
7. Have you spoken with another attorney about your case?
Mostly out of curiosity, but also for several practical reasons, your attorney will also want to know if you’ve spoken with any other immigration attorneys about your case.
As one example of why this is important, you never want to sign a client contract with one attorney and then schedule a consultation with a different attorney.
Similarly, if you’re looking to change attorneys, your new attorney will want to know everything that the previous attorney has done in the case.
For example, if you felt that your previous attorney was moving too slowly or charging too much, your new attorney will most likely be interested in why the previous attorney was working in this way.
For these reasons and more, it’s always wise to tell your lawyer about any previous consultations or attorneys you’ve had in your case.
8. Have you received any documents from USCIS or any other federal agency?
People who are placed in removal proceedings will (usually) receive various documents with information about their case.
As one example, most will receive a Notice to Appear that lists the date and location of their next court date.
For obvious reasons, your attorney will be very interested in any formal documents you’ve received from governemnt agencies.
You should bring such documents to your consultation if at all possible.
However, in general you should tell your attorney about every document you received while in custody or while waiting for your next court date.
9. Have you filed any paperwork for your case? Have you signed any documents yet?
In a similar fashion, you should tell your attorney about any paperwork you may have filed or documents you may have signed.
For example, while in custody an ICE agent or other official may have given you a document concerning your voluntary departure from the United States.
Signing this document could have a profoundly negative impact on your chances to remain in the country, so you should bring it to your attorney’s attention immediately.
As with the previous question, your attorney will also want to know about any documents your previous attorney may have filed in your case.
10. Are you afraid of returning to your home country? If so, can you tell me about it?
Many undocumented immigrants come to the U.S. as a way of fleeing violence or persecution in thier home countries.
In some cases, these individuals may have a claim for defensive asylum in cases where they end up in removal proceedings.
Put simply, some individuals who have a credible fear of persecution or violence in their home country may be able to apply for asylum in the united states.
If an immigration judge grants their asylum petition, they will be able to stay in the U.S. legally, and eventually get a green card.
For this reason, your attorney may ask you if you are afraid of returning to your home country and, if so, why you feel this way.
If, for example, you are fleeing gang violence on account of your religion or ethnicity, you may have a credible claim for asylum.
In general, you should expect to tell your whole story to your attorney or their staff at some point during your consultation (possibly more than once).
Lying or leaving out information will only hurt your case.
Remember, attorneys ask questions for very specific reasons. They want to know whether the circumstances of your case will help or hurt a possible future defense strategy.
While we’ve outlined ten common questions above, what you should really prepare for is the fact that your attorney will want to hear the entire, unaltered account of your situation.
Don’t leave things out, and, if at all possible, write down a quick outline of your situation before you even arrive.
Better yet, call ahead and ask the attorney what information they’ll need during the consultation, as intake processes can vary from firm to firm and attorney to attorney.