Filing applications for immigration benefits is like riding a burro down the Grand Canyon – delightfully easy unless someone slips.

Citizenship and Immigration Service (CIS) uses the information in applications not only to decide the benefit requested (residency, visas or asylum, for example), but also to determine whether the foreigner should be placed into removal proceedings. The most common mistakes foreigners make, either through their own ignorance or through the neglect of well-intentioned paralegals, are the following:

Citizenship. The naturalization application, Form N-400, requests extensive information. Answering blindly could prove costly. Frequent travel and employment abroad could be interpreted by the CIS as if the foreigner abandoned residency in the U.S. Likewise, information on children not living with the LPR would direct CIS’s attention to outstanding child support obligations.

The green card. Foreigners seeking legal permanent residency through family relationships must provide financial information on an Affidavit of Support. Unfiled tax returns, lack of employment, and deflated salaries would interest both CIS and the Internal Revenue Service. Residency cases, in general, take years to process. While filing a single application seems straightforward, hiring an immigration professional would relieve the myriad of surprise that may arise during those years. If CIS requests additional evidence, if the foreigner moves to a new address, or if immigration procedures change – which are just a few examples – the attorney will handle those obstacles.

Asylum. When foreigners cannot explain the information placed by English-speaking paralegals on the asylum application, Form I-589, only the foreigner suffers. CIS assumes the foreigner completed a false or frivolous application and seeks an Order of Removal before an Immigration Judge. On the other hand, when an attorney prepares the application, she can then represent the foreigner at the interview and explain responses. In this manner, CIS will not accuse the foreigner of material misrepresentation.

Arrests and convictions. An immigration professional should always be consulted whenever the foreigner has been arrested. Even if the criminal attorney states that the case has been expunged, the disposition was withholding adjudication (as opposed to guilty), or that it was a misdemeanor offense, there are immigration consequences to most crimes. Be safe, not sorry – remember the slipping burro!

The information provided here is not legal advice.