Moving to another country can be challenging and confusing. Navigating that new country's legal system can be downright maddening. As an asylum attorney, I've observed my clients' behavior in Immigration Court, the Asylum Office, and during USCIS interviews, and I've accumulated a list of do's and don'ts (mostly don'ts) for interacting with immigration officials. So, in no particular order, here's what to do and not do, when you appear for your hearing or interview--

Do turn off your cell phone (don't put it on "silent" or "vibrate" - turn it off)

Do dress respectfully

Do not wear a hat (unless it is religious garb, like a hijab or kippah)

Do not engage in fake emotional outbursts, like crying or screaming uncontrollably - it is not culturally appropriate in American, and it will potentially make the decision-maker uncomfortable, embarrassed or angry (you can express your emotions - just don't be fake)

Don't wear perfume or cologne

Don't answer a question when you do not know the answer - Don't guess!

Do take a bath beforehand

Don't tell the decision-maker that she is good-looking, smart, professional, well-dressed, brilliant, funny, Christ-like or anything else that resembles kissing her *** - this will probably only aggravate and/or creep out the person you are trying to flatter

Do tell the truth

Don't cry and beg for a good decision

Do turn off your cell phone (I mean it!)

Do use the bathroom before your interview or hearing, so you do not have to interrupt proceedings to run to the potty

Do not lose your temper with or be disrespectful to the Immigration Judge, DHS attorney, Asylum Officer, interpreter, clerk, security guard or anyone else involved in the process

Do not chew gum (or tobacco, toothpicks or anything else)

Don't bring small children to the court or the interview unless they are required to be present

Do bring all your original documents with you (all passports, birth certificates, marriage certificates, divorce documents, school and work records, military records, medical documents, death certificates, police reports, ID cards, photos, witnesses letters, etc. - in short, if you submitted a copy of it, bring the original if you have it)

Do show up on time (or better yet, show up early)

Don't answer questions that you do not understand (just say, "Sorry, I do not understand the question")

Don't take advice from friends or family members if they do not know what they are talking about

Do be friendly and make eye contact

Don't avoid responsibility for bad things you did, such as criminal conduct or prior misrepresentations - if you take responsibility, express remorse, apologize, explain how you have changed, and show that you will not repeat the bad behavior, you are most likely to overcome the problem (of course, if you have a criminal or misrepresentation issue, you should talk to a lawyer for guidance)

Do get a good night sleep beforehand (even though this can be difficult)

Do listen carefully and respond to the question that is asked; not to the question that you wanted them to ask

Do not try to avoid the questions or change the subject

Don't interrupt other people, especially Judges, Trial Attorneys, and Asylum Officers

Don't get flustered - if you are losing your cool, take a breath, or ask for a moment to compose yourself

Don't leave your cell phone on - shut it off! (did I already mention this?)

Do stand up when the Judge enters the courtroom

Do not repeat the entire oath after the Judge or Asylum Officer asks whether you swear or affirm to tell the truth - just say, "I do" or "yes"

Do speak slowly and clearly, and, if you are using an interpreter, break up long answers into shorter bits so the interpreter can accurately translate everything you say

Do not bring weapons or other prohibited items to the courtroom or Asylum Office

Do not roll your eyes or use other disrespectful body language

Do answer questions verbally - you cannot nod your head for "yes" or "no"

Do sit up straight

Do not plead "Not guilty!" at the Master Calendar Hearing

Do think before you speak - Why are you being asked this question? What might the questioner have in mind?

Don't answer a question in court if your attorney objects to that question - let the Judge make a decision on the objection. Depending on how the Judge rules, you may not be required to answer the question

Do not forget where you are and get too comfortable/familiar - remember, you are being judged (literally)

Do not use curse words or rude language, unless it is part of the story you are telling

Do not refer to the Immigration Judge as "Your Lordship," "Your Majesty," "Your Highness," "Oh Great One," "Your Holiness," "He Who Must Not Be Named," or any other unusual sobriquet - in the U.S., we say "Your Honor"

Do not refer to the Asylum Officer by any weird sobriquets either - you can call the officer "Officer" or "Sir" or "Ma'am"

Do review your case before any hearing, and think in advance about how to respond to difficult questions

And most important of all, Do pay your lawyer (especially if you are my client!)

So that's about it. This list is not comprehensive, of course, and so if you have any suggestions, please let us know. And in case I forgot to mention it: Turn off your cell phone!

Originally posted on the Asylumist: