August 24, 2015
How to Get Ready for your Hearing – Tips for Oral Testimony
Appearing at an immigration hearing can be a stressful experience. It can be intimidating to be questioned and cross-examined, especially when there is so much riding on the outcome. That is why preparation is incredibly important. The more prepared you are for how the hearing will unfold and the types of questions that will be asked, the more confident you will feel walking into the hearing room.
While each case is unique and requires its own legal strategy and preparation plan, there are some general tips which are good to keep in mind for everyone getting ready to provide oral testimony. They may seem simple, but it can be easy to forget the basics when nerves are on edge. First, listen to the question. This sounds obvious, but in the hearing setting it can be difficult to stay on point. Going off on a tangent can confuse matters at the hearing because counsel, the Hearings Officer, or the Member examining you will have a specific reason for asking the question that they did. They are trying to elicit certain information, so it is best to really listen to what is being asked, and answer only that. Remember that your counsel will have the chance to question you as well, so if you are concerned that you have not fully said your piece, do not worry – it is your counsel’s job to make sure that all of the important points are covered.
If you are not sure that you understood a question, speak up and ask for clarification. Do not guess at what you think the question meant. Similarly, if you are having any trouble understanding an interpreter, bring this up right away. It is also important not to guess in general. For example, if you are asked when a particular event happened and you do not remember the precise date, do not hazard a guess. Instead, explain that you do not remember exactly when the event happened, but that you think it was around such and such a time. If you really do not remember when the event happened, say so. Credibility is a critical part of all immigration hearings, so it is much better to admit that you do not remember than to throw out a guess which ends up being inconsistent with the documentary evidence before the Panel, another witness’ testimony, or your own testimony at a different point.
It is also very important to remember to breathe and to take your time. The hearing is your chance to present your case, so take the time to make sure that you are listening, speaking as clearly as possible, and answering to the best of your ability.
Finally, understanding the hearing process is extremely important. That is why we conduct detailed preparation sessions to walk our clients through how the hearing will unfold, who will do what, and what types of questions to expect. It is through this type of in-depth preparation that you will be best positioned to present your case as favourably as possible.
Please contact us for any help with your immigration hearing!