What to Expect at the Marriage Based Green Card Interview

rings and greencard

This will give you a general idea what to expect at the interview. Please remember, however, that each interview is different.

General

First, at the outset, it should be understood that USCIS interviewers have a very hard, and sometimes tedious or boring job. Many of them are very good at what they do. Most of them are professional, and (reasonably) polite. A handful of them may be rude or intimidating. The best way to deal with interviewers' behavior is to sit back in your chair, relax, and answer the questions as calmly as you are able. Please do not argue with the interviewer, or expect your attorney to do so.

What Documents to Bring

Typically, we advise our clients to bring the ORIGINAL and ONE COPY of:

The Petitioner's (US citizen's):

  • driver’s license or state i.d. showing current address
  • US birth certificate, US passport, or US Naturalization Certificate
  • certificate of marriage to the Beneficiary
  • divorce judgments/decrees from ex-spouses (if applicable)
  • past three years' federal income tax returns or tax transcripts (forms 1040 and W-2)
  • past two months' pay stubs

The Beneficiary's (non-US citizen's):

  • driver’s license or state i.d showing current address (should show same address as Petitioner)
  • passport, with visa
  • I-94
  • I-20s (if applicable)
  • divorce judgments/decrees from ex-spouses (if applicable)
  • Social Security card
  • birth certificate
  • employment authorization/advance parole card
  • certified English-translation of any foreign-language document (if applicable)

The Joint Sponsor's (if applicable):

  • past three years' federal income tax return or tax transcript (forms 1040 and W-2)
  • past two months' pay stubs
  • drivers license (copy only)
  • naturalization certificate (copy only)

Documentation of Marital Bona Fides (showing that the marriage is genuine and not a "green card marriage"):

  • joint account statements, showing both parties as joint account holders, for example:
    • bank statements
    • telephone account statements
    • utility statements
    • credit card statements o cable television statements, etc.
  • insurance policies, showing the parties as principal and/or beneficiary, for example:
    • health
    • life
    • automobile, etc.
  • home documentation, showing both parties as co-tenants or co-owners, etc.
    • lease
    • deed
    • mortgage, etc.
  • jointly-filed tax returns
  • retirement account statements
  • auto registrations, showing both parties as co-owners
  • photographs of wedding, honeymoon, vacations, etc.
  • affidavits from friends or family attesting to your marriage

Because this is only a list of documents that are TYPICALLY required, it is very important for you to speak with your attorney and to review the interview notice and document checklist to see exactly what will be required in your case.

Arrival and Waiting

Please plan to arrive at least 30 minutes prior to the scheduled interview time. Traffic and parking are unpredictable, and it is best to plan ahead.

To enter the federal building, you will need to go through a metal detector. You will then proceed to the information counter to show your identification. Tell the guard you are there for an immigration interview, and he/she will instruct you where to go.

Once in the interview waiting room, give your interview notice to the person behind the window or desk. You will then sit down and await your turn. Your attorney will arrive 10-15 minutes prior to the scheduled interview time.

Typically, you will be called within 30 minutes after your scheduled time, although on some occasions the wait time may be longer.

The Interview

You, your spouse, and your attorney will go with the interviewer into an office.  The interview will be conducted with you and your spouse in the same room.  (Couples sometimes have to go through a re-interview at a later date, in which case the spouses will be separately questioned so the interviewer can compare the answers.  These "Stokes" interviews are, fortunately, not very common for couples who are in genuine marriages who have prepared reasonably well.)

You will be asked to remain standing, to raise your right hand, and to swear to tell the truth. Then the interviewer will have you sit down at one of the 2-3 chairs directly in front of the desk, and to display your identification (drivers license and passport).

The interviewer will usually begin asking you questions concerning your biographical information (date of birth, address, date of entry into the U.S., mother's/father's name, date/place of marriage, date of divorce, children, etc.). The number of possible questions is quite large, but the purpose is essentially to determine you are the person who filed the application or petition, and to get a better idea as to your eligibility.

(See our article about "red flags" that USCIS may consider indicators of fraud, for more information).

If you do not understand a question, you may ask the interviewer or your attorney for clarification You should typically not ask your spouse, however. You should also not try to answer a question that was directed to your spouse.

Attorneys are generally not allowed to participate, except to attempt to present solutions to any legal issues that may have arisen, or to advise you if you do not understand a questions.

Questions about the Marriage and Relationship

The next stage of the interview usually involves questions concerning the relationship upon which you are basing your application. For marriage cases, these questions focus on whether or not the marriage is genuine, or simply for immigration purposes. There are a virtually unlimited number of questions.

At this point, the interviewer usually asks "what documents did you bring today to prove the validity of your marriage" or words to that effect. This is your cue to hand over the originals and copies of the bank statements, bills, lease/deed, affidavits, etc. that you have been collecting for the past several months. The interviewer may tell you he/she just wants the copies, or may want to see the originals too.

Questions about the Applicant's Immigration History and Background

Normally, the last part of the interview involves questions concerning any criminal history, prior immigration violations, drug/alcohol dependency, prostitution, practice of bigamy, and the like. These must be answered completely truthfully, by "yes" or "no." The interviewer will most likely already know about any potential problem areas, and may wish to see if you will lie about them. If you do, this will give them another basis to deny your case, so be sure not to give them this excuse.

Conclusion of Interview

At the conclusion of this business, the interviewer will typically either tell you

  • your case is approved,
  • your case will be recommended for approval,
  • you need to submit additional documentation before a decision is made (you will be given a letter and 2-3 months to submit the missing items), or
  • your name check/fingerprints clearances have not yet been received from the CIA/FBI/State Department, and you need to wait longer before a decision is made.

Unless the case is approved at the interview, you may expect the final decision to be mailed to you. Depending on the cause of the delay, this could take between 2 days up to 6 months or (rarely) longer. If a decision is not made in 3 months, your attorney will submit a case status inquiry, at your request, to see what is going on.

Once the case is approved, you may simply wait for the green card to come by mail. These are taking between 2-6 weeks (as of late-Summer 2006), but processing times may vary widely.

In the mean time, you may get your passport stamped as evidence of permanent residence. To do this, you will need to make an appointment on Infopass (www.uscis.gov), and go back to the federal building with your passport and approval notice.

For More Information:

Contact us at tel.: 410-719-1501.

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Byrley Law Firm, LLC
10015 Old Columbia Road Suite B215
Columbia MD 21046

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