WHAT HAPPENS AT THE GREEN CARD INTERVIEW AND HOW TO PREPARE
It is always a good idea to consult with and have a qualified immigration attorney represent you before you ever file the green card petition and applications. However, if you have already filed without a qualified immigration attorney you should consult with one before you go to the green card interview. Below are the steps of what happens at the Green Card Interview and how you may prepare for it:
ARRIVING AT THE IMMIGRATION OFFICE - STEP 1
Be sure to arrive at the immigration office printed on your adjustment interview notice on-time or about 15 minutes early. Once you arrive at the immigration office you be required to show Identification and the green card appointment notice. Hand in your green card interview appointment notice at the correct window and the immigration officer that will interview will call your name. You may have to wait hours until your name is called so be ready for a long wait. Once your name is called by the immigration officer you will follow the immigration officer to their office. You will be sworn in and asked to show your original documentation including the following:
- The immigrant spouse's passport, visa, entry record and birth certificate (with certified translation in a foreign language),
- The U.S. citizen spouse's U.S. passport, U.S. birth certificate or Naturalization Certificate or U.S. report of Birth Abroad,
- Your marriage certificate,
- Any prior divorces, birth certificates of minor children and certificates of disposition of arrests, if any.
Each immigration officer has his/her own way of conducting the green card interview, so the order and questions vary. Your documentation, circumstances and answers will also play a large role in the types of other questions that are asked of you.
PROVING ELIGIBILITY - STEP 2
It is the immigration officer's job to determine whether: A) the immigrant spouse entered the U.S. legally, B) the marriage is real, C) your sponsor/co-sponsor is eligible and D) there is no criminal or immigration bars to obtaining a green card.
The immigration officer after viewing the Original documents mentioned above will also want to see any evidence that you are residing together and commingling finances and any other evidence of the genuine relationship including the following:
- Joint residence lease or mortgage and/or deed,
- Joint bank and/or credit account statements,
- Joint utility and other bills,
- An album of various pictures together,
- Birth certificates of children of the marriage and
- Any other proof of the relationship.
The U.S. citizen spouse that petitioned for their foreign spouse must also be the sponsor that submits an affidavit of support, form I-864. Therefore, the immigration officer may want to view the sponsor's most recent income tax returns and most recent proof of current employment. If the sponsor is not eligible based on income guidelines, you must also have a co-sponsor that has also executed an affidavit of support. If you are required a co-sponsor the immigration officer may want to view your co-sponsor's most recent income tax returns, most recent proof of current employment and U.S. passport, birth certificate or green card (permanent resident card).
The immigration officer is also checking to make sure there is no criminal or immigration bars to obtaining a green card. If you have had ANY criminal or immigration issues make sure you discuss these issues with a qualified immigration attorney BEFORE you begin your case or at least BEFORE you go to the green card interview. The immigration officer will want to view any Original documentation that shows that there are no bars to obtaining your green card, as mentioned above.
EXAMPLES OF QUESTIONS - STEP 3
The immigration officer will ask you both questions throughout the green card interview. Below are only some examples of questions that may be asked of you at the green card interview. As mentioned before, immigration officers vary on what they will ask and when they will ask them. However, the following are some of the questions frequently asked at the green card interview:
Questions about how the relationship began
- How did you meet?
- Where did you go for your first date?
- Why did you decide to get married?
- How did you propose to get married?
- Did you meet the family?
- Did you live together?
Questions about your life today
- Where do you live?
- What time do you get up in the morning?
- Where do you work?
- Who cooks?
- What time does your spouse arrive from work?
- Who takes care of the bills?
Questions about the night/day before the green card interview
- How did you get to the green card interview?
- Who cooked dinner last night?
- What did you have for dinner last night?
- Who woke up first this morning?
- Where did you park the car this morning?
- How many cars do you have?
- What are some differences and what do you have in common?
- What are your hobbies or interests?
- What is your spouse's parents names?
- How many brothers and sisters does your spouse have?
- What are the names of your spouse's siblings?
- Where does your spouse's family live?
It is important to answer every question as honestly and openly as possible. It may be a good idea to add the small details to your answers that only you and your spouse would know to show your authenticity. When you petition and apply for a green card case, you are promising the immigration services that you have entered into marriage in good faith. The immigration officer is there to make sure that you did not enter into the marriage only for the purpose of obtaining a green card. If there are discrepancies in the answers you and your spouse have given the immigration officers may ask more detailed questions. If the immigration officer believes that you are lying, you may be separated and/or asked to come back for a second interview, also known as the Stokes interview or a fraud interview (See our article on what to expect at a Fraud Interview / 2nd Interview). This is a serious matter and we urge you to seek representation by a qualified immigration attorney.
REVIEWING YOUR FORMS - STEP 4
Questions about the green card forms you filed
Prior to the green card interview your attorney or you filed with the immigration services the following forms: the I-130 petition for Alien Relative, the I-864 affidavit of support, the I-485 adjustment of status application, the G-325A biographical information form and possibly the I-765 employment authorization application and I-131 advanced parole/travel application (Please see my article on how to get a green card through marriage). It is important that you review all the forms that you submitted to the immigration services before you go the green card interview because the immigration officer will go through many of the answers you filled out on the forms and ask them of you at the interview. If you made any errors or there are any updates in the forms it is best to bring with you a corrected version of the form and let the immigration officer know about it. Listen very carefully to the questions they are asking and answer as honestly and openly as possible.
WHAT HAPPENS AT THE END OF THE INTERVIEW - STEP 5
The immigration officer will let you know when the green card interview is over. If you are missing any documentation or they want you to come back for any reason you will usually be notified at the end of the green card interview or later in the mail. The immigration officer will probably not tell you that you are approved on the spot rather they usually say that you will receive the decision in the mail. However, if the immigration officer believes there is a discrepancy or any problems in your case they may tell you that you must come back for a second interview (Please see my article on what to expect at a Fraud Interview / 2nd Interview)..
If you are approved you will usually receive an approval notice in the mail and shortly after that you will get the green card in the mail.
CONDITIONAL GREEN CARD
Please remember if you are married less than two years at the time of your approval you will receive a conditional green card and you must remove the conditions 3 months prior to the expiration of your card (Please see my article on how to remove conditions on your green card).
GET READY FOR THE INTERVIEW CHECKLIST
A great way to get ready for a green card interview is review this article and create a checklist. On the list have all the documents that you must bring and check them off as you collect them. Go over the sample questions that were included in this article and others that might be asked and review the questions on the forms that you may have submitted including: form - I-130 petition for alien relative, form G-325A biographical information, form - I-864 affidavit of support, form - I -485 adjustment of status application, form I-765 employment authorization application and form I-131 application for advanced parole.