Marriage green card interview is like a mystical beast – most people have never seen one, but everyone has heard some legends about it:
“They separate you into different rooms, and ask which side of the toilet your toilet paper is on.”
“They ask how many times a week you have sex.”
“I saw a woman who failed her interview and was deported right then and here!”
Well, I went to a marriage green card interview, and this is what actually happened in my case:
It took 15 minutes. A friendly USCIS officer asked my husband and I a few questions such as “How did you meet?” “Have you ever been arrested?” “Where do you work?” We showed him new pictures of us doing different activities since the application submission, and some new proof of joint activities like a new joint brokerage account we opened. He made a copy of our brokerage account paper. Then we shook hands and it was over. No separate questioning. No unexpected curve balls.
At the end of the interview, the officer gave us a paper slip that said my green card application was approved, conditional on a final review by his boss. We went home and two days later, the USCIS online status checker showed that my approval was finalized. Then 10 days later, the green card arrived in the mail.
One disclaimer: My interview experience might have been on the easier end of the spectrum, and for many people with straightforward cases, your experience will likely be similar to mine. That being said, I have heard from some applicants who had longer interviews, had interviews separate from their spouses, or had to wait for some days before receiving the green card approval. These situations are also normal.
Ok. Now that you know what my marriage green card interview was like. Let me share my experience on how to prepare for it.
Get into the Right Interview Mindset
When I got the interview notice in the mail, I was very excited: finally! After 11 months of waiting, the end is in sight! And then I started feeling anxious: Are those urban legends true? Do my husband and I need to know very minute detail of each other’s lives? What if we don’t know the answer to a question?
These fears swirled around my head for days and finally I had to take action to stop them. I researched the law around immigration and gradually settled into a more informed and balanced interview mindset:
Be confident and cautious.
Why be confident?
Because you have the right to a green card. It’s in the law. Under the Immigration and Nationality Act, an alien living in the U.S. who is the spouse of a U.S. citizen or a green card holder may adjust to that of a lawful permanent resident. So you are not at the mercy of the USCIS officer who interviews you. There are clear rules and regulations that USCIS needs to follow to justify its decisions. If you get rejected despite the fact that you have provided all the evidence to establish your eligibility, you can rightfully challenge the USCIS decision in court.
Why also be cautious?
Because according to the law, the burden of proof is on the applicant, petitioner, or requester to establish eligibility. In other words, USCIS will only review your eligibility based on the quality of evidence that you supply to them. If the evidence you provide is weak or incongruent, even if there does exist other stronger evidence to support your case, USCIS is not obliged to help you dig it out. Therefore, be thorough and cautious when putting together your evidence. It is up to you to make your case successful.
Now with that high level mindset established, let’s look at what you need to prepare for the interview.
Prepare for Evidence
This is where the cautious mindset comes in. The interview notice you receive from USCIS will include a document checklist for things you should bring to the interview. Even though the USCIS officer may not actually ask for them at the time of the interview, it is good practice to be over prepared than under prepared.
Basically, you should bring all the supporting documents you submitted with your application, but this time bring both the original and a copy of each document. In addition, because some months have passed since you submitted the original application, also provide updated versions of these documents. The updates may include:
- Federal Income Tax returns and W-2 forms of the most recent year
- Letters from each current employer of the Form I-864 sponsor
- Pay stubs for the past 2 months of the Form I-846 sponsor
- Updated supporting evidence that your marriage is real. For example, new shared apartment leases, new photos, new shared bank accounts etc.
From my observation, there are two areas where you should focus your evidence gathering effort:
- Proof that your marriage is still real
- Proof that the applicant has sufficient financial support to live in the U.S. without U.S. government assistance.
Gather as much evidence as you reasonably can in these areas will help you strengthen your proof.
As a reminder, according to USCIS, evidence of the bona fides of the marriage includes1:
- Documentation showing joint ownership of property
- A lease showing joint tenancy of a common residence, meaning you both live at the same address together
- Documentation showing that you and your spouse have combined your financial resources
- Birth certificates of children born to you and your spouse together
- Affidavits sworn to or affirmed by third parties having personal knowledge of the bona fides of the marital relationship. Each affidavit must contain the full name and address of the person making the affidavit; date and place of birth of the person making the affidavit; and complete information and details explaining how the person acquired their knowledge of your marriage
- Any other relevant documentation to establish that there is an ongoing marital union
Prepare for Questions
The interview questions are not hard. The interviewer will mostly ask facts about you and your spouse; and if there is anything that needs further explanation, they may ask you to clarify them. Some example questions:
- What is your birth date?
- How did you meet?
- When did you first come to the U.S.?
- Why did you submit two birth certificates? (assuming that’s the case)
- Why do you and your spouse live at different addresses? (assuming that’s the case)
Before the interview, review the answers in the application forms you submitted and try to remember them. And if you anticipate explaining certain topics to the USCIS officer, rehearse the explanation as a couple beforehand. It is important you and your spouse provide consistent answers to the same question. One sure way to raise red flags is if your answers contradict with each other’s.
If the interviewer asks a question that you do not know the answer to, don’t panic. It’s acceptable to answer “I don’t know.” or “I don’t remember.” Don’t make up an answer or, even worse, lie about it. If you make something up, the interviewer may spot an inconsistency in your answers, and there goes the red flag. The old adage has it right: honesty is the best policy.
At the Interview
- More important than anything else: Don’t be late.
- Dress formal or business casual. Leave the sweatshirt at home for this one.
- If your scheduled interview time is around lunch time, make sure you don’t go in feeling hungry.
- Be courteous to everyone and try to smile when you can.
- Answer all questions truthfully. If you don’t know the answer or are not sure, just say so.
That’s about it! Good luck with your interview and share in the comments below about your experience. Remember, be confident and cautious, and you will walk out of the interview feeling triumphant!