The Marriage Based Green Card Interview - A Quick Guide
We filed our Application, now what?
As you may know, all applications must be filed with the Chicago Benefits Center. USCIS made this center in hopes of speeding up the handling of applications. (Your final interview, however, will be handled by your local USCIS district office.) Make sure to make a complete copy of every form, document, and checks that you send to the USCIS. NEVER SEND ORIGINAL DOCUMENTS AS YOU WILL NEVER SEE THOSE PAPERS EVER AGAIN!!!
Once USCIS has received and accepted your adjustment of status packet for processing, they will put you on in the big line for your interview. They will also send you receipts for all the forms that you paid for. The receipts are very important documents and you must treat them as official government paperwork. Among other things, the receipts will contain your A-number, which you’ll need if you have to correspond with USCIS about your case or find the status of your case. You should be getting receipts 2-3 weeks after filing.
You work permit will come in the mail in 90 days or so after filing.In some states the interview may be scheduled before the work permit arrives.If this is the case and you are approved on the day of the interview, the work permit will no longer be required as you will receive the Green Card.If for some reason your case is not approved or they may need more evidence, the officer will approve the work permit at the time of the interview.
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Traveling while the application is pending
It might take several months for the Marriage based Green Card application to be processed and for an interview date to be set.While the case is pending, the immigrant spouse MUST NOT leave the country without USCIS permission.If you simply
get up and go without getting official permission, the law says you will have given up (or abandoned, in USCIS language) your adjustment of status application.
You will need to start all over again.Permission to travel can be applied to on form I-131.
Fingerprints and Biometrics appointment
Approximately two months after submitting your adjustment of status packet to USCIS, the immigrant spouse will get an appointment for fingerprinting. In most cases, USCIS will insist that the spouse be fingerprinted at a USCIS application support center.The procedure will require an electronic scan of all 10 fingers and pictures of the applicant’s face.The work permit and the final interview will not be processed without this important step in the process.If you can not attend the appointment, please call the number on your receipt to reschedule.
The final step will be an interview appointment.The appointment notice will come in the mail within 6 months or sooner after filing.USCIS will give the applicants a few weeks notice to get everything together before the big day.
Why do we need to attend an interview in the first place?
The government views the interview as its opportunity to confirm the contents of your application after you have sworn to tell the truth. The interview also allows the government to ask questions that will test if your marriage is real or a sham marriage.The interview can be conducted in many ways.The Immigration official can talk to the couple together or separate, and to videotape the couple as the answer the questions.The interview can be highly stressful, even if the marriage is perfectly legitimate.Nobody likes to talk about their private affairs with the Government.
Preparing for the Interview – Do’s and Don’ts
The secret to a smooth and successful interview is preparation and more preparation.Results of an interview will be based on your communications (verbal and non verbal) with the officer, your physical appearance on the day of the interview, the documents that you will present and your answers to the questions asked.
It is important that you treat the interview like a court case, come prepared with all the evidence in hand, learn your material and be ready to answer questions and be cross examined if needed.Do not leave anything to chance, being over prepared can only help you.The following tips will help you succeed and pass the interview in confidence:
Review all immigration forms and supporting documents before the interview
Go overyour paperwork, all forms submitted and supporting documents provided to USCIS. Look at the questions and answers on every form that you have completed or that has been submitted for you, including the ones filled out by your U.S. citizen spouse. Though the forms seem to contain only factual, non-interesting bits of information, this information is filled with meaning to a USCIS officer. The financial data on the federal tax return, places of residence and employment of the immigrant spouse, dates traveled out of the country will add up to be very important for the officer in making his/her decision.Make sure to be consistent with the forms.
Do not provide additional documents at the interview to the officer without making sure of the content and validity of the information presented -Clients tend to compile paperwork and throw it at the officers at the time of the interview without checking carefully the paperwork submitted.For example: One client submitted all the supporting documents in support of the marriage, not realizing some of the bills submitted had a previous roommate’s name on it.Go through every single piece of paper before submitting tot her officer.Any documents without your joint names on it are really not necessary to the case.
Do spend sometime before the interview to discuss the facts and the history of your relationship -Spend some time with your spouse reviewing the facts and circumstances surrounding your relationship, such as where and how you met, how your relationship developed, who proposed and how, how did the family accept your relationship, any special things you like to do together, etc.Even if you and your spouse think you know and
remember everything about one another, you each may remember things differently. Couples have been known to disagree about facts surrounding the events of the wedding, their last big trip and the spouses birthday party.What you like to eat and what you like to for fun.It is useful to write things down together and exchange notes before the interview just to jog your memory.
Dress appropriately; spend some time thinking about what to wear the night before – You should dress professionally, and even conservatively.The non verbal mode of communication will tell a lot about who you are.Avoid shirts or jewelry with slogans or symbols that might make the officer wonder about your lifestyle or morals. Some of the officer might be traditional and very conservative in the way they think.If you are a young lady, avoid revealing tops and piercing, the officer might cast doubt on your role as a responsible wife.In so many words, we suggest that you dress as if you were going to an important job interview and that your career depends on its success.
Do not get nervous or talk back to the officer at any time - Keep cool at all times.Your biggest enemy if your inability to keep calm composed.Some officer might have a special style of questioning that might intimidate you, and make you nervous.Remember their job is to verify this relationship, never take it personally.Stay calm, answer the questions as you are being asked and keep eye contact with the officer at all times.Never answer back to the officer in a rude manner, this can end the interview right there.If you feel that you have been mistreated, you can always file a complaint with the supervisor.If you make them feel that you are very very nervous they will become suspicious.It is ok to be slightly edgy, it is only human.
Do not lie to the officer or try to predict the answers - Never, ever lie to the officer about any fact connected to the case.You could be charged with misrepresentation and loose the case at that point.If you are not sure about a fact or an answer to a questions, simply say I am not sure or do not know.If you are separated from your spouse at the interview, DO NOT try to predict her answers.Just be honest about it and try to answer the questions to the best of your knowledge.
So what actually happens at the interview?
After attending numerous interviews across the country, representing very different couples, appearing before different Immigration Officers, I have realized that all interviews follow a certain blueprint.
- You will arrive at the USCIS building and will present your appointment letter to the security guard.He will inspect your bags and will let you into the building.Do not bring cell phone with Cameras as they will not let you in the building.
- You will go to the interview waiting area where you will see many others couples waiting.You will need to inform the duty officer that you are here and present your appointment letter.You will ask be seated and wait to called by name.
- After a long waiting period, you will be called by name (Immigrant spouse’s name). You will be brought to the USCIS officer’s desk, where your identification will be checked. Just when you’re seated comfortably, you and your spouse, will have to stand up again, raise your right hands, and take oaths to tell the truth.If you have an attorney he will be allowed to be present as well.
- The officer will verify your identification documents, such as birth certificates, passports and marriage certificate.You will need to present original copies.The officer will go through basic information on the application such as your address and telephone numbers as well as date of births.He will address both spouses at this time.
- The officer will ask you and your spouse about your married life and your life together. At this stage, the questions will be polite ones, such as where you met, when and why you decided to get married, how many people attended your wedding, or the name of your parents.You will need to present evidence of your life together.Evidence such as :joint bank accounts, lease agreement, insurance and pictures from the wedding and trips together.
- The officer will then ask to see the Tax return of the US Citizen spouse and form I864 and calculate the numbers to see if the sponsor meet the poverty guidelines requirements.
- If all goes well, the officer will approved the case and will stamp the passport of the immigrant spouse with a stamp for 30 days.The stamp is like a Green Card and is issued so that the applicant can work and travel outside of the US if needed.The stamp is good for 30 days since the actual green card should arrive in the mail in 4 weeks or so.If the marriage was less than 2 years at the time you received the Green Card, your Green Card will be conditional for 2 years.You will need to remove the conditions within the 90 days before the expiration of the two years.If you fail to remove the conditions timely, you may loose the Green Card.
If there is a problem at the interview, you will need to resolve it before the case can be approved.
Problems at the interview – different scenarios
It is the wish of every applicant that the interview will result in an approval and leave the USCIS building with the Green Card stamp in the passport.The reality is that many other things can happen at the interview.
Case Pending waiting name check and FBI Clearance
Because interviews are being scheduled rather quickly theses days, there is not that much time from the fingerprints appointment date and the actual interview.Sometime the outside agencies (FBI, etc.) are not able to complete all security checks on the applicants before the interview date.If this is the case, the officer can still approve the case, but the Green Card will not be issued until all security checks are clear.You must check back with the local office periodically to see if there is any progress with the file.Applicants from certain countries might be a more likely target for security checks.
Case Pending because of Request for Further Documents or Evidence
When a case is pending for request for evidence, it does not mean that the officer is intending to deny the case.The office needs more documents in order to make a final decision on the case.
The immigration officer will issue a form called I-72 and will check the missing items on the form.See sample I-72 below.Some immigration offices will allow you to hand deliver the evidence while other office will only accept the documents by mail.After you submit the evidence, make sure to follow up periodically so that you file will not get lost or archived for no action.
Case Pending awaiting a second interview
The second interview might be scheduled by an officer that can not make a decision in the first interview, due to lack of documents or failure to establish a bonafide relationship.Second interview are tough to pass and the officers tend to be rough and very strict.Second interviews might take place 6 months after the first interview and at the end of the second interview the case will either be denied, sent for further review to the fraud unit or approved.I recommend getting an attorney if you get a notice for a second interview.
In conclusion, be prepared, be relaxed and welcome to America!!