What to Really Expect at Your Marriage Interview
People expect their marriage interview to be like the movies. But it is not. In real life Sandra Bullock’s character in “The Proposal”, would have had an employment based visa and not have had to marry Ryan Reynolds.
The reality is that immigration officers conduct approximately ten interviews a day and don’t have hours to spend with you discussing your marriage. In fact most interviews are done within 20 or 30 minutes. You will likely wait in the waiting room longer than the time you are sitting in front of the immigration officer. However, this is not always the case. If the officer believes for any reason that your marriage is not legitimate he will make it a point to spend a lot of time on your case. You can make your case more legitimate in the eyes of the Immigration Officer by presenting the right evidence and being prepared.
Arrival and Swearing In for the Green Card Interview
When you arrive in your interview room you will place your green card interview notice in a designated place. This way the officer who is handling your case will know that you have arrived.
Sometimes cases are called when they are scheduled. However, many times you will need to wait 30 minutes or more after your interview time before your case is called. Do not worry this is normal. It has no reflection on your case. Most likely your case is delayed because a case ahead of your case was delayed for some reason. Just take a deep breath and relax. Your time will come soon.
The name of the immigrant (not the US citizen) will be called by your interviewing immigration officer.
You, your spouse, and your attorney (if you have one) will be led to a small office. It will not be a courtroom or a hearing room. Rather it will likely be a small office with a desk, a computer, files and chairs. Once in the office, the immigration officer will ask you to remain standing and swear you both in. If the immigrant spouse does not speak English well then you should bring an interpreter to the hearing. A bilingual US Citizen cannot translate for their immigrant spouse at the interview. The immigration officer will also swear in your interpreter to ensure that the interpreter only interprets what is being said and does not offer his or her own testimony or explanations for your answers.
The immigration officer will ask for identification for both of you (state driver license or identification card, social security card, passport, work card). Incidentally, for many federal buildings (where the interviews are likely to be held) you will need this identification in order to enter the building.
Review of Your Files and Paperwork During Your Green Card Interview
The immigration officer will likely have your complete file on his or her desk. Although you are not in a court of law you should take this matter very seriously. You will be under oath and will have promised to tell the truth. In addition, there is a lot at stake at the interview. If things do not go well the immigrant will not receive his or her green card and may be placed in removal (deportation) proceedings. As one immigration officer very accurately said recently: “this is the most important interview of your life“. The officer will be listening to your answers but will also be watching your body language. A good officer can tell a lot about the marriage through body language. In no event during the interview should you become angry, abusive, or sarcastic with the immigration officer. Obviously, this will not help your case. In addition, never guess or lie to any of the officer’s questions.
Usually, the officer will begin by reviewing the paperwork you have submitted. He will make sure that the paperwork submitted was accurate. He will verify your address, phone number and will review other portions of your paperwork. He will then likely ask the questions which you answered on your I-485 form. These were questions such as: Have ever been arrested? Do you intend to engage in espionage in the United States?; Have you been a member or affiliated with the Communist party or other totalitarian party? Have you ever received public assistance in the United States?
USCIS Interview Questions About the Immigrant’s History
He will then go over the immigrant’s immigration history in the United States. These questions include: When did you first enter the United States? Have you ever left the United States after you entered? How did you enter the United States? Although these appear to be simple questions bad answers can lead to very serious consequences. The immigration officer may be trying to learn if you came into the United States with preconceived intent (e.g. stating that you were coming as a tourist when you were really coming with the intention of marrying your spouse and staying in the United States permanently) or if you entered the United States illegally in some way (like lying on your application for a tourist visa) He will also be trying to see if the immigrant is subject to removal. These questions although seemingly innocent all have a purpose for the immigration officer. Do not take these questions lightly. These questions should be reviewed before your interview with an immigration Attorney.
It is especially important to meet with a competent immigration attorney prior to the interview if the immigrant spouse entered the United States illegally (in which case the immigrant is only eligible to even file for a green card in very limited circumstances) or if entry was made with a tourist visa.
Once this is done the immigration officer will show you the corrections which have been made to your petition and ask you to sign the petition showing that you agree that the changes made by the officer are accurate.
Green Card Marriage Process – Questions About the Marriage
The interviewer likely will then start to focus on the marriage relationship. Generally these questions are as follows: Where did you meet? When did you meet? When did you start dating? Where was your first date? Who attended your wedding? What is your spouse’s birthday? What are the names of your spouse’s parents, children, best friend, brother and sister? Where does your spouse work? Describe your home? What did you do for your spouse’s last birthday? What did you have for dinner last night? What gift did you give your spouse for Christmas? Generally wives in legitimate marriages have absolutely no problems answering these questions. Husbands, however, even in legitimate marriages sometimes have problems remembering exact dates. Therefore, it is a good idea for the spouses to review this information prior to the interview.
These are the types of questions you would expect to receive at a first green card interview.
The interviewer will be watching your body language closely. So do not have a big fight on the way to the interview. If you do make sure to make up prior to going into your interview.
If Your Green Card Interviewer Suspects Fraud
If however, the interviewer has doubts about the marriage relationship the questions can become much more personal In this case you can be asked any possible question about your relationship. (e.g. very intimate questions about all aspects of your marital life etc.) You may also be asked to draw pictures of your home and bedroom. These questions are usually reserved for a second interview (fraud interview). However, they can come up during a first interview. In fact, it is possible that you and your spouse can be put in separate rooms and asked an identical set of questions alone. The officer will compare the answers given to these questions. These questions will be very difficult to answer correctly if your marriage is a fraud.
Therefore, it is highly recommended that you speak to a competent immigration attorney prior to your interview. The attorney can review your file, spot any red flags, and help you prepare for the interview. Many attorneys will allow you to retain them solely for the purpose of representing you at the interview.
What To Bring With You to The Green Card Interview
You should bring the following to your interview: any document which shows joint ownership of a personal or real property (e.g. car ownership) ; joint leases; joint car insurance; joint gym or other membership; joint medical insurance; pictures of your wedding and your honeymoon; birth certificates, your green card appointment letter; your passport, your most recent tax return, your most recent pay stub, matching set of home keys, ultrasound (if the wife is pregnant); any other evidence that demonstrates the bona fides of your marital relationship. You should also look at your interview notice and make sure you bring everything they have requested. You may not be able to bring your cell phone if it has the ability to take pictures as many federal buildings do not allow them to be brought onto their premises.
Most of all bring a photo album. The old saying that a picture is worth a thousand words is so true in this arena. I have seen interviews go from bad to good based on a strong photo album. Have photos of your wedding, trips you have taken, and your life together. Pictures showing you with your spouse’s family members are especially good to bring as it shows that the marriage is known by the extended family (this is always a good sign). If in doubt bring lots of pictures. I have had clients show up with 3 large photo albums for their interviews. But even a small set of photos will help your case.
It is important that you read and review all of the documents you submitted to USCIS before you go to your interview. You want to make sure that everything you have put in your petitions is the truth. If anything has changed you can explain it to the interviewing officer at your interview.
Many immigration interviews are, as stated at the beginning of this article, handled without incident, by the immigration officers. However, not all are. You should definitely review your case with an immigration attorney and be prepared for the worst case scenario.
How Do I receive a green card based on marriage to a U.S. Citizen?
Before you file for a green card based on marriage to a U.S. Citizen you should always speak to a qualified immigration Attorney to make sure you qualify. You do not want to make any mistakes in this area as the consequences can be quite severe. Many people are removed from the country and denied their green card each year due to not taking the steps to prepare themselves for the process.
Assuming you qualify you will be filing an adjustment of status packet. This includes all of your petitions and also includes your supporting evidence (birth certificates, tax returns, medical exam, divorce decrees etc.) with USCIS. Your petitions are filed in Chicago. Once your packet has been received you will receive a receipt notice. USCIS will let you know about when and where you will be doing your biometrics. Once this is done you will be scheduled for your interview.
What You Should Know Before You Hire An Immigration Lawyer to Help You with the Green Card Process
You Can Always Represent Yourself. USCIS does not require you to hire an Immigration lawyer to process your case. You can ALWAYS represent yourself in your case.
There are those who represent themselves in Immigration cases. Sometimes they are successful and sometimes they are not. However, if you represent yourself in an immigration case and the case does not go well then there will likely be very serious consequences. Depending on the case, the consequence could include DEPORTATION from the United States (otherwise known as removal).
Sometimes individuals represent themselves by filing their own paperwork with USCIS and the paperwork is not completed or it is completed incorrectly. Even small mistakes can carry serious consequences. If you make even small mistakes, an otherwise acceptable case can be delayed by months or even years. We have been contacted by some very smart people over the years (e.g. engineers, teachers, business people) who filed their own paperwork, made minor errors, and have had their cases significantly delayed due to errors in their paperwork. Do not let this happen to you.
Also, please DO NOT rely on the advice of Immigration information officers. (Although you would think that you would always get good advice from USCIS unfortunately, this is not always the case). There are many good and knowledgeable Immigration information officers. However, Immigration information officers are not attorneys and are not in the business of representing you and your interests. They are not experts in Immigration law. More importantly, if you do get bad advice USCIS does not take any responsibility for any incorrect advice you may have received. You will likely be stuck with the consequences of any decisions you make based on relying on any information you receive from immigration information officers. Be very careful in this area. Always confirm information you receive from an Immigration Officer with an experienced immigration attorney.
Just like you can always file your own case you can also hire a non-attorney to type your paperwork. You can save some money by hiring a non-attorney to type your paperwork. However, you need to remember that every document you file with USCIS, even those that seem harmless, can have legal consequences. You will need to ask yourself whether it is in your best interests to be filing paperwork with the U.S. government, under penalty of perjury, which could affect your family’s future, with the help of a non-attorney. If things go wrong you will likely not be able to make it right with the non-attorney (he is the one who got you in the mess in the first place. Are you willing to risk your family’s future happiness with a non-attorney petition preparer?
Not All Immigration Attorneys have the same level of expertise. Just because an attorney has been licensed to practice in your state does not mean he has the necessary expertise to handle your Immigration case. Your case is very important and should be handled by an experienced Immigration Attorney. You should ensure that your attorney has the relevant experience to handle your case. How do you find this out? Ask him the questions in the next section.
What Questions Should You Ask the Prospective Attorney? Before you hire anyone you should ask the attorney these questions:
How long has he been a lawyer? (Some attorneys although they look distinguished, may be fresh out of law school and lacking in practical experience. Generally, although not always, the longer the attorney has been an immigration attorney the better.)
Exactly how long has she been working in the immigration law arena? (Just because an attorney has been practicing law for 30 years does not mean that the attorney has been practicing immigration law that long. Your case may be her first immigration case. You do not want to be a guinea pig).
Is their practice limited to Immigration law or do they handle other areas as well? (Many attorneys handle one or two areas of law. That is fine. I would have concerns, however, if your attorney is handling several areas of law and immigration. It is difficult to stay on top of developments in one area of the law (especially an area which changes as much as immigration law does) let alone several areas at one time. You want to work with an attorney who is handling immigration cases every day.
How many cases like yours has she handled this year?
Was he unsuccessful in any of the cases? Why? (Was it because the client lied or misled him? Or was the case unsuccessful due to his errors or his incompetence?)
You should also ask the attorney for their bar number. You can then contact your state’s bar association and find out if they have had any disciplinary actions filed against them. You can find out what their standing is with their state bar.
How Difficult Will It be to Reach Your Attorney? You should ask the attorney at your first meeting how difficult it will be to reach him if you have any questions. Generally, you can get a good idea by how quickly he has responded to you at this point. Also, factor in how long you have had to wait (and others have had to wait) in order to see the attorney.
It is a good sign if the office appears to be run smoothly and the attorney seems to know his clients and their cases. However, if there are files all over the place, the receptionists or secretaries are rude, the attorney does not seem to know what is going on in his practice, or he has not returned your calls promptly so far then he is probably not the most organized attorney and this office is probably not going to be a good fit for you. You want to work with a well run and highly organized office. One where the attorneys know who you are and are thankful for your business.
We make is a point to respond to our clients’ inquiries quickly. We know our clients and are thankful for their business. They are always welcome to call us to check on their case or to make an appointment to come and see us.
We are always available at 888-801-6558 to answer your immigration questions. We handle cases throughout the United States and the World.