I am often asked what to expect at the interview when a person is trying to obtain a green card based on being married to a U.S. Citizen. I wrote a blog article a couple of years ago titled: “Sample questions for green card interview“. The article explained, in detail, how the typical green card interview proceeds and then also gave they typical questions a typical couple should expect to answer at this type of interview.
I am also asked if all interviews are the same. The answer is yes and no.
For the most part green card interviews based on marriage to a U.S. Citizen go in the same predictable pattern. However, as you will see below, the interviews are not all the same.
On the day of your interview you will arrive at the building and go through security. (It can take a while to go through security so it is a good idea to arrive at the building early.) You will then go to a large waiting room and turn in your interview notice (bring it with you) at the front desk. You will wait in the waiting room until your case is called. The length of your wait will depend on the number of interviews being handled that day. I normally expect to wait between 10 and 60 minutes before my client’s case is called by the immigration officer. I find that wait times are generally a bit longer in the afternoon than they are in the morning.
Once called, you and your spouse will enter the interviewer’s office. This is usually just a small office which is probably only about 100 square feet. The immigration officer will have a desk, a computer, a printer, and many books about Immigration law. You will both be asked for your identification and asked to remain standing. An oath will be administered to you by the immigration officer.
After that is done the immigration officer will either go over your paperwork with you to make sure everything is accurate and no changes need to be made. If any changes need to be made the immigration officer will make the corrections in red (just like how you used to have your papers graded in school) and then have you initial the changes on your paperwork. (Make sure that you understand what changes are being made, and that they are truthful, before you initial the paperwork).
The officer will then go through your immigration history (visits to the U.S. and whether you complied with immigration law on these visits–make sure you have complied or consult with an immigration attorney before doing anything) and your relationship with your spouse.
You will then be asked to provide evidence or bona fides showing that your marriage is real. This evidence should include pictures of your wedding and honeymoon . It has been said that a picture is worth a thousand words and this is absolutely correct in this context. I have seen interviews change from going poorly to going very well because of a good photo album . An impressive photo album of a wedding and honeymoon speaks volumes. Even a very basic photo album that shows your life together will help you at your interview.
However, don’t just bring photos of yourselves. While this is a great start, you should also bring photos with you with your family members, friends and loved ones. Perhaps photos of the two of you with an extended family at Christmas, a family get together, or other gathering. The immigration officer should be shown, through pictures, that you are a happily married couple and that your marriage is known by your family, friends and co-workers
You should also bring copies of joint bank accounts, joint memberships (at gyms etc.) and joint rental agreements or deeds. You should make sure to bring copies of all documents requested on your interview notice and all documents which show joint ownership (these are documents that show the two of you are intermingling property and living like a married couple)
Although these interviews follow the same pattern they are not always the same. The key variable in the interview process is the interviewer. Some interviewers are just more thorough then others. Some interviewers will ask you to go into a lot of detail in your relationship. They will ask you open ended questions about your relationship and expect you to talk quite a bit during the interview. Others will not go into as much detail and will ask more yes or no questions. Both types of interviewers are doing their job well. One type of interview may just make you more uncomfortable than the other. One type of interview may only take 10-15 minutes, the other 30 minutes or longer.
My advice is to be ready to speak a lot at your interview in case you have an officer who prefers the open ended question approach to conducting the interview. I also suggest you bring more evidence (bona fides) proving the authenticity of your relationship than you think is necessary.
You can always call our office if you ever have questions about the interview process.
Lawrence Gruner is a Sacramento immigration attorney, a green card attorney in Sacramento and a fiancee visa attorney with almost 20 years of experience handling immigration cases. He may be reached at 916-760-7270 or 888-801-6558. He has office locations throughout California. He has clients in California and throughout the United States and the World.