Could You Pass the Green Card Marriage Interview?

The New York Times ran an article recently titled: “Green Card Marriage Interview: Can You Pass it?

The article correctly pointed out that the U.S. government is always on the lookout for people “gaming the system for a green card.” Never, under any circumstances should you illegally try to help someone obtain a green card.

The article listed some sample questions a couple should expect to encounter at the green card marriage interview. These include:

  • How soon after you met did you start dating?
  • When did you meet each other’s families?
  • How did you decide on getting married?
  • Where did you buy the ring?
  • What was the wedding like and who attended?
  • What did you do afterward?
  • Where did you eat?

“In approaching the interviews, immigration officers assume the relationship is a fraud. The green card process is long and drawn out, and the burden of proof is on the couple. Anyone caught lying could face prison time and a fine of up to $250,000. The immigrant could also be barred from getting a marriage-based green card ever again.

“We have seen more scrutiny and more questions about marriage lately,” said Kate Lincoln-Goldfinch, an immigration lawyer in Austin.”

“Depending on the interview, an immigration officer might also ask more difficult questions:

  • Draw me a diagram of your bedroom.
  • How do you enter your home?
  • What subway does your spouse take?
  • What did you do last night?
  • What did you do for Christmas?
  • What gift did you give your spouse?
  • When was the last time your spouse saw the mother-in-law?
  • Where did you first meet your spouse’s brothers and sisters?
  • Does your spouse have any tattoos or hospitalizations?

The officer could also do a number of other things:

  • Visit your home or park outside to see if you both actually live there.
  • Talk to your neighbors.
  • Dive into public records.

If the immigration officer is still not convinced once the process is complete, the applicant could receive a notice of intent to deny. The applicant has a chance to respond and, if the response is denied, file a new petition or appeal, which can be expensive. In some cases, applicants are referred to immigration court. Red flags that immigration officials look for are disparities in age, religious and linguistic differences, and if either person has already been through the immigration process with someone else.

One tip from an immigration lawyer: Have an attorney present during the interview, and make eye contact, which in some cultures is not the norm. An officer could “judge this person through the lens of American culture, even though that person could be newly in the U.S.,”

This is all good advice. There are also a few other things you should know:

  • Currently the marriage based green card cases are taking longer than usual. A couple of years ago these cases were taking about 4 months from case filing to the interview. Today they are taking between 8-12 months in Sacramento and San Francisco.
  • You should bring any documents that USCIS requests that you bring to your interview. You should also bring at least one photo album with pictures showing your life together.
  • If your interview does not go well you will likely have a second interview with a different officer at the same office. This is the interview that will be much more intense.

Attorney Lawrence Gruner is a Sacramento Immigration Lawyer . His office handles fiancé visa cases, marriage green card cases, and naturalization cases. He may be reached at 916-760-7270. He would be happy to do a phone consultation with you, free of charge, to talk about your immigration options.

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