The green card marriage interview (or marriage-based Adjustment of Status interview), which both partners are required to attend as part of the green card process, should not be presumed to be a simple or easy affair. It can turn into a grueling event if you do not prepare carefully.
Jennie Barbara, a foreign national, and Robbie Nathan, a U.S. Citizen, have been married for about a year now. Robbie filed an immediate relative petition for Jennie shortly after their marriage, and Jennie concurrently filed for Adjustment of Status (AOS). Despite the fact that everything is going great in the marriage, Jennie has become extremely overwrought because she has an appointment with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) next week for her marriage-based green card interview. Robbie and Jennie had heard that getting a green card through marriage would be easy. However, after filing the applications, Jennie began hearing many horror stories from her friends who had gone through the interview for green card through marriage and from the internet. With each new story and each passing day, she became more nervous and began to have sleepless nights. Jennie’s tensions and restlessness became a cause of worry for Robbie as he knew that this could create problems for her in the upcoming immigration marriage interview and could even plant a seed of suspicion in the mind of the USCIS officer interviewing them.
What should Jennie and Robbie do next?
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The USCIS officer is only given a short amount of time to conduct a green card marriage interview for each couple - usually 30 minutes for an adjustment of status interview. They are highly appreciative when you come to the interview with all of your documents properly organized. You should always maintain respectful eye contact and not be overly talkative. You should keep your answers short and to the point. If the officer needs more information, they will ask you another question.
Questions can be asked of either person - the U.S. Citizen or foreign national spouse. Nothing will fan the flames of an immigration officer’s suspicions more than individuals who do not answer the questions asked.
Do not let any periods of silence intimidate you. It is perfectly acceptable to sit quietly and wait for the next question. When you are asked a question, listen very carefully and answer the specific question.
Remember that there is nothing that you need to memorize for the USCIS green card interview. There are no specific test questions prescribed for the immigrant interview. What we mean by this is if the officer asks "what was the date when you last entered the U.S.?" and you cannot remember, you are allowed to give an approximate date.
It's not a police interrogation - it’s part of the green card process that everyone in your situation must go through. The USCIS officials’ goal is to verify whether or not you and your spouse are indeed living together in a bona fide relationship. Remember to pay attention to the details of your living arrangements before the immigration marriage interview period. You may also want to quiz each other on your respective personal information.
During the marriage-based green card interview, the USCIS officer will ask you questions designed to highlight some of the grounds and history of your relationship i.e., when did both of you first meet, when was your first date, what did you eat on your first date, etc. Both spouses should be able to present the circumstances under which they met and portray the journey from engagement to marriage. It is also a good idea to be familiar with important dates and events like birthdays, anniversaries, etc.
If the USCIS officer suspects that the marriage may not be real, they may separate you both and interview individually - this is called a Stokes Interview. It is usually scheduled for a separate day but can happen on the same day as the initial interview is scheduled. While not necessarily designed to be tricky, the questions will trip up spouses that are not familiar with each other. In a Stokes Interview, each spouse is separated and is asked a series of questions about the other and their life together, ranging from "Where was your husband born?" to "What is your husband’s favorite pastime?" Your answers to these questions will be compared against those provided by your spouse to determine your level of familiarity.
If you encounter an officer who insists that the marriage is fraudulent or insists that you agree or sign something agreeing to the fact that the marriage is a “sham” marriage, don’t get intimated.
Be calm and relaxed. A simple sense of togetherness and mutual concern is what wins in the end.
The USCIS officials are trained to and have experience at analyzing body language and interactions between couples. During the marriage interview for green card, they are constantly looking for signs that suggest the two of you are not comfortable together, as would happen when two people are in no way involved in an intimate relationship. In an attempt to show that they are married some couples show too much affection, which may appear forced and unnatural, and at the opposite end of the scale some are so nervous, they have no interaction at all. There is no need to be unusually affectionate or be so rigid that you are acting like acquaintances. Just be yourself.
Carry a set of original documents and a set of duplicate copies that you can give to the USCIS officer. The documents for the green card interview should include, but are not limited to, wedding invitations, wedding photographs, birth certificates of any children you may have together, property leases with both names featured, photographs, joint bank account statements, insurance documents and other joint documents.
In collecting and organizing pictures, remember to include photographs that not only feature you and your spouse, but family members and friends as well.
Jennie’s worries are not without basis as the key aspect of the process before granting a green card through marriage is the USCIS marriage interview. Your fate will be decided by the USCIS officer that is interviewing you. The purpose of the interviewing officer is to ascertain the couple’s true intention behind the marriage. It is the job of the married couple to prove they did not marry for the immigration benefits alone.
Robbie, realizing the seriousness of the situation, and taking into account his wife’s anxiety, sought the advice and help of an expert immigration attorney. The attorney helped ease Jennie’s tension and asked her to keep in mind the above ten simple things for a successful green card marriage interview.
And, to Jennie’s surprise, these ten simple green card interview tips really worked out well for her during her marriage interview for green card.