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.
The Green Card Marriage Interview – How To Make It Less Stressful?
You can take the stress and anxiety out of the situation through thorough preparation.
You begin by gathering the documentation that you will need for your marriage based green card interview as soon as the interview notice arrives. The green card marriage interview notice you received in the mail has an exhaustive list of the documents you will need to bring with you to the interview – follow it very carefully.
10 Tips To Help You Succeed In Your Green Card Marriage Interview
Given below is a list of 10 practical green card interview tips to make your green card interview experience less stressful, and help you greatly improve your chances of success at the interview.
Tip 1: Always Be On Time For Your Immigration Marriage Interview
Never be late. USICS officers expect you to be on time for your immigration appointment. It is always advisable to arrive at least 30 minutes before your scheduled interview time. If you have an attorney who has agreed to represent you at the USCIS marriage interview it is very important that you wait for your attorney and do not begin the interview until your attorney is present. Make sure you have discussed what to do if you or your attorney is running late.
DID YOU KNOW?
All immigration offices are in secure facilities and you will be made to go through metal detectors. You will not be allowed to bring items such as: weapons, matches, lighters, sharp objects, and pepper spray.
Tip 2: Dress Formally And Conservatively
The way you are dressed is the first thing that an USCIS officer will see and it makes an immediate impact on them. Therefore, you should be careful about the clothes you wear for your interview. On the day of your USCIS green card interview it is always advisable to dress conservatively, i.e., dress as if you are going to a job interview or to a formal dinner. It’s good to remember that you will be entering a federal building and going through security and a metal detector – much like security at an airport where you may be required to remove your belt, jacket and shoes.
DID YOU KNOW?
It is estimated that each year 450,000 U.S. Citizens marry foreign nationals, out of which it is assumed that a certain percentage are for immigration purposes only. The authorities at the USCIS, however, are prepared for this often-abused strategy and do not make it an effortless process.
Tip 3: Be Well Organized – Listen And Respond Appropriately
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.
Tip 4: Never Try To Guess An Answer
One of the biggest mistakes a person can make is to guess when he or she does not know the answer to a particular question. Instead of guessing at an answer, it’s always advisable to say “I do not know” or “I do not remember”. It is better to say that you don’t remember instead of guessing an answer and going down the wrong lane.
A husband during his green card marriage interview was asked what he had given his wife for gift on their first marriage anniversary. He could not remember what he bought her, but just to avoid embarrassment he told the officer that he bought her a gold ring. When his wife was asked what he had given her, she stated that he gave her a beautiful dress. The different answers will raise a doubt whether the marriage is real.
Tip 5: Nothing To Memorize
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.
Tip 6: Reflect On The History Of Your Relationship
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.
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.
Tip 7: Be Prepared For ‘The Wedding Game’
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.
Tip 8: Be What You Are
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.
Be calm and relaxed. A simple sense of togetherness and mutual concern is what wins in the end.
Tip 9: Be Prepared With The Proper Documents
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.
Tip 10: Seek The Assistance Of An Expert
If you are worried, have special circumstances, or just want peace of mind, it is worth seeking help from an expert immigration attorney to steer you through the whole process. There is a lot riding on the approval of your petition and it is not unheard of for those with genuine marriages to have their case denied as a result of being unprepared. The old proverb ‘if you fail to prepare, then be prepared to fail’ does apply in this situation.
The USCIS authorities do not take these inspections lightly and neither should you. They conduct in depth background checks on foreign nationals and on the U.S. Citizens as well.
My Case Scenario
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?
My Case Scenario
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.
The above key points could ease Jennie’s tensions and nervousness. These are some of the things that you need to keep in mind when preparing for your green card marriage interview. Sometimes it happens that we pay so much attention to complex things that we forget the simple things.
Always remember that ‘a small thing can make a big change’. Be friendly, smile, maintain eye contact, shake hands, listen to the whole question – don’t interrupt or try to anticipate the question, and everything should be fine.
If you have questions about how to prepare for green card marriage interview, consult a VisaPro immigration attorney. We will be happy to guide you through the process successfully.
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