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The big day has finally arrived!  You filed your immigration papers, paid the fees, waited patiently for several months, and finally after all that money, hard work, and worry, you and your spouse are going to the green card interview!  Although it can be a nerve-wracking experience, it can also be very exciting to know that you are so close to getting that little card that will mean you and your loved-one can live together in the US as a family.  

The green card interview is very different from the consular visa interview that many have already been through.  Fortunately, the difference is often for the better.  Most feel the immigration interviewers are more courteous and professional than their counterparts in the consulates overseas. 

But what can you expect? Read on to get a general idea. Please remember, however, that each interview is different, and that this article should not be taken to as legal advice or to establish an attorney-client relationship.  

Arrival, Security and Check-In

You should plan to arrive 30 minutes prior to the scheduled interview time. Traffic and parking are unpredictable, and it is best to plan ahead.

To enter the federal building, you will need to go through a metal detector. You will then proceed to the information counter, tell the attendant you are there for an immigration interview, and he/she will instruct you where to go.

Once in the interview waiting room, give your interview notice to the person behind the window or desk. You will then sit down and await your turn.

Typically, you will be called within 30 minutes after your scheduled time, although on some occasions the wait time may be longer.

Beginning the Interview and Swearing In

You, your spouse, and your attorney (if you have one) will go with the interviewer into an office (or sometimes, a cubicle).  The interview will be conducted with you and your spouse in the same room.  (Couples sometimes have to go through a re-interview at a later date, in which case the spouses will be separately questioned so the interviewer can compare the answers.  These "Stokes" interviews are, fortunately, not very common for couples who are in genuine marriages who have prepared reasonably well.)

You will be asked to remain standing, to raise your right hand, and to swear to tell the truth. You will be told that the interview is being recorded. Then you will be asked to sit at one of the 2-3 chairs directly in front of the desk, and to display your identification (drivers license and passport).

Questions For the Petition

The interviewer will usually begin by asking you questions concerning your biographical information (date of birth, address, date of entry into the U.S., mother's/father's name, date/place of marriage, date of divorce, children, etc.). The number of possible questions is quite large, but the purpose is essentially to determine you are the person who filed the application or petition, and to get a better idea as to your eligibility.

You will then be asked questions concerning the relationship upon which you are basing your application. For marriage cases, these questions focus on whether or not the marriage is genuine, or simply for immigration purposes. There are a virtually unlimited number of questions, but usually center around how you met, how long you were dating before the proposal, who proposed to whom, whether you have met each other's relatives, and so on.

At this point, the interviewer usually asks "what documents did you bring today to prove the validity of your marriage" or words to that effect. This is your cue to hand over the "bona fides" documentation -- the bank statements, bills, lease/deed, affidavits, etc. that you have been collecting for the past several months that show joint assets and liabilities and co-residency. The interviewer may tell you he/she just wants the copies, or may want to see the originals too.

Questions for the Green Card Application

Once the interviewer is done with the I-130 questions, he/she will move onto the green card application.

At this point, you will be asked questions concerning any criminal history, prior immigration violations, drug/alcohol dependency, prostitution, practice of bigamy, and the like. These must be answered completely truthfully, by "yes" or "no." The interviewer will most likely already know about any potential problem areas, and may wish to see if you will lie about them. If you do, this will give them another basis to deny your case, so be sure not to give them this excuse.

Wrapping up the Interview

At the conclusion of this business, the interviewer will typically either tell you

  • your case will be reviewed and you should expect to receive a decision within 120 days;
  • your case is approved;
  • you need to submit additional documentation before a decision is made (you will be given a letter and 2-3 months to submit the missing items); or
  • your file and/or name check/fingerprints clearances have not yet been received from the CIA/FBI/State Department, and you need to wait longer before a decision is made.

Unless the case is approved at the interview, you may expect the final decision to be mailed to you. If a decision is not made in 120 days, you are advised to contact USCIS to check the status.  

Once the case is approved, you may simply wait for the green card to come by mail. These are taking about 2 weeks post-approval, but processing times may vary widely.

In the mean time, you may get your passport stamped as evidence of permanent residence. To do this, you will need to make an appointment on Infopass (www.uscis.gov), and go back to the federal building with your passport and approval notice.

General Tips

  • It is important to understand that USCIS interviewers have a very hard, and sometimes tedious or boring job. Many of them are very good at what they do. Most of them are professional, and polite. A handful of them may be rude or intimidating. The best way to deal with interviewers' behavior is to sit back in your chair, relax, and answer the questions as calmly as you are able. Please do not argue with the interviewer, or expect your attorney to do so.
  • In terms of documentation to bring, you will have received a document checklist with the interview notice.  Although not everything on that list will be relevant, it is up to you to go through that list carefully, and bring anything that may be.
  • USCIS interviewers are trained to look for various "red-flags" that may indicate the possibility of fraud.  While the presence of any individual red-flag does not necessarily mean your case will be denied, it will likely result in more scrutiny, additional questions, and more documentation before your case is approved. (See our article about "red flags" that USCIS may consider indicators of fraud, for more information).
  • If you do not understand a question at the interview, you may ask the interviewer or your attorney for clarification You should typically not ask your spouse, however. You should also not try to answer a question that was directed to your spouse.
  • Attorneys are generally not allowed to participate, except to attempt to present solutions to any legal issues that may have arisen, or to advise you if you do not understand a questions.

Conclusion

Many applicants go through the whole process, including the interview, on their own (without attorney assistance), and get their cases approved.  Others feel more comfortable and confident knowing there is someone by their side, especially at the interview.  This decision is based on a variety of factors particular to the individual.  No matter how you choose to handle this decision, we hope this information has given you a better idea what to expect and be a little less nervous at the interview. 

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Contact us at tel.: 410-719-1501.