USCIS Marriage Green Card Interview Preparation Tips – I-130 / I-485 Applications
One of the most stressful times in a marriage green card process is the final marriage green card interview. This is the opportunity for a USCIS adjudicator to question the spouses about the good faith nature of their marriage to make sure there is no marriage fraud (e.g., getting married solely for a green card). However, with proper preparation BEFORE the interview, the interview is often a very short and easy event, and leads to green card approval and smiles for the spouses. This article addresses marriage green card interview preparation and tips, to help your interview go as smoothly as possible.
Marriage Green Card Interview Tip 1: Read The USCIS Interview Notice Carefully, And Note the Interview Date and Time
The first step towards a smooth marriage green card interview, is to make sure you know where to go, what day to go, and the time of the interview. Read the interview notice carefully, and note the date, time and location of your interview. In some jurisdictions, the interview may be at a USCIS office different than where you had your fingerprints taken. Also, if you forget the date, or arrive after the scheduled time, your application may be denied for failure to appear as scheduled.
Also, note the documents and information listed in the interview notice. This is a helpful checklist to make sure you bring everything the USCIS office handling the interview requires.
Be sure to bring proper, unexpired ID to the interview, or security may not let you into the office.
Marriage Green Card Interview Tip 2: Bring ALL Proper Documentation
One of the key reasons for the marriage green card interview is for the USCIS office to review documentation. While your green card interview notice may list documentation and information to bring in addition to the list below (see Tip 1), following is a routine list of documentation nearly every USCIS interviewing officer will want to see (but again, see Tip 1 to make sure you bring anything else that may be required):
♦ Originals or government certified copies of all civil documents (spouses’ birth certificates, marriage certificate, children’s birth certificates, death certificates, etc.). It also may be helpful to bring an extra photocopy of these original / government certified copies in case the photocopy submitted with the original package is no longer in the file.
♦ The original I-94 (if issued before the electronic I-94 system was implemented), or a copy of the beneficiary spouse’s electronic I-94 arrival information from the CBP website.
♦ Updated financial documents relevant to the affidavit(s) of support submitted with the original I-130 / I-485 submission. As many months may have passed from the time of the package filing to the marriage green card interview, the USCIS officer will want to see that affidavit of support requirements are still met. Thus, an updated employment confirmation letter, copies of recent paystubs, and copies of any tax returns (with W-2’s) filed after the original package was submitted, should be brought to the interview. If a joint sponsor also filed an affidavit of support in the case in addition to the petitioning spouse, then updated financial documents for the joint sponsor should also be brought to the interview. Note that the joint sponsor does not attend the interview. The spouses simply bring that documentation to the interview.
♦ Copies of joint documents establishing the good-faith nature of the marriage. Joint documents are critical for convincing the USCIS officer that the marriage was not entered into solely for the beneficiary spouse to get a green card (marriage fraud). Joint documents frequently include joint real estate ownership or lease documentation showing both spouse’s names, joint bank account and financial account statements, joint insurance statements, joint organizational membership accounts, joint utility bills, joint loan / credit account statements, and employment benefit documentation that shows one spouse as a covered beneficiary on the other spouse’s employment benefits. If the spouses have had children together, then originals and an extra photocopy of their birth certificates should also be brought, since that is also very compelling proof of the good-faith nature of the marriage.
♦ A representative sampling of photographs of the spouses together, during courtship, and up to the point of the interview. Photographs of the wedding are particularly important as well. Be sure these photographs are not in albums, and are extra copies, as the USCIS officer may keep them for the file. Also, the USCIS generally does NOT accept electronic media, such as CD’s, DVD’s, USB sticks, etc. Print photographs should be brought.
♦ If joint documentation is sparse, then notarized affidavits / statements from family and friends who know both spouses should be brought. The statements MUST be affirmed and notarized, and should identify the full name of the affiant, their address, telephone number, and date and place of birth. The sworn statements should also state how the affiant personally knows both spouses, and activities the affiant has done together with both spouses. The statements should also indicate how both spouses have held themselves out as husband and wife together. I recommend that if joint documentation is sparse, at least five (5) affidavits from friends and family be obtained.
Marriage Green Card Interview Tip 3: Answer All Interview Questions Truthfully
At some point during the marriage green card interview, the USCIS officer may ask the spouses a wide variety of questions. Common questions relate to how the spouses met, how long they dated, how long they have lived together, and whether their families know they are married. However, each interview can be different. In some interviews, the parties may even be separated, and each spouse asked a series of common life questions individually. Such questions can be wide ranging, and might include whether any pets live in the household, what cars each spouse drives, how many brothers or sisters the other spouse has, the last time the spouse met the other spouse’s parents, the other spouse’s occupation and work schedule, etc. The questions are not designed to “stump” those in a good-faith marriage… in fact the answers will come easy to those in a good faith marriage. The only spouses that must fear the marriage green card interview questions, are those in a marriage fraud scenario.
Under no circumstances should the parties lie to a USCIS adjudicating officer. That can have disastrous consequences, which in many cases may be permanent. If you have concerns about how to answer certain questions in an interview, discuss your concerns with a qualified immigration attorney before your interview, if you had not already retained one to file the original green card package for you.
Marriage Green Card Interview Tip 4: Relax!
While Hollywood movies have portrayed the marriage green card interview as some very stressful event, and while the rare USCIS interviewing officer may make the interview more stressful than necessary, nearly all interviews in good faith marriage cases go quickly and easily. If you exclude waiting time to be called by the officer from the hall into the interview room, most interviews last less than 30 minutes, and many are done in 15 minutes or so if the parties are well prepared. So if you know you are in a good-faith marriage, and are well prepared for the interview as noted above, then it should be a joyous occasion for you.
Marriage Green Card Interview Tip 5: Note any Follow-Up Instructions from USCIS Interviewing Officer
Upon conclusion of the interview, the USCIS interviewing officer may have further information to provide to you. For example, if your marriage is less than two (2) years in duration at the time of the interview, the USCIS officer may explain to you the need to file an I-751 Petition to Remove Conditional Aspects of Permanent Residency within a ninety (90) day window prior to the expiration date of your two year green card. Likewise, if the USCIS officer needs any additional information to render a final decision, then the officer will advise you what information is necessary, and give you instructions on how to submit that documentation. It is very important to listen to what the USCIS officer is explaining to you during the interview.
While any marriage green card interview may have unique considerations that spouses may wish to discuss with an experienced immigration attorney, most are routine, and with proper preparation before the interview, result in a green card approval. If you wish to discuss your green card interview with us, please do not hesitate to contact us for a consultation!