The marriage green card interview – what you need to know

After you have filed your adjustment of status package including the marital petition, form I-130, form I-485 application to adjust status and form I-765 application for employment authorization document, USCIS will send you a biometrics notice to take fingerprints followed by a notice in the mail telling you when and where to attend a green card interview. To be sure you get the interview notice you must change your address with USCIS while your applications are pending by mailing a completed and signed form AR-11 Change of Address form or completing a Change of Address online.

Purpose of the marriage green card interview

The purpose of the interview is to verify your eligibility for adjustment of status, the good faith of your marriage and the financial status of the petitioner. While you should stay calm and stay confident in your marriage you should also prepare for this interview. An immigration officer may deny even people in legitimate marriages who do not convince him or her that their marriage is in good faith and not solely for gaining immigration benefits.

What to do before the interview

You must attend all interviews when you receive a notice. In the very rare event, you cannot attend because of an emergency you must contact the USCIS service office as soon as possible to ask that it re-schedules the interview. Please be aware that requests to re-schedule an interview are often not well received. If you do not know the exact location of the USCIS office and the parking arrangements you should do a test drive to make sure you can get there on time. Collect and organize green card interview documents

Before the interview you must make sure that originals of all documentation submitted with your application including birth certificates, marriage certificates and passports, official travel documents, and Form I-94 (even if they have expired) are well-organized in a file for easy access when requested by the immigration officer. In addition you should include up to date copies of bills and statements that show joint responsibility for living expenses of your home as well as commingling of funds (e.g. joint bank statement). If you have had any child(ren) together you should bring along the birth certificate(s) of the child(ren) and photos of the two of you with the child(ren).

The green card interview - married couple and baby at home


In the weeks before the interview: Communicate with your spouse and pay attention to the minor details of your marriage

In addition to organizing the green card interview documents in an orderly file, you should communicate with your spouse about the details or her live (current and past) and the details of yours, when you met and how your relationship developed. You should also pay particular attention to the layout of your house and life together (e.g. who pays what bill). If you are not living together you probably will be found out and you application will most likely be denied. The USCIS is looking for evidence that you are actually living together as husband and wife and trust each other. Remember that it is your responsibility to prove that your marriage is genuine and was not entered into to get around immigration laws.

On the day of the interview

On the day of the interview be sure to carry the interview documents and the USCIS interview notice. Make sure that you and your spouse dress appropriately and arrive for the interview on time. If you do not speak English you should bring along an interpreter with you who is not your spouse. You may also be accompanied by your attorney.

After you have passed security at the USCIS office you will hand in the interview notice at a reception window and wait to be called. When the immigration officer is ready he or she will call you and lead you to his or her office.

The interview

The immigration officer will ask you to raise your right hand and swear (affirm) to tell the truth. If you have a translator, the immigration officer will also swear in him or her to give exact translations. It is important that the translator translate each question and each answer sentence by sentence. The translator must not explain things or answer questions on your behalf.

As you are under oath be sure to tell the truth. Giving false testimony under oath will not just result in denial of your green card but it is also a crime.  You should listen carefully to the officer and only answer the questions that the immigration officer directs to you personally. Do not answer any questions addressed to your spouse without first asking permission from the immigration officer if you may do so. If you do not know the answer to a question, say you do not know.  If you did not hear the question, ask the immigration officer to repeat the question.

  • The immigration officer will ask to see the original documents based on your application. These include your original passport, I-94 and proof that your spouse is a U.S. citizen or LPR.
  • The officer will then test whether your marriage is in good faith by asking you questions that a married couple are expected to answer. Be ready to answer private questions about yourself, your spouse, how you met and your relationship – your living arrangements. Typical questions for green card interviews are about how you met, where you were you living at the time, what were each of you doing when you met, the day-to-day activities of your spouse and the physical arrangement of your house or apartment. You should know the name of spouse’s parents, workplace and supervisor and all the basic things about your spouse. The interviewer wants to find out how comfortable and trusting you are with each other. For a marriage relationship the key words are ‘trust’ and ‘communication with each other.’
  • The immigration officer may then ask about the financial status of your spouse.

The green card interview decision

A lot depends on the particular immigration officer but if the immigration officer decides that you have a bona fide marriage he or she will approve your application. It is likely that he or she will give you a decision on the spot and you will get a green card in the mail in a few weeks. Alternatively he or she may tell you to await a decision by mail.

Stokes Interview

If you fail to convince the immigration officer that your marriage is a bona fide marriage, it is very likely that USCIS will schedule you for a follow-up Stokes interview. The Stokes interview is similar to the first interview except that you and your spouse will be separated and asked more in-depth and personal questions. The immigration officer will  compare your answers to those of your spouse and if there are any discrepancies  you will be given an opportunity to explain the discrepancies.

Gary Goodin, Immigration Attorney

Copyright © 2011, the Immigration NavigatorTM

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Adjustment of status based on marriage

What is adjustment of status?

Adjustment of status is the process of applying for a green card (become a lawful permanent resident) by non-immigrants who are already in the United States. The applicants are not required to leave the United States and go through the hassle and delay of applying abroad. An applicant seeking adjustment of status must have made lawful entry into the United States which means admission into the United States after inspection by an immigration officer.

Green card Petition

An adjustment of status application usually does not stand alone (except in diversity visa, asylum or refugee cases). It is based on a petition for an immigrant visa that is immediately available or a prior approved petition for an immigrant visa. The person who does this petition is usually an employer or a family member such as a spouse or parent. For applicants who have married a United States citizen, the green card application and the immediate relative petition can be filed at the same time and they do not need to await the approval of the petition.

Obtaining a green card is discretionary

An adjustment of status by USCIS is discretionary. Obtaining a green card is a privilege, not a right. USCIS will check the applicant’s immigration and criminal history carefully to decide if there are any obstacles (in-admissibility factors) that could prevent issuance of a green card.  However, applicants married to a United States citizen may have some obstacles waved such as overstaying or earlier unauthorized work. Even if the applicant has a criminal history that could be an obstacle, he may be able to able to apply for a waiver. A waiver is a request that the immigration service “forgive” past criminal convictions or other obstacles.

Is the marriage true and real?

The immigration services will also test (using the documents you send and the adjustment of status interview) whether there is a level of trust between the applicant and the United States citizen spouse that would be expected in a marriage. To prove trust in the application process the applicant and spouse must prepare documentary evidence of their marriage. To prove trust at the adjustment of status interview it is important that communication between husband and wife is open enough for them to answer questions about each other (spouse’s date of birth and income, the details of how the couple met) that an immigration officer may ask of the couple.

Adjustment of Status by marriage











Green Card Checklist – Documents you need to get

Documents that carry a lot of weight and credibility with the immigration services in proving a marriage follow. Any documents not in English must be translated into English for proper submission to the USCIS.

  1. Birth Certificate of both parties
  2. Marriage Certificates (If the marriage took place abroad, give a copy of the foreign law relied on to prove the marriage is valid in the foreign country.) 
  3. Divorce Decrees for any earlier marriages
  4. Passport – of the applicant
  5. AR-11, Arrival Departure Document
  6. Joint Obligations – Receipts showing join obligations for living expenses (lease, cable, utility bills, auto insurance) – applicant should make sure that accounts have both names.
  7. Joint Ownership of Property – Title that shows joint ownership of property – car title, deed
  8. Joint Management of Finances – Evidence of joint management of finances – joint bank account, life insurance, pension with spouse named as beneficiary. This is very important because it clearly indicates trust (people tend not to trust their money to strangers.)
  9. Photos of the Couple
  10. Wedding Invitations, wedding gift cards
  11. Wedding Photos – also photos from honeymoon, if any
  12. Correspondence addressed to either or both spouses at the same address
  13. Join Tax Returns and W-2s (last two)
  14. Spouse as Emergency Contact – Employment Letters from applicant and spouse on company letterhead and signed by an official of the firm, stating when employment began, salary, marital status, dependents claimed and whom to notify in case of emergency.
  15. The latest two pay stubs/statements.

This is merely an overview of adjustment of status. Please discuss the specifics of your case with a competent immigration attorney as complex legal issues may arise during adjustment of status.

Gary Goodin, Immigration Attorney

Copyright © 2011, the Immigration NavigatorTM

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How to Register a Change of Address for Foreign Nationals

USCIS Change of Address

With limited exception non-US Citizens including lawful permanent residents (green card holders) must let the Department of Homeland Security know of their change of address within 10 days of moving. This need has been more enforced since September 11, 2001. The failure to register a change of address is punishable by a fine, imprisonment or removal from the United States.

Change of Address



  • The AR-11 form is a general change of address form that changes your address within the master database of USCIS an agency of the Department of Homeland Security. You can change your address manually using a printed Form AR-11 or you can do it online using the electronic AR-11. However completing this legal requirements and submitting the necessary AR-11 forms does not update an address on any applications or petitions pending before the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
  • Individuals affected by special registration must complete AR-11SR, Alien’s Change of Address Card. Form AR-11 SR can only be mailed and cannot be filed online.

 Application or petition pending before USCIS

If there is an application or petition pending for you before the USCIS, in addition to filing form AR-11, you must let the USCIS know of your change of address according to the instructions contained on the Notice of Action form. You should give them a copy of your receipt notice, your USCIS A#, your old address and your new address.

Appeal Pending before an Immigration Judge (IJ)

In addition to filling Form AR-11 with USCIS, if you have a case pending with before an Immigration Court, you must let the Immigration Court know within 5 working days of your move by completing Form EOIR 33/IJ for the court in your particular state. Form EOIR-33/IJ is available on the Department of Justice website. Giving notice to the court Form EOIR-33/IJ is not the same as giving notice to the Department of Homeland Security, DHS. The foreign nation with a pending case before an immigration court should also give separate notice to the DHS using form AR-11. 

Appeal Pending before the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA)

If you there is an appeal pending for you with the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), in addition to filing Form AR-11 with USCIS, you must let  the BIA know within 5 working days of your move by completing Form EOIR 33/BIA. You cannot let the BIA know of a change of address electronically. Form EOIR 33/BIA is available on the Department of Justice website. Giving notice to the BIA on Form EOIR-33/BIA is not the same as giving notice to the Department of Homeland Security, DHS. The foreign nation with a pending case before the BIA should also give separate notice to the DHS using form AR-11.

 If you have any questions about change of address or a failure to register change of address (an immigration violation) please consult an immigration attorney of your choice.


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What if I can’t make it to a scheduled USCIS interview?

An applicant, a petitioner, a sponsor, a beneficiary, or other individual residing in the United States at the time of filing an application or petition may be required to appear for an interview. With limited exceptions, failure to appear for a scheduled interview can result in the denial of the related application or petition for abandonment.

An unintended failure to appear for an interview may result when the notice of scheduled interview is sent to the wrong address because of USCIS processing errors for a timely filed change of address form AR-11. It can also result by an alien’s failure to file a timely change of address while an application or petition is pending.

An immigration interview is conducted because it is required by statute, regulations, agency policy or because there is a question of material fact that the adjudicator cannot resolve without an interview. Any interview may be required to determine the applicant’s or beneficiary’s credibility. Interviews are not scheduled if not required or if a material fact can be determined by other means. They are intended to be investigative and non- adversarial (as opposed to, say, a court proceeding involving two attorneys, each representing a particular side before a judge).

A scheduled interview (or fingerprinting) can be rescheduled if prior to the date and time of the interview an applicant or petitioner requests a rescheduled interview and show good cause. The applicant or petitioner should follow the instructions on the interview notice. The request may be made by mail, fax or telephone (in emergencies). The applicant or petitioner or his representative must show why he is unable to appear at the scheduled date and time because of circumstances beyond his control. The adjudicator will use her discretion to determine whether good cause exists for rescheduling the interview (or fingerprinting). If the adjudicator determines that good cause exists, the adjudicator will reschedule the interview and mail a new interview notice. The adjudicator is also required to reschedule an interview if a logged change of address notification is confirmed for the interviewees so that the interviewees may not have obtained notice of the interview.


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