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.

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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K1 Visa Process – For K1 Visa Applicants

Once the USCIS approves the k1 visa petition it will then send it to the National Visa Center for forwarding to the proper consular post. Once the consulate receives the petition it will issue a letter to you stating that the consulate is ready to begin processing your k 1 visa application.

The Consulate will send you a set of document often called Packet 3 in order it to process your case. Sometimes the Consulate will not include the above forms. Rather it will send a letter with the applicant’s case number and a visa sheet with step by step instructions on how to go ahead. If this is the case the applicant can download the forms from the consulate website and return them to the Consulate.

A k-1 visa is a single entry visa that permits admission of the fiancé (e) of a U.S. citizen, as a non-immigrant for 90 days to marry that U.S. Citizen and apply for adjustment of status (a green card).  The minor unmarried children of the k1 beneficiary who go with or follow to join her are typically granted K2 visa status.

Wedding Bands

 

Approved Petition

Your K-1 process begins when your U.S. Citizen  fiancé(e) files Form I-129F on your behalf with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) district office responsible for where he or she lives or intends to live (if U.S. citizen is abroad).

Notice of Action

Once your fiancé (e) has received a notice of action you should begin assembling the relevant documents to support your application as some documents may take much time to get.

Documentary Preparation

You should assemble the following documents in support of your application as some may take much time to get.

  1. Passport(s) valid for travel to the United States – for you and any dependent children accompanying or following to join you.
  2. Birth Certificate(s) – Obtain the original, certified copy of the birth record, or secondary evidence for each family member (yourself and all minor unmarried children) even if the children are not immigrating with you.
  3. Evidence of the end of earlier marriages – final divorce decree, annulment or death certificate.
  4. Police Certificates for each applicant aged 16 year and over. Obtain police certificates from the police authority where you live or any place where you have lived for 6 months since you have reached 16 years old.
  5. Proof of relationship to the petitioner – gather your letters, dated photographs showing you together as a couple, affidavits from people with person knowledge of the relationship, e-mails, telephone bills, documentation of wedding plans and invitations. Airline tickets, visa stamps and receipt for the engagement ring may also be used

You should give accompanying certified English translations of all documents not in English, or in the official language of the country in which application for a visa is made. The translation must include a statement signed by the translator that states that the:

(i)                 Translation is correct, and

(ii)               Translator is competent to translate.

Packet 3

Once the USCIS approves the petition it will then send it to the National Visa Center for forwarding to the proper consular post. Once the consulate receives the petition it will issue a letter to you stating that the consulate is ready to begin processing your k 1 visa application.

The Consulate will send you a set of document often called Packet 3 in order it to process your case. Sometimes the Consulate will not include the above forms. Rather it will send a letter with the applicant’s case number and a visa sheet with step by step instructions on how to go ahead. If this is the case the applicant can download the forms from the consulate website and return them to the Consulate. In Packet 3 should find:

  • K1 Visa Checklist Form IV-15
  • Form DS-230 Part I (Biographic Data) – You must complete and return this form immediately for the Consulate to process your case. Each person applying for a visa must complete biographic data Form DS-230- Part I, regardless of age. You may photocopy the form you received insufficient copies for each family member.
  • Form DS-156 in duplicate (non-immigrant visa application). If your unmarried children under 21 are accompanying you, two copies of Each Child must complete Form DS-156. Please do not sign this form. You must sign it in front of the consular officer on the day of your formal interview.
  • Form DS-156K in duplicate (Non-immigrant Fiancé (e) Visa Application). Please do not sign this form. You must sign it in front of the consular officer on the day of your formal interview.
  • Form DS-157 in duplicate (Supplemental Non-Immigrant Visa Application) – only required for men aged 16-45
  • Information sheet DS-2000 (Lists evidence which you or your fiancé (e) may present to meet the public charge provision of the law). Your fiancé (e) may file Form I-134 with supporting documentation.
  • Sometimes the Consulate will send information about scheduling a Medical Examination at this time.

Complete and send back the following forms to the Consulate:

  • Form DS-230-I (Part I only) for each person applying for a visa, regardless of age
  • Leave unsigned Forms DS-156
  • Leave unsigned Forms DS-156K
  • Form DS-157 (if applicable)
  • Form IV-15 -if required documents are already prepared.

If not already done so, assemble the relevant documents required in support of your application, and mark the documents off on Form IV-15 as you collect them. Do not send these documents to the Consulate.

Sign and date Form IV-15 and forward to the Consulate.

Packet 4

Upon receipt of the above documents, the Consulate will continue any extra processing and tell you about the scheduling of the medical interview and the appointment for the formal visa interview.

Schedule and have the Medical Examination. Arrange for a medical examination with one of the physicians listed on the attached visa instruction. You are responsible for the cost of the examination. A medical examination is also required for each child who will go with you.

Photographs – take Two (2) 2 x 2 Photographs for each applicant according to the specifications on the visa instruction sheet.

Attend scheduled interview with all your unmarried children under 21. Bring supporting documents such as evidence of your relationship to your U.S. citizen fiancé (e), two photographs for each applicant, birth certificates and final divorce decree if any to the k1 visa interview.

If approved, the Consulate may need you to pick up the passport with the visa from the Consulate later.

Sealed Packet – Do Not Open

Consular Officer will give you your passport(s) containing the K-1 visa (K-2) and a sealed packet containing the civil documents you provided, plus other documents prepared by the U.S. Consulate. It is important that you do not open the sealed packet. Only the DHS immigration official should open this packet when you enter the United States.

K1 Visa Validity

Do not finish arrangements for travel to the United States, dispose of properties, or quit your job until the consulate delivers the passport(s) with the k 1/k2 visas to you. A k1 visa is generally valid for six months. You must travel and apply for admission to the United States within that six month window.

After admission on your k1 visa you have 90 days to get married to your U.S. citizen  fiancé (e) or leave the United States. The DHS will issue an entry document (Form I-94) to you (the  k1 fiancé(e)) valid for 90 days. If you marry within 90 days, you can can apply to adjust your status to that of a lawful permanent resident (green card holder) through the filing of a Form I-485.

Gary Goodin, Immigration Attorney

Copyright © 2011, the Immigration NavigatorTM

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Certificate of non availability – Birth Marriage certificate not available

The US Consulate or USCIS will presume that an applicant who fails to produce or send required documents is ineligible for a visa or other benefit (e.g. a green card). The good news however is that the applicant still prove eligibility using secondary evidence.

If a birth or marriage certificate is unavailable, an applicant must offer proof by obtaining a certificate of unavailability from the government agency where such documents originate. The State Department Country Reciprocity Schedule indicates what type of country documents are unavailable for applicants from particular countries.

In addition to obtaining a certificate of non-availability (also called certificate of unavailability) the applicant must also bring or send secondary evidence of the event such as; a passport,
church records, baptismal records, adoption decrees, hospital records, school records, and affidavits.

A visa applicant is responsible for bringing the original or certified copies of required documents to a visa interview to prove his or her eligibility for a visa. The USCIS may need a petitioner or beneficiary to send photocopies of the original or certified copies with a petition or application. Sometimes however birth or marriage certificates or other required documents (e.g. court documents, police records) are non-existent or cannot be obtained from a government agency in certain countries.

Reasons for non-availability

Sometimes a marriage or a birth is never registered. Registration of births was voluntary in India before 1970. War and civil unrest may destroy government archives (e.g. Liberia). In countries such as Cambodia, some birth and marriage records for certain periods are simply unavailable.

Proving birth and marriage by certificate of non-availability and affidavits

The US Consulate or USCIS will presume that an applicant who fails to produce or send required documents is ineligible for a visa or other benefit (e.g. a green card). The good news however is that the applicant can still prove eligibility using secondary evidence.

Certificate of non-availability or “no record certificate”

If a birth or marriage certificate is unavailable, an applicant must offer proof by obtaining a certificate of unavailability from the government agency where such documents originate. The State Department Country Reciprocity Schedule indicates what type of required country documents are unavailable for particular countries.

 
Baptismal Record - Unavailable Birth Certificate


 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Secondary evidence of birth or marriage including affidavit

In addition to obtaining a certificate of non-availability (also called certificate of unavailability) the applicant must also bring or send secondary evidence of the event such as;

  • a passport,
  • church records,
  • baptismal records,
  • adoption decrees,
  • hospital records,
  • school records, and
  • affidavits.

The applicant should offer two separate affidavits to prove a birth or marriage.  The affiant, preferably a parent, is a person who was alive at the time of the birth or marriage.

The contents of affidavit

The affidavit of birth or marriage should state

  1. The full name of the affiant
  2. The date and place of birth of the affiant
  3. The affiant’s relationship to the applicant
  4. Full information about the event – when and where it took place
  5. How the affiant is familiar with the event (e.g. birth or marriage).

Additionally the affiant must sign the affidavit before a notary. For foreign language documents submitted to USCIS a certified translation into English must also be submitted.

I hope this helps to get your visa approved when supporting documents are unobtainable.

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How to obtain a B1 B2 Visa

The B1 B2 Visa is a non-immigrant or visitor visa to enter the US for a limited time for business (b1 visa) and pleasure (b-2 visa) . Applicants for this visa must complete visa application Form DS-160 online, pay the visa application processing fee and schedule an interview appointment.

The B1 B2 Visa Requirements

The requirements that the US Consular official will assess in determining your eligibility for a B1 B2 visa are:

1. You must live in a foreign country which you do not intend to abandon.
2. You must intend to enter the US for a limited time, and
3. You must also show that your sole purpose in visiting the US is for lawful business or pleasure.

The B1 B2 Visa is a non-immigrant or visitor visa to enter the US for a limited time for business (b1 visa) and pleasure (b-2 visa) . Applicants for this visa must complete visa application Form DS-160 online, pay the visa application processing fee and schedule an interview appointment.

The B1 B2 Visa Requirements

The requirements that the US Consular official will assess in determining your eligibility for a B1 B2 visa are:

1.       You must live in a foreign country which you do not intend to abandon.

This means residence in any foreign country. If you are an Indian national but live in Canada as a landed immigrant that is fine provided you can show that you do not intend to abandon residence in Canada.

To show that you do not intend to abandon residency in a foreign country you may use supporting documents that show;

a.       permanent employment (or on-going education for students),

b.      business and financial ties ( e.g. title to land and ownership of a local business),

c.       close family ties (e.g. marriage certificate, copies of your children’s birth certificates, school records showing that the children live with you), and,

d.      your involvement in social and cultural activities in the foreign country where you live.

The fact that you would leave dependent children, spouse or family behind in coming to the United States is not enough by itself to show a strong reason to return. Previous good use of a U.S. visa is important evidence of an intention to return to your residence outside the United States.

2.       You must intend to enter the US for a limited time

To show your intention to enter the US for a limited time, you must have a very specific purpose for your trip (e.g. medical treatment, a trip to Disney World, buying equipment for a business, a business conference etc.) and a realistic plan.

The purpose of your trip must match length of your stay in the United States and you should show that you have the money to carry out the purpose of your trip (pay slips, bank statements).

3.       You must also show that your sole purpose in visiting the US is for lawful business or pleasure.

While the B1 B2 visa allows a visitor to make business deals related to employment and business in a foreign country, it does not allow employment in the United States for U.S. employers.

The US Consular officer will deny your B1 B2 application if you fail to show any of these US visa requirements. Security checks and alerts may also result in denial or delay of a U.S. tourist visa or denial of admission into the United States at a port of entry.

The B1 B2 Visa does not guarantee admission

Visa issuance alone does not guarantee admission into the United States.  Customs and Border Patrol agents will inspect the B1 B2 visa holder and decide whether to admit him upon his arrival at a port of entry. The longest time the visa holder must stay in the United States depends on the date stamped on the I-94 Arrival Departure record received upon admission. An immigration officer may grant admission to any B-1 visitor for business or B-2 visitor for pleasure for not more than one year and grant extensions of temporary stay in increments of not more than six months each.

The Visa Waiver program

Nationals of countries that take part in the Visa Waiver Program, VWP do not need a b1b2 visa to enter the United States for business and pleasure. They may enter the United States for up to 90 days for business or tourism without any extension of stay or change of non-immigrant status.

International visitors to the United States from visa waiver countries must get travel approval through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). Visit the ESTA web page on the Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection website for more information. 

Currently, there are 36 Visa Waiver countries, as shown below:

Andorra Hungary New Zealand
Australia Iceland Norway
Austria Ireland Portugal
Belgium Italy San Marino
Brunei Japan Singapore
Czech Republic Latvia Slovakia
Denmark Liechtenstein Slovenia
Estonia Lithuania South Korea
Finland Luxembourg Spain
France Malta Sweden
Germany Monaco Switzerland
Greece the Netherlands United Kingdom

Applicants for a b1 b2 visa should visit the US Embassy or Consulate website where they will apply for more country-specific instructions and b1 b2 visa requirements.

Attorney Gary D. Goodin, for Immigration Navigator

Copyright © 2011, The Immigration Navigator

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