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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The Green Card Marriage Interview – green card fraud

After a US Citizen petitions for a non-immigrant spouse to get a US green card, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services will often schedule a green card interview for the couple at a local service office. The subject of this green card interview is to decide whether the marriage is a good faith, or bona fide marriage.

What is a Good Faith Marriage?

A good faith marriage is legally valid according to the jurisdiction where the couple exchanged vows. Additionally, it cannot violate the laws of the United States (e.g. a polygamous marriage will not confer an immigration benefit) and was not entered into solely to get a US green card. The issue in the interview is whether a good faith marriage exists and not whether the marriage is practical (whether it will last a long time).

What is a Sham Marriage?

After a US Citizen petitions for a non-immigrant spouse to get a US green card, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services will often schedule a green card interview for the couple at a local service office. The subject of this green card interview is to decide whether the marriage is a good faith, or bona fide marriage.

What is a Good Faith Marriage?

A good faith marriage is legally valid according to the jurisdiction where the couple exchanged vows. Additionally, it cannot violate the laws of the United States (e.g. a polygamous marriage will not confer an immigration benefit) and was not entered into solely to get a US green card. The issue in the interview is whether a good faith marriage exists and not whether the marriage is practical (whether it will last a long time).

What is a Sham Marriage?

A marriage without any intent, or “good faith,” to live together as husband and wife but was merely a scheme to get around the immigration laws is a sham marriage. The USCIS does not recognize a sham marriage  and the non-immigrant will get no immigration benefit from such a marriage.

Factors that raise suspicion of a Sham Marriage during a green card interview.

The factors that raise suspicion of green card fraud and may lead to in-depth questioning, a field examination or an investigation include:

1.         Large disparity of age;

2.         Inability of petitioner and beneficiary to speak each other’s language;

3.         Vast difference in cultural and ethnic background (times however are changing);

4.         Family and/or friends unaware of the marriage;

5.         Marriage arranged by a third-party;

6.         Marriage contracted immediately after the beneficiary’s apprehension or receipt of notification to leave the United States;

7.         Marriage entered into immediately following entry into the US

8.         Discrepancies in statements on questions for which a husband and wife should have common knowledge;

9.         The couple has not lived together as husband and wife since marriage;

10.      The beneficiary (alien) is a friend of the petitioner’s family;

11.       The US Citizen petitioner has filed earlier petitions for aliens, especially prior alien spouses.

The Good News

While any of these factors merely raises suspicion of green card fraud, this does not mean that a sham marriage will be found. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services may not conduct in-depth questioning, a field examination or an investigation.  The couple, however is responsible for proving good faith intent with supporting documents during the green card application and during the interview (more on this in a later post).

Again the green card marriage interview questions are not about whether your marriage is perfect. The sole purpose of this green card interview is for an adjudicator to decide if the marriage is legally valid and not entered into solely for obtaining a US green card. Though living and working in the US is highly desirable to many you should not enter a marriage for the sole purpose obtaining a green card.

If you have questions about adjustment of status and the green card process, consult an immigration attorney who can advise you based on your unique facts.

Immigration Attorney Gary Goodin

Copyright © 2011, The Immigration Navigator

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