What to expect when preparing for a permanent residence interview based on marriage to a US citizen or US green card holder.
Often, much of what happens at the Green Card interview, more appropriately called an Adjustment of Status interview is housekeeping. The District Adjudications Officer (DAO) is reviewing the file for critical documents i.e. 1) marriage certificate, 2) birth certificate, 3) results of fingerprints and name checks, 4) tax returns, pay stubs and employment verification letters for the US citizen to determine sufficiency of income. The DAO will ask the foreign national all or most of the questions on the I-485 during the interview.
Yes, of course the DAO will ask the couple questions to gauge whether or not the marriage is real. Typically, the questions are the same you would ask any couple when you are trying to get to know them. Here are some examples. How did you meet? (Everyone has a cute "how we met" story! How and when did he propose? Can I see your ring? The questions as a general matter are NOT intimate. Although, if there are reasons to doubt your answers or if there are publicly available records that show you are not living together, you could be scheduled for a second, more in depth interview.
Occasionally, couples will be interviewed separately. This can be an indicator of your lack of evidence or other concerns by the USCIS about the good faith nature of your marriage. If you are interviewed separately, both husband and wife will be asked the identical questions. The answers will be compared for consistency. In all my years of practice, none of my couples have been interviewed separately on a first interview when I was present for the interview.
Bring Copies of Your Evidence
Many unrepresented couples do not know to include evidence of their marriage together with the petition. This can include evidence of jointly held bank accounts, credit cards, jointly owned property, joint auto, health and/or life insurance, children born of the marriage, love letters or emails to one another throughout the length of the relationship. If you didn't include this evidence with your petition, bring the originals and a set of copies to leave with the DAO at your interview to include in your application. A dozen pictures that span the course of the relationship can also speak volumes about family acceptance of the relationship and the length of the relationship.
How Long Does the Interview Last?
Most couples have a single 30 minute interview. Some couples are scheduled for 90 minute interviews. Again, the longer interviews are typical for couples with weak evidence, a large age difference or potentially adverse public records showing that the couple is not living together. Sometimes, adverse information is easy to explain i.e. the couple owns two homes.
Peace of Mind
The best peace of mind and way to reduce anxiety is to have a competent attorney experienced in immigration matters to accompany you to your interview. Often times we can resolve matters during the interview avoiding post interview delays.