Green Card Marriage Interview
The immigration interview husbands and wives are required to attend in order to get the foreign spouse their green card (lawful permanent residence) through marriage can be very anxiety producing. This stressful situation can be managed somewhat by thoroughly preparing. The interview notice you receive in the mail has an exhaustive list of the documents you will bring with you, so follow it very carefully.
On the day of the immigration interview, dress as if you are going to a job interview or to church. Remember that you will be entering a federal building and going through a metal detector. Normally cell phones with recording or camera functions are not allowed in the building.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Immigration Officers are only given a certain amount of time to interview each couple - usually only 10-15 minutes - at the adjustment of status immigration interview. If you are well-organized and not too talkative, they appreciate it. Keep all of your answers short and to the point. If the Officer needs more information, they will ask you a follow-up question. Do not be intimidated by the silence when the Officer is trying to focus or try to fill the silence with polite conversation.
Try to keep in mind that this is possibly the first time the Officer has seen your immigration file and they cannot listen or respond to idle chit chat while concentrating on reading. It is perfectly acceptable to sit quietly and wait to be asked a question.
The purpose of bringing original documents to the immigration interview is so that the USCIS Officer can compare them to the copies of documents that you already mailed with your original adjustment of status (green card) application, to ensure that the copies you sent are accurate. The Officer will not keep the originals. However, if a copy of document was not already provided with the adjustment of status application, try to remember to make a copy ahead of time to give to the Officer (they resent it if you treat them like your personal copy clerk).
For example, if you had a baby after you sent your adjustment of status (green card) application in the mail, you would bring both the original birth certificate of the baby and a copy of the birth certificate of the baby to leave with the Officer.
There are no test questions during the immigration interview that you have to memorize. By that I mean, if the Officer asks "What was the date that you last entered the US?," you are allowed to look at your I-485 Form, Page 1, for your Date of Last Arrival if you have trouble memorizing the date. Also, when you respond to a question, it is a sign of respect to say "Yes, Officer" instead of just "Yeah."
If you have been married less than two years on the date of the immigration interview, the Officer may only ask you a minimum number of questions about your courtship and marriage because they will only be granting the two year conditional green card.
Common questions might be: "How did you meet?," "What is your wife's middle name?," "What is your husband's siblings/parents' names?," and "Are you planning on having children?"
If you have been married more than two years on the date of the immigration interview, the Officer should ask more questions about your courtship and marriage, because they will be granting the permanent ten year green card.
Proof of Marriage Documents
Before the immigration interview, copy all of your updated financial and proof of marriage documents listed on the interview notice onto pieces of 8 1/2 x 11 inch paper. The Officer is trying to organize your file and small receipts, paystubs or odd shaped paperwork are hard to organize neatly.
Try to organize your documents so that you can hand them to the Officer in stacks, instead of one piece of paper at a time. For example, if the Officer asks for your three most recent paystubs, hand the Officer copies of the three paystubs clipped together. If the Officer asks for proof of marriage, hand the officer the entire stack of proof of marriage documents clipped together.
When submitting photographs to prove your marital relationship, make color copies of your photographs with the date, location (city, state and country), and names of people, written on the copies. Try to fit 2-3 photographs on each 8 1/2 x 11 inch piece of paper and carefully write the information mentioned above either to the side or underneath each photograph. Keep in mind that the Officer will punch two holes in the documents at the top edge of the page, so that if you place the photos too close to the top edge the photos may be punched with holes.
Select a variety of photographs dated from the time you met each other to the present date, and include photos of each of you with the others' family or friends. Photos of the wedding ceremony and wedding reception, as well as family holidays, are also important. As you can see, while it is nice to bring your wedding photo album to the interview, the Officer cannot fit it into your file and it is best to have a photo spread that fits neatly into your immigration file that you can leave with the Officer.
If the Officer determines that a document is missing, they will tell you at the end of the immigration interview which document is missing. The Officer will give you a piece of paper listing the document(s) they need and where to mail the missing items. The Officer should not take your work and travel permits, or stamp your passport, because you will not be granted your green card on that day.
When the green card is not granted at an immigration interview, a second immigration interview is not usually scheduled. Send the missing document by the deadline established by the Officer or your entire case can be denied. It is best to use certified or overnight mail so that you have proof that you sent the missing document by the deadline. A written decision about your green card is usually mailed to you by the Officer after they receive and review the missing paperwork you send to them in the mail.
But, if all goes well at the immigration interview, the Immigration Officer will tell you that the green card is granted as of that day, take your work and travel permits (which are not needed when a person has a green card), and stamp the equivalent of a green card in your passport. The actual laminated I-551 green card is then mailed to your home address, usually in two weeks.