The Service sends a "REQUEST FOR APPLICANT TO APPEAR FOR INITIAL INTERVIEW" in the mail after the adjustment application is received. Typically, the notice arrives about three weeks before the scheduled interview date. Make every effort to attend. If unable to attend, follow the instructions on the notice concerning rescheduling of appointments.
USCIS mail is not always forwarded when an applicant moves. After the filing of an adjustment application package, it is the applicant's responsibility to keep the Service immediately informed of all address changes. This should be done both by filing the standard Service change of address form (form AR-11) and by writing a letter to the USCIS making specific reference to your pending application by the appropriate receipt and "A" numbers. If your application has been pending for sometime and is potentially imminent, you should also call the customer service number and inform them of the change of address.
The Day of the Interview
The day of the interview 1) You know exactly where you are going; 2) that you know how to get there; 3) that you arrive at least thirty minutes in advance; and 4) if your appointment is early in the morning, consider staying overnight in the city where the interview is to occur if you live more than 100 miles away.
If you fail to show up without excuse, the application may be deemed abandoned and will be denied. If you show up late you may be given a new appointment date sometime in the future.
A properly prepared spousal adjustment interview when there are no major issues should take about fifteen minutes. Interviews involving foreign spouses who are in removal proceedings, entered the country without inspection and are making a special "245 (i)" filing, or where there are grounds for the USCIS to be suspicious, may take longer. Interviews where the applicants come unprepared also take longer.
Write the officer's name and the time when the interview began and ended.
The Interview and Decision
The officer will typically inform you of his decision at the conclusion of the interview. If approved, he will issue an approval letter, and the applicant will receive a "Green Card" in the mail. This now takes only a week or two to receive. (It used to take up to a year). The "Green Card" is an official document evidencing lawful permanent resident status. The actual status of lawful permanent resident is acquired upon approval. If married for more than two years to the United States citizen, the foreign spouse will receive an unconditional lawful resident status. If married less than two years, this status will be conditional. These conditions must be removed by filing another application (form I-751) before the second anniversary of the date of the approval of lawful permanent resident status.
Interview and Deferral of Decision
There are times when the officer will defer making a decision on either the I-130 or I-485. This could be because he has requested additional information or because he wishes to review the file more carefully in light of what you have said in the interview. It could also be because there has been a delay or mistake in the background checks done on the applicant or any number of other reasons. If the officer is unable to make a decision, he should tell you the reason and if he fails to, you should ask him for the reason. You should also ask him how long it will take for an answer. If the officer cannot tell you, try to get a date from him by which you should make further inquiry if you have not yet heard the results. Also ask where you should make the inquiry. Write this information down.
Who Must Attend the Interview
The petitioner and all the beneficiaries must attend the interview. This means the United States citizen spouse, the foreign spouse, and any children who are adjusting with the foreign spouse. If they fail to attend, the application will be denied or rescheduled. If the foreign spouse or children do not speak English, you must have a translator accompany you to the interview. Your attorney may also attend, which is recommended, but your attorney's presence is not required for the interview to be conducted.
A translator must be fluent in English and the language of the foreign spouse. The role of the translator is to translate. He should not coach the foreign spouse or help him answer the questions. The translator will be expected to take an oath that his translations are true and correct, and that he is fluent in both the language he is translating and in English.
The Role of the Attorney
The role of an attorney in an adjustment interview is limited. An attorney is not permitted to talk or interfere with the interview while it is being conducted. However, he or she may make comments at the conclusion of the interview and assist the officer in ensuring that the file is properly documented. If there is an issue that requires the exercise of discretion, the attorney may also make useful arguments on your behalf. Not all spousal adjustment interviews require the presence of an attorney. However, in some interviews he or she may be vital. The problem is you cannot tell in advance whether one will be needed. The safe course of action, therefore, is to have an attorney attend the interview.
The interview itself will be held in a cramped government office. The surroundings will not be glamorous. The questions may sound ordinary, aggressive or dull. Typically, there is only one officer in the room. Sometimes there are two - - this often happens when an officer is being trained or supervised. Occasionally, the interview is video taped - - with the permission of the applicant. There are three or four chairs for the applicant, the citizen spouse, a translator and lawyer. There is not much space, so avoid if possible, bringing bulky bags or clothing with you.
The Service buildings are secure facilities. You will be searched when you enter. Do not bring pocket knives or cameras and avoid wearing heavy metal jewelry or carrying large amounts of change, etc. You are not allowed to bring food, and these are "smoke free" facilities. Everyone, except young children, will need to bring government issued photo IDs.
This is a serious occasion so dress accordingly. A simple rule is to dress like you are going to church, synagogue, mosque or an important job interview. DO NOT wear clothes with messages on them or that would suggest you are not taking this interview seriously. You may, of course, dress in accordance with your customs or religious requirements. It is also a good idea not to use overpowering perfumes. Generally, you and your children should be clean, well groomed, and respectable.
The USCIS Request to Appear will advise you to call if you have a hearing or other impairments that will require special attention on their part. If you require such accommodations do not be shy about requesting them. The government will accommodate these requests without charge. Nor will such a request have a negative influence on the consideration of the applicant's request to adjust status.
Prepare and Organize Documents in Advance
Much time is spent in most interviews assembling and reviewing documents that are requested in your Request to Appear notice. You can speed up the interview by having copies of the documents prepared in advance for submission and the originals of those documents available for inspection. Bring the originals to show the officer; bring a copies of the original to submit to him for his files.
Documents Generally Requested
The "Request to Appear for Initial Interview" will list the specific documents that you are required to bring to the interview. Generally, this list will include the following:
1. The Interview Notice. You will be asked to present the interview notice at the window where you enter for your interview. Keep a copy as well for your records.
2. Your government issued photo - identification. This could be a passport, border crossing card, or a national identification card.
3. The foreign spouse applicant should bring all of his or her passports. This means all passports issued in the applicant's name or that the applicant has ever used since first entering the United States. Thus, if he is a citizen of Brazil and Italy and has a passport from each of these countries, bring both passports even if the applicant entered the United States only on one.
4. Arrival/Departure (I-94) card (the white card that is stapled into the passport upon entry into the United States.
Additional Documents Showing Good Faith Marriage
1. Evidence demonstrating that you really are married, live together and are planning a life together. The following are examples of the types of documents that may support this:
a. Photographs of the wedding; vacations you may have taken together; your home, children, pets, etc. Pictures do speak a thousand words. This is an effective means of communicating your life together.
b. Utility bills that are going to the marital address in both your names;
c. A copy of a lease, deed or mortgage showing common ownership;
d. Joint bank accounts;
e. Health insurance policies;
f. Affidavits from friends and family attesting to the validity of the marriage - - and that you live together;
g. Driver's licenses showing that you both live at the same address;
h. Wedding invitations;
i. Documents showing joint activities and interests - - e.g. if you are both members of the same choir, club, etc.
1. The petitioner spouse's proof of American citizenship. This could be a birth certificate showing he was born in the United States; a United States issued passport; or a naturalization certificate.
2. Bring a birth certificate for the spouse and each of the foreign spouse's children.
3. Bring the original marriage certificate (even though you sent a copy in with your original I-130 application).
4. If either spouse was ever married before, bring proof that the earlier marriage terminated. This could be either by a death certificate (if the former spouse died) or by a valid divorce decree. You must do this for each of your prior marriages, not just the most recent.
5. Bring birth certificates of all children from your present marriage and all adoption certificates of any child you have adopted. Also all birth certificates of children of the foreign spouse for whom the citizen is also petitioning as step-children.
Purpose of Questioning
The documents, the I-130 petition, I-485 application, and the supporting material brought to the interview, present the basic case for adjustment. The officer, however, will ask questions testing the validity of what you have already submitted and judging the citizen petitioner and the foreign applicant's credibility. These questions typically cover whether 1) the marriage is a legal marriage; 2) the marriage is for the purpose of the couple living a life together; and whether 3) there are any criminal; 4) health; 5) terrorism; 6) poverty; or 7) immigration violation bars to permit adjustment.
Means of Questioning - -Under Oath
As soon as you enter the room you will be placed under oath. Officers have different methods of doing this. Some are quite formal, others merely ask, "Do you promise to tell me the truth today?" Regardless of the level of formality, you should understand this interview is being conducted under oath. Both parties are promising to tell the truth, and if either fails to do so, there are serious consequences.
There are potential criminal violations if you lie. These include violations of criminal statutes prohibiting visa fraud, making false statements under oath, and marriage fraud. If two or more people - - including a lawyer - - agree to engage in such conduct it is a conspiracy, and each is liable for the foreseeable criminal acts of the conspiracy. This nightmare is easily avoided by telling the truth.
Tell The Truth: You Lie; You Die
Tell the truth even if it is embarrassing, potentially risky to the application or just plain unpleasant. If there is an area that you fear being questioned about, see a lawyer and discuss it with him before the interview. Indeed, it should have been discussed before the I-130 (Alien Relative Petition) petition and I-485 (Adjustment Application) application were submitted. Lying under oath not only risks the application presently before the USCIS for consideration, but all future applications for immigration relief. Even if you are successful in the lie now, and obtain immigration benefits based on it, those benefits in the future, including subsequently obtained citizenship, may be taken from you because of a lie in the initial adjustment application. Tell the truth.
Answer the Question Asked
Pay attention to what the officer is asking. Make sure you hear his question and understand it before you answer it. If you are using a translator, wait for the question to be translated before answering it. Wait even if you know enough English to know what is being asked. By waiting for the translation in all questions every one will follow the questions and answers better. If you do not understand the question, say so. The officer will rephrase it or repeat it.
Give a direct answer. Don't anticipate a negative response with excuses or try to qualify your answer. Thus, if the officer asks: "You didn't file a tax return two years ago, did you?" Just answer: "yes" or "no." Don't anticipate that you need to make a defense, such as, "Yes, but I was in the hospital for six months that year and then . . . and then . . . ." If the officer wants an explanation, he will ask for it.
Do not let the tone of voice of the interviewing officer affect your answer. Just answer the question.
Separation of Couples in the Interview Process
The USCIS may separate couples during questioning particularly if they suspect that the marriage might not have been entered in good faith. The Service may also separate couples without a specific reason. The obvious purpose in separating couples is to test the truth - - the best defense is to tell the truth.
When are Couples Most Likely to be Separated?
1. The alien spouse is in deportation proceedings at the time of marriage;
2. The petitioning spouse filed for other alien spouses in the past, is bankrupt or has a history of fraud and cheating.
3. There is a significant age difference between the husband and wife. This is particularly true if the wife is significantly older than the husband.
4. The husband and wife come from different cultures and the U.S. citizen seems oblivious to the alien spouse's background and needs and vice versa;
5. The couple does not seem to communicate well with each other.
Additional Grounds For Separation
6. The husband and wife maintain different addresses or have no evidence showing that they maintain a common address.
7. The citizen spouse seems entirely indifferent to the interview - - if the citizen spouse acts as if he or she does not care how the interview will end, the officer will likely conclude that the person is not interested for a reason. The reason that will first enter the officer's mind is that the marriage is not for real.
8. The husband and wife appear to have nothing in common and have no common plans for the future. The cultural backgrounds, interests, education, and economic backgrounds of the two are different. This is particularly true if the party with the poorer background is the citizen. Thus, a poor citizen who is marrying a wealthy foreigner of a different cultural and educational background may raise suspicions that the marriage is not intended for the purpose of building a life together.
Additional Grounds for Separation II
9. Sloppy preparation. If you come to the interview without the documents requested, the inference may be drawn that the lack of preparation was a result of not planning for this important event. Aside from this being read as a lack of planning for an important event in a normal couple's life, the inattention may require the officer to compensate for the lack of evidence by giving you an extra grilling.
11. The couple does not have any of the indicia of marriage: Wedding rings, name changes, wedding pictures, family blessings, etc. These tend to demonstrate the legitimacy of a marriage and their absence may - - particularly when coupled with other factors - - demonstrate the absence of serious marital intent. Note that the indicia of marriage vary with different cultures. The specific indicia is not important; the fact that there is indicia that is important to the couple does matter and so if this is not to likely to be understood by the officer, it should be explained.
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