For immigrants, a Green Card is required in order to secure legal permanent residence in the U.S., allowing an individual to freely live and work in the U.S., obtain a driver’s license, apply for Social Security, or pursue higher education. If you were born outside the U.S. and are married to a U.S. citizen, you have the option of filing a marriage-based adjustment of status application in order to obtain a Green Card and become a legal permanent resident of the United States. As part of the process, you and your U.S. citizen spouse must attend a marriage-based adjustment of status interview.
Understandably, going before a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officer and answering intimate and extensive questions can be intimidating, but rest assured that an interview notice is not any cause for alarm. An interview is a routine part of the marriage-based adjustment of status process.
USCIS conducts these interviews to confirm the accuracy of the information you submitted, as well as provide an opportunity to present new evidence. The interview is also to verify that a visa is immediately available to you and that you are not inadmissible. Most notably, the interview is to ensure that you and your spouse entered into a real (bona fide) marriage, and not just for the purpose of getting a visa (Green Card).
An immigration attorney can be a powerful ally during the marriage-based adjustment of status application process, including helping you prepare for your interview. And, while you are not required to have an attorney present, bringing competent counsel can help facilitate a pleasant experience and, perhaps more importantly, serve as a confidence booster. Every case is unique, but here’s a look at what you can generally expect and how to prepare for your interview.
What Can I Expect on the Day of the Adjustment of Status Interview?
These interviews are held at U.S. Department of Homeland Security offices, so it’s best to arrive early to make it through security and still be punctual for your interview. As of the writing of this article, you are allowed to arrive up to 15 minutes prior to your interview. You should also wear conservative or professional attire; business casual is just perfect. And most importantly, be prepared to answer all types of questions openly and honestly.
You will be sworn in by the USCIS officer to tell the truth and nothing but the truth, and (s)he will then take your fingerprints by way of your left and right index fingers, take your photograph, and verify your identity by reviewing your identification documents such as passport, birth certificate, and employment authorization document if you have received one.
During the interview, the officer will ask you questions about the information in your petition (Form I-130) and your application for legal permanent residence (Form I-485). The officer will also ask about any changes in your life and update your forms accordingly. After verifying the accuracy of this information, the officer will then ask you and your spouse questions about your relationship.
The officer will also ask about any changes in your life and update your forms accordingly. After verifying the accuracy of this information, the officer will then ask you and your spouse questions about your relationship to determine the bona fide nature of your marriage. These questions may include:
How You Met
- How and where did you meet?
- When did your relationship become romantic?
- When and where was your first date?
- Who proposed to whom and how?
- Did you live together before getting married?
- How long was it before you decided to get married?
- How many people attended your wedding?
- Did you exchange rings at the wedding ceremony?
- Did your respective parents attend the wedding?
- What type of food was served at the reception?
- Did you go on a honeymoon? If so, where?
- When is your anniversary?
Your Living Arrangements
- Where do you live?
- How many bedrooms and bathrooms does your home have?
- What do you have in your backyard?
- Do you have a gas or electric stove?
- When is garbage day at your home?
- What color are the curtains in your living room?
- What size is your bed?
- Do you share a closet?
- What is your spouse’s birthday?
- What medications does your spouse take, if any?
- What is your spouse’s favorite food?
- What side of the bed does your spouse sleep on?
- Does your spouse have any scars or tattoos?
- Did your spouse go to college? If so, where, and what did your spouse major in or receive a degree for?
- Who is your spouse’s employer?
- How long has your spouse been working there, and what is your spouse’s position or title?
- How many brothers and sisters does your spouse have?
- What is your spouse’s best friend’s name?
- Do you have breakfast together in the morning?
- Who does the grocery shopping?
- Do you attend (insert place of worship)?
- What restaurants do you enjoy dining at together?
- Who usually cooks, and who cleans?
- What time does your spouse go to / return from work?
- Before you go to sleep, do you and your spouse watch TV or read?
- What is the most important holiday for your family, and where do you typically celebrate?
- How often do you see each other’s families?
- Who woke up first this morning?
- What did each of you have for breakfast today?
- What mode of transportation did you use to come to the interview today?
The questions USCIS officers may ask during your interview may seem intrusive, but they are simply trying to determine if your marriage is genuine. If your marriage is real, you have nothing to worry about. The most important thing to remember is that USCIS officers are not trying to trick you. If you are asked a question whose answer you don’t know or can’t remember (e.g., specific dates, places, etc.), it is perfectly acceptable to say, “I am sorry officer, I don’t know—it’s been a while.” Just be yourself!
How Should I Prepare for My Adjustment of Status Interview?
Typically, when a couple receives their interview notice, they will have about four (4) to six (6) weeks to prepare. Your interview confirmation notice will include a great deal of information about what you should take with you to the interview, which you should begin collecting and organizing early on to give yourself ample time. This information may include, but is not limited to:
- Originals of any documents submitted to USCIS, e.g., passport(s), U.S. visa, most recent I-94, birth certificates, marriage certificate, divorce decree(s), employment authorization card (EAD), social security card, state ID, etc.
- Your sponsoring spouse’s proof of citizenship (or, in some situations, legal permanent residence), proof of employment, and pay stubs.
- A completed and sealed medical examination report (Form I-693), if not previously submitted to USCIS.
- Evidence in support of your shared life, e.g., wedding invitation, lease agreement(s), joint mortgage, joint bank and credit card statements, active health and auto insurance policies, utility bills showing joint residence, photo album (with copies ready to be given to the officer), etc.
- Evidence in support of life changes, such as the birth of a child or a newly acquired job by the petitioner since your application was submitted, which may include your child’s birth certificate or an employment verification letter, if applicable.
It’s important to be prepared with answers to the officer’s questions. You and your spouse should go over possible questions and work together to recall memories. But, it’s equally important not to “over memorize” facts ahead of time. A rehearsed presentation may cause a red flag. Again, be yourself.
Most importantly though, you need to remain calm, be truthful and transparent. If there is a question you are not sure of or do not know the answer to, say so. No relationship is perfect. So, do not avoid answers that reveal difficulties in your relationship. Honesty goes a long way!
What Happens After My Adjustment of Status Interview?
If the officer determines that your marriage is valid based on a preponderance of the evidence (meaning, greater than 51%), he or she will recommend your application for approval and initiate the issuance of your Green Card.
While some officers do not mind telling you whether your case will be recommended for approval right then and there, most assert the usual, “We will conduct a final review of your case and, if everything looks good, you will receive your decision in the mail.”
If, on the other hand, the interview leaves some questions unanswered or some doubt about the veracity of your relationship, you will either receive a request for additional evidence or be scheduled for a second interview.
USCIS offices around the country are pushing to issue Green Cards as soon as practicable, but internal staffing, pandemic-related limitations, and new policy changes may delay the process in your area. You and your spouse can check the status of your case at any time during the process.
While not required, the best way to ensure peace of mind throughout the adjustment of status process, including the marriage-based interview, is to have competent counsel by your side.
Finally, remember to enjoy your immigration journey. It’s a privilege and an honor, after all!