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How to prepare for a marriage based Green Card interview

What is the marriage based Green Card interview? 

Marriage-based Green Cards are a form of Green Card available to immediate relatives. A marriage-based Green Card allows the spouse of a United States citizen or Green Card holder to live permanently in the United States with his or her Green Card-holding or U.S. citizen spouse.

In order to determine the validity of the marriage between the foreign-born spouse and U.S. citizen or Green Card holder, the United States Immigration and Citizenship Service (USCIS) conducts an interview with the foreign-born spouse and/or their Green Card-holding or U.S. citizen spouse. The interview is one of the final steps to the marriage-based Green Card application process. 

Why is there an interview for the marriage-based Green Card? 

The interview is used by the USCIS to assure that the foreign-born spouse qualifies for the Green Card and that the marriage between the U.S. citizen or Green Card holder and the foreign-born spouse is a legitimate and serious marriage, not for the sole purpose of obtaining a Green Card. Thus, the interview is used to detect fraud by determining whether the marriage is a sham marriage. 

Who is required to attend a marriage based Green Card interview? 

Generally, the foreign-born spouse who is seeking approval for a Green Card will always be required to attend the marriage-based Green Card interview, regardless of whether the Green Card is applied for using consular processing (from outside the United States) or using adjustment of status (from within the United States).

When a Green Card is applied for using adjustment of status, the U.S. citizen or Green Card-holding spouse will be required to attend the interview with the Green Card applicant. The consulate, embassy, or USCIS site where the interview takes place will inform the applicant and his or her spouse the day, time, and location of the interview, as well as who is required to attend.

Separate Interviews

When both spouses are required to interview, they may be asked to interview together or separately. Generally, spouses are interviewed separately only when the USCIS has some suspicion that the marriage may not be legitimate or authentic. In these cases, USCIS officers will interview each spouse in order to evaluate any inconsistencies between the spouses’ interview answers. If the USCIS has reason to believe the marriage is inauthentic after an initial interview is conducted with both spouses together, a separate interview may be required by the USCIS. 

The USCIS may develop a suspicion that the marriage is fraudulent if the spouses are from very different cultural backgrounds, the marriage is quite short, the spouses are of very different ages, or other evidence is found by the USCIS in its fraud detection investigation that raises a suspicion.

What happens at a marriage based Green Card interview?

The interview will be conducted either by a USCIS officer, if the interview is held within the United States, or by a consular officer if the interview is conducted abroad at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy. The officers who conduct marriage based Green Card interviews are specifically trained to conduct these interviews. 

The USCIS or consular officer conducting the interview will examine the applicants’ application package and evidence submitted by the applicant to prove the marriage’s authenticity. The applicant should bring any additional evidence that helps to prove the marriage’s authenticity.

The interview will of course include many questions posed to the Green Card applicant and his or her U.S. citizen or Green Card-holding spouse. 

What documents should I bring to a marriage based Green Card interview? 

Green card applicants should bring application documents with them to the interview, including: 

  • Two passport-style photographs that conform to Department of State photo requirements; 
  • Copy of the Form I-797, Approval or Receipt Notice (for the Form I-130 petition filed on the applicant’s behalf) 
    • Note: Form I-797 does not need to be filed if Form I-130 and Form I-485 is filed together
  • Copy of applicant’s birth certificate; 
  • Copy of valid marriage certificate; 
  • Copy of valid divorce from any prior marriages, if applicable; 
  • Documentation evidencing the marriage’s legitimacy; 
  • Copy of applicant’s passport page with non-immigrant visa; 
  • Copy of applicant’s passport page with admission or parole stamp issued by a U.S. immigration officer; 
  • Copy of government-issued ID with applicant’s photograph; 
  • Copy of Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record or copy of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) admission or parole stamp on the travel document 

In addition to application documentation, a Green Card applicant should bring documents that help to prove the marriage’s authenticity, including: 

  • Photos of the spouses’ wedding;
  • Photos of the spouses together, such as on vacation;
  • Birth certificates of any children; 
  • Financial or banking statements of shared accounts; 
  • Shared lease or ownership in house or apartment; 
  • Shared credit card statements 
  • Shared insurance policies; 
  • Sworn statements from people who can vouch for the authenticity of the marriage. 

What questions will be asked at a marriage based Green Card interview?

There are a variety of potential questions that a USCIS or consular officer may ask at the interview. It is important to remember that the officers will ask questions in order to determine the marriage’s authenticity. All questions should be answered honestly and with the goal of proving authenticity.

Here are some common question categories addressed at an interview and questions asked by officers:

Spouses Children, if Any

  • Where do the children attend school? 
  • Do the children participate in activities, and if so, which ones?
  • Who are the childrens’ friends? 
  • What are the childrens’ favorite foods?

Spouses Important Events

  • When is each spouses’ birthday?
  • How did you celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, etc.?
  • What holiday is most important to each spouse? 
  • What gifts, if any, did the spouses buy for each other? 

Spouses Daily Routines / Personal Habits

  • What kind of car does each spouse drive? 
  • Who wakes up first in the morning? 
  • What side of the bed does each spouse sleep on?
  • Who does most of the cooking? 

Spouses Relationship History

  • When, where, and how did you meet? 
  • Where was the first date? 
  • How long did you date before deciding to marry? 
  • Was there a marriage proposal, and if so, how did it happen?

Spouses Wedding

  • Where was the wedding and what was it like? 
  • What food was served at the wedding? 
  • Who attended the wedding? 
  • Did the wedding include certain traditions or rituals?

If an officer asks a question the applicant does not know the answer to, it is ok to respond “I don’t know,” but an applicant can avoid answers like this if he or she does some preparation before the interview.

What are some tips or things to keep in mind before the interview? 

The interview is usually quite short — about 15-20 minutes, so it is important to come to the interview prepared to answer all questions favorably and honestly.

Here are some tips to prepare for the interview: 

Prepare for Personal Questions 

The officer conducting the interview will ask questions that will feel personal, and maybe private, but should not feel inappropriate. Before attending the interview, an applicant should mentally prepare to be asked personal questions about his or her life, and the spouse’s, as well as the lives of family members, such as children. Applicants should research the type of questions asked so that they can understand just how personal questions can get. 

Be Open and Honest

Authentic marriages are not necessarily perfect or idyllic, so applicants do not have to act or pretend that their marriage does not face the same difficulties and stressors as any other marriage. The interview should give the interviewing officer a glimpse inside the marriage, but this can only be if the applicant is honest and forthcoming about his or her marriage. 

Anticipate Potential Questions

Married couples do not always remember every little detail or factoid about their marriage or their spouse. Interview questions are not designed to trick or interrogate applicants, but it may be helpful to answer some questions by anticipating them beforehand. Applicants should think about how they would answer certain questions about their spouse or the marriage before attending the interview.

Practice Answering Questions

Applicants should have no reason to be overly nervous for the interview; however, meeting with an immigration officer when a Green Card is on the line can be a stressful experience. It is helpful to applicants to practice answering questions before the interview so that stress or nerves does not lead to forgetfulness during the interview. Practice can also help make the interview and the officer conducting it seem less intimidating. 

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Sweta Khandelwal

Sweta completed her Masters in Law from the University of California, Los Angeles and her JD from the Faculty of Law, Delhi University in India and has been practicing law for 15+ years getting visas, green cards, and citizenship for 1000+ clients, 100+ companies across 50+ nationalities.

Sweta has been recognized as a ” Super Lawyer, Rising Star,” and as amongst the ” Top 40 under 40″ immigration attorneys in California (American Society of Legal Advocates). She is also the recipient of the Advocacy Award by the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

Sweta is also a chartered accountant — the equivalent of a CPA. This makes her uniquely positioned to understand the immigration needs of her business clients in the broader context of their corporate objectives.

Sweta is actively involved with immigration issues and immigrant communities in various capacities. She has assumed key roles at the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), both at the local and national level. She has been a past chair at the Santa Clara Valley Chapter at AILA and has also been involved in various practice area committees at AILA National. Sweta has addressed multiple conferences/forums in the United States and worldwide on immigration and business issues.

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