In most USCIS Field Offices, the “green card” interview for an immediate relative (spouse, child, or parent) of a U.S. citizen is fairly straightforward. If there are no obvious issues, the examiner generally ensures that the individuals appearing are the same individuals who signed the forms, and confirms that there are no changes in the information submitted with the green card application. Most of these interviews are videotaped. At the beginning of the interview, the examiner will “swear in” the applicant, so that all information is given under oath. The examiner may go over some of the identifying information in the application (name, birth date, place of birth, etc.). He/she may ask some of the questions from part 3 of the Adjustment of Status application (Form I-485) regarding criminal background, terrorist activities, etc. Unless fraud is suspected, parties generally are not separated during interview.
For applications based on marriage, the examiner may ask some questions regarding the parties’ relationship, such as how they met, when and where the marriage took place, or other aspects of the familial relationship. Examples of questions immigration officers have asked during past interviews include:
- Where do you live?
- When did you last enter the U.S.?
- How did you meet?
- When is your spouse’s birthday?
- When and where did you get married?
- Why is [date you got married] special?
The interview notice contains a list of documents to bring to the interview. The applicant should bring the originals of the documents submitted to USCIS in his/her petition. The petitioner of the applicant’s I-130 visa petition (spouse, parent, or son/daughter) must also accompany him/her to the interview. The following documents should be brought to the interview:
- Original appointment notice;
- Employment Authorization Document and Advance Parole (generally the same card);
- I-94 card/printout of I-94;
- The applicant’s passport;
- The petitioner’s passport and/or birth certificate;
- A full copy of the submitted final filing;
- The originals of any documents contained in that filing, e.g., birth certificates, marriage documents;
- For applications based on marriage, evidence of co-mingling of assets and joint domicile, including pictures, insurance, banking, rental lease, property title, etc.;
Additionally, if the calendar year has changed since filing Form I-864, the applicant should bring:
- New tax documentation, e.g. W-2;
- A new Form 1040 from the petitioner, if prepared;
- A Form I-864 from a joint sponsor, if applicable.
In a straightforward case, the examiner generally reviews few, if any, of the listed documents. The interview may involve increased scrutiny if the applicant has a criminal record or any immigration violations involving fraud or illegal entry, or if the spouses have dissimilar ages, backgrounds, or languages.
USCIS has increased resources to investigate fraud and will carry out investigations before the interview if there is a reason to suspect fraud. If an investigation uncovers a possible fraud, the examiner will likely separate the parties. Questioning will be more difficult in such cases and will focus on the validity of the marriage and/or relationship.
At the interview, the applicant may surrender his/her I-94 card, advance parole, and work authorization documents, if any. After the interview, the officer may inform the applicant that the application has been approved and the green card will be produced, or the officer may simply say that he/she needs more time to review the application and make a decision. Do not be alarmed. Officers usually have very little time to review an application before the interview and prefer to review it and make a decision shortly after the interview.
Travel immediately following the interview is difficult. In some cases, the officer may allow the applicant to keep the advance parole/work authorization card for upcoming travel. If that is not the case, and urgent travel or change of employment is imminent, the applicant should request that an I-551 “Adjustment to Permanent Resident” stamp be given as alternate proof of status and work eligibility. Post-interview security clearances may take place and should not cause a delay of more than a couple of days. Normally, a “green card” or permanent resident card is issued within one to eight weeks following the interview.