What Should I Expect During The Green Card Interview? Advice Bits from an Immigration Lawyer

What to Expect During the Spousal Green Card Applicaiton Interview

Having been in the practice of immigration law for more than 17 years, and having been personally an immigrant to the United States, I can state with authority that the green card interview can create a certain amount of anxiety for many immigrants. The USCIS office in Columbus Ohio is located at 50 West Broad Street, Columbus, Ohio 43215. That is where the green card interviews will be conducted. The Columbus, Ohio USCIS office, like any other USCIS offices nationwide follows certain promulgated procedures in interviewing foreign nationals relative to green card applications.

The Green card interview is also known as the adjustment or examinations interview. These interviews are intended to determine whether the foreign national is eligible for the immigration benefit sought. In the context of a green card application based on marriage to a US citizen the green card interview is intended to test the validity of the marriage itself from several aspects. In the context of an employment-based green card application, however, the adjustment interview is intended to make certain that the foreign national maintained status and whether the employment that had given rise to the adjustment application remains viable.

This article will focus on the Green Card interview, also known as the examinations interview, which is conducted in connection with an application for permanent residence filed by a foreign national based on her marriage to a US citizen.

What are the legal Parameters Controlling the Green Card Interview?

Green Card Interviews are regulated, in substance, by the applicable statutes and regulations that govern the type of application for permanent residence filed, and in procedure, to Adjudications Field Manual Chapter 15.1. For instance, there are two legal elements culminating an application for permanent residence based on marriage to a US citizen: 1) whether the foreign national’s marriage to the US citizen entitles her to permanent residence; and 2) whether the foreign national is eligible to adjust status. It is important to remember that a couple who had been called for a green card interview with the USCIS is entitled to be represented by counsel during the interview itself.

Is The Marriage Considered Valid?

The first issue identified above entails an examination of the mechanics of the marriage itself to determine whether it is considered valid pursuant to the jurisdiction in which it was solemnized and whether the marriage does not violate US public policy. For instance a marriage to one’s first cousin is illegal in the United States; however it is practiced widely in the Muslim world. Such marriages are considered also legal in the United States if they were performed in a jurisdiction that recognizes them. Generally, such marriages are not deemed to violate public policy and therefore are acceptable for US immigration law. The same could not be stated for polygamist marriages which may be legal in the jurisdiction in which they were solemnized as such marriages are clearly against US public policy.

The green card marriage interview is also intended to examine the legality of the marriage between the foreign national and the US citizen on the ground that it does not contain any defects. Marriage defects include having a prior a marriage that had not terminated. The writer of this article had a situation wherein a foreign national was deemed to have a prior common-law marriage that had not been terminated and thus was not eligible to receive the benefits sought during his green card interview. Apparently the foreign national had previously resided in a jurisdiction which recognizes common-law marriages. The foreign national in the example described here had held himself in public as married to a person with whom he was cohabiting. The USCIS officer determined that the current marriage upon which the application for permanent residence was filed was invalid due to the existence of a prior common-law marriage that was still in force at that time. This example is intended to illustrate the type of legal and substantive issues that are examined during such interviews.

The Marriage Fraud Presumption

Once the USCIS officer determines that the marriage was solemnized legally and that it is recognized in the state where the foreign national and the US citizen spouse reside, the USCIS officer will then inquire into the good-faith worthiness of the marriage itself. US immigration laws presume that any marriage between a foreign national and a US citizen is fraudulent; hence, the foreign national has the legal burden to submit evidence to overcome this presumption. Said in different words, US immigration regulations presume that the marriage between a foreign national and a US Citizen is fraudulent and the application based on such marriage may not be approved unless the couples submit evidence proving the good faith worthiness of the marriage itself.

The USCIS officer will be active in this query and will proceed to examine the couple to determine whether or not they had entered into the marriage to evade US immigration laws. The officer may separate the US citizen and foreign national and conduct separate interview thereby inquiring about certain details which any normal married couple would know. Some of the questions may include: describe your house, how many bedrooms are in your home, how many bathrooms, who pays the bills, what are the names of his relatives, her parents, etc.

The Adjustment of Status Question

The second substantive question which the USCIS officer will inquire about in the Green card interview is whether the foreign national is eligible to adjust her status. This is a technical question. Adjustment of status is a topic worthy of separate elaboration. Suffice it to say, however, that a foreign national is eligible to adjust her status if she had been “admitted” or “paroled” into the United States. It is worthy to specially note that foreign nationals who are married to US citizens are not precluded from adjusting their status because they are currently out of status or because they had previously engaged into unauthorized employment. If the foreign national is deemed to be intelligible to adjust her status, she will be placed immigration proceedings, a matter which will complicate the case further. Hence, it may be into the foreign national’s best interest to research this issue prior to submitting an application for green card. Few other circumstances may complicate the adjustment of status portion of the examination including: procuring fraudulent entry into United States, misrepresentation at the port of entry or at the consulate prior to obtaining the visa, marriage within 30 days of entry, submitting immigrant petitions within 60 days of entry and others. If any of these circumstances exist in your case, it is highly advisable to consult with an immigration attorney to properly deal with these issues. In many situations, proper legal counseling can lead to a successful application and issuance of permanent residence.

Preparation for the Interview

  1. Representation. It may be worthwhile for the couple to meet with an experienced immigration attorney prior to the scheduled examinations interview in order to prepare well and to inquire whether it is in their best interest to have the attorney represent then during the upcoming interview.
  2. Documentation. Read the interview notice clearly to find out whether it requests information or documentation that had not been previously presented. You are required to bring forth the original documents a photocopy of which was previously presented to the USCIS. In addition to bringing forth the original documentation, it is highly advisable to bring additional copies of the same as the USCIS officer in case the USCIS officer requests to keep such documentation in the file. Organization. Be organized. Know your case well. Remember that being nervous is only normal and most USCIS officers are not imposing.
The Interview Day

From a procedural viewpoint, the examinations interview will follow the chronology listed below:

  1. The couple will arrive at the USCIS office address listed on the interview. It is advisable for the couple to arrive half an hour prior to a scheduled interview in order to clear any security entrance procedures. Children should not be taken to the interview unless specifically requested as their presence may interfere with the adjudicator’s work a matter which may be of an annoyance. To the extent possible please leave children with a relative or a babysitter.
  2. Once seated in the lobby of the USCIS office, please be attentive to the instructions written on the walls. Some USCIS Offices require the couple to leave the interview notice in a certain bin for collection by the officer; that’s how they know you present. Other USCIS offices request that you be seated and your name will be called when your turn is up.
  3. The USCIS officer may call one or both spouses to attend interview. If only one name is called, it means that the officer wishes to interview the couple separate. There is no reason to panic if this happens. Often times USCIS officer conduct interviews separately as a matter of procedure.
  4. Once inside the USCIS office, interviewee will be placed under oath. The interview may also be recorded. Again, this in no way is there reason to be concerned. These procedures are commonplace and are not indicative of problems.
  5. The USCIS officer will then examine the file. From experience I have seen USCIS officers to vary in the preparation level prior to interview. Some officers had read the file previous to the interview; many others this is the first time they had an opportunity to review the file.
  6. The officer will request the interviewee to provide valid identification. The foreign national will be requested to provide her passport and Form I-94 if aspplicable.
  7. The officer will then proceed to request the foreign national to submit documentary evidence proving the existence of a bona fide marital relationship. Such evidence may include comingling of financial matters, joint ownership of real and personal property, joint insurance and other evidence.

Once the injuries concluded the USCIS officer will either take her case under advisement or will congratulate them letting them know that their cases have been approved. If the USCIS officer took the case under additional advisement, it is not a reason to be concerned or panic. Often times USCIS officers would like to reflect on the case and are not in a position to make any instantaneous decisions.

Contact The Law Firm of Shihab & Associates for a complete analysis of your case. Our lawyers are experienced and ethical and will share with you the nuances of the immigration process. They have represented thousands of clients successfully before the federal government. For a free initial consultation, call us at (800) 625-3404 or contact us online.