In most cases, — assuming your Greencard case was duly filed in good faith, — you normally have nothing to fear from the Greencard interview at your local USCIS office.
Most interviews are based on Marriage between a U.S. Citizen (the “Petitioner”), and the Foreign-born spouse (the “Beneficiary”). Or the interview could be among a U.S.-Citizen relative sponsoring a foreign-born immediate relative.
Here are some general recommendations I have put together, based on my nearly 20 years’ experience, and having attended many interviews over the years, and also based on ongoing personal feedback from clients and other lawyers, and recent interview-experiences.
Attorney Attendance and Role
Generally, lawyers ARE permitted to attend an interview with a client, however, our role to advocate is often very limited, and mostly consists of listening and observing (during the interview). But we do what we can to keep the USCIS officer honest and professional. We are generally NOT permitted to answer questions on your behalf. Where appropriate, we can clarify or make objections.
Unless the USCIS officer permits, we generally CANNOT act as your interpreter, because we are not considered “impartial”, because due to our role as YOUR advocate and legal representative, we have a vested interest in your case being granted/ approved.
Arriving at Your Interview
You should always allow yourself ample time for your travel and arrival. Do your best NOT to be late!
Be at USCIS office 15-30 minutes early.
Once you are allowed to enter, go through personal security screening upon entering the building (metal detector, etc.).
Follow all COVID-related instructions.
Check in at the counter and obtain your ticket number, then seat yourself in the general waiting area (perhaps go to the bathroom first!), but sit as close to the door at the rear-left of the room, where USCIS officers come out to call-up clients as possible, to make sure you hear when your case is called.
You could be called by LAST NAME(s) or by TICKET NUMBER.
The officer calling you will greet you at the door and ask you to follow them to their respective office. (he/she may introduce themselves to you, or they may not)
Once the officer calls your case, follow them to the office or window where the interview will be conducted. The officer will introduce themselves, explain the purpose of the interview to you (which is to combat possible immigration-fraud), and place you under Oath (you have to tell the truth, as the interview is considered an official proceeding with testimony).
The officer will then proceed to review your file, verify information for accuracy, correctness, and completeness, while asking you questions. Just be yourself, act normally and naturally, and answer all questions as truthfully and honestly (but simply) as possible. It’s perfectly OK to ask for clarifications, to say “I don’t remember”, etc. It’s usually not advisable to make things up or lie…
What to Expect at the Interview
(A) If the interview is based on MARRIAGE, the personal questions will not necessarily test your knowledge of “facts and figures” (such as dates, names, etc.), but rather seek specific information about your relationship and daily life together. It’s pretty important that you and your spouse are both on agreement on these types of items:
where did you meet?
when did you meet?
how did you meet?
questions about dating, marriage-proposal, the wedding, honeymoon, etc.
moving in together, etc.
having kids, not having kids, etc.
Also, expect seemingly random questions about your day-to-day life together, in terms of your daily habits, etc. The USCIS officer is generally NOT trying to embarrass you, but rather get a sense for if you both live together, in marital union, under one household, as a “normal couple”.
(B) If the interview is based on FAMILY-relationship, there won’t be many specific questions about your relationship and daily life together, as there would be in a marriage-based case. In Family-based cases, the qualifying relationship is pretty “black-&-white”, either you are related or you are not. No real “grey area”. This may be a bit different in terms of Step-Parent and Step-Child relationships, as it’s not as easy to prove when the “step-relationship” started, as relates to the age of the child at the time.
What to Prepare and What to Bring with You: (regardless of your case type)
USCIS Interview Appointment Notice
Government-issued UNexpired photo I.D. for every person attending the interview.
Your other supporting documents (see below)
Prepare your additional supporting documents by:
making a set of your own documents, like your “originals”, and
an equal set of documents for the USCIS officer to keep / use.
You should definitely bring any items that will have changed, become updated, or become available AFTER your case was originally filed. This should include, for example:
changes in address (rent / lease / own), — have you MOVED/RELOCATED since filing the case?
changes of employment,
changes in finances, banking, insurance, etc.
recent utility bills, bank account statements, etc. to prove actual residence. (IF you recently moved between U.S. States, you should have a NEW driver license of the NEW state you moved to, otherwise USCIS may cancel / reschedule the interview, if they believe they do not have proper jurisdiction!)
Also be sure to bring: (Bring Original / Certified Copy where possible!)
IF CURRENTLY MARRIED: Current Marriage Document of both the Petitioner and Beneficiary,
IF PREVIOUSLY MARRIED, Divorce Document(s) of either the Petitioner and Beneficiary. (if widowed, then Death Certificate of any deceased spouse)
U.S. Petitioner (Sponsoring Relative) Passport, SSN-Card, State Driver License, Birth Certificate,
Birth Certificate and Passport (if available), for any minor child (under 21),
U.S. Petitioner (Sponsoring Relative) recent Federal Tax Returns for the most recent 3-5 years if possible.
Foreign spouse/family member’s recent U.S. Federal Tax Returns, ONLY IF LEGALLY working in the U.S. already (based on other immigration status / work permit)
any Criminal Documents/Records — U.S. and non-U.S. (if applicable)
FOR MARRIAGE-Based Cases ONLY:
Selection of photographs (dating, wedding, travels together, family, etc.) — photos must be printed out on paper, no digital photos on devices or USB stick.
Proof of Birth of any children born of the marriage
The End of the Interview / Further Steps
There IS some possibility that the USCIS officer might request a new Medical Exam Result (I-693) because the old one might have expired. If that happens, go back to where you had your original medical exam done, explain the situation, and mail in the new envelope to the USCIS officer, as soon as possible, following the interview.
There is usually no need to return to USCIS in person a second time.
Most often, in the majority of cases, the “WORST” case scenario for your interview, in all likelihood, is that the USCIS officer might possibly want to see some document(s) or other item(s) that you currently do not have with you at the interview.
In that case, they will finish the interview, issue you a letter (“Request For Evidence”), explaining what you need to obtain and provide, and then you have a certain deadline by which to MAIL-IN the missing item(s).
Once they receive and review what you sent in, they will finalize the approval and issue the card. This can take several weeks, before Approval is sent.
Following your case’s Approval, the actual Greencard production will be ordered, and the card will then arrive by mail within a few weeks, either to you directly, or your lawyer (if you have one).
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