Your interview will be conducted by the USCIS in the U.S. or by a consular officer if you are living abroad. For couples interviewed in the U.S., USCIS generally first interviews the US citizen spouse without the immigrant spouse present, and then interviews the immigrant spouse, with or without the US citizen spouse present. The purpose of the separate interviews is for USCIS to ask the parties questions, to take notes on the answers, and then to compare the answers for consistency and credibility.
For cases pending at embassies or consulates, USCIS can schedule an interview in the US for the US citizen spouse before or after the immigrant is interviewed at the embassy or consulate. Once the case gets to the embassy or consulate only the immigrant spouse is required to attend the meeting. However, I recommend that the US citizen travel to the embassy to be present for the interview–even if the US citizen is required to wait outside the US embassy/consulate, which is mostly the case. Having the spouse at the embassy interview carries enormous weight when USCIS is trying the decide if the relationship is real.
The applicants are required to bring their own translators to “green-card” interviews. The translator does not need to be a professional translator, but should never be a relative or “best friend.” The translator needs to sign Form G-1256, Declaration for Interpreted USCIS Interview. The interpreter should repeat word-for-word what the officer says and what the applicant says. The translator should NEVER explain; the translator ONLY translates.
The Interview Questions
USCIS has broad discretion for what type of questions it can ask during the interviews, and I cannot tell anyone exactly what the questions will be during any particular interview. I generally tell my clients that some of the questions can be quite intrusive. However, I tell my clients that for the most part USCIS does not get into the most intimate matters in a marriage such as marital disputes and sex. For the most part, the interview goes through basis aspects of a relationship and cohabitation. I give my clients the following list of questions to practice (and we practice those questions together in my office).
- What is your spouse’s full name?
- What is your spouse’s date and place of birth?
- What are the names of your spouse’s parents? Siblings?
- When and how did you meet your spouse?
- Where was your first date?
- How did you decide to get married (for example, is there a “proposal” story)?
- Where and when does your spouse work? How does s/he get to work? Hours?
- What is your date and place of marriage?
- What did you do on the day of your marriage? Where did you? Who was there?
- How do your household finances work? Do you share bank accounts? Who is responsible for paying bills, and which ones?
- Where has your spouse lived for the past few years? Where did your spouse live when you met?
- What is your house like? House? Building? How many bedrooms? How many baths?
- In your house, who does the cooking? Cleaning? Where does your family do laundry?
- Have you ever traveled with your spouse? When was the last trip? Where?
- What do you and your spouse do for holidays? On weekends?
- What are some of your spouse’s favorite things to do? Favorite places to go?
- Did you eat with your spouse last night for dinner? What? If not together, why not?
- What did you do last weekend?
- Does your spouse have any medical issues?
- Does your spouse work? Where? What hours? What job? How does s/he get to work?
- Does your family have cars? What cars? Where do you park them?
When you file for the “marriage-based” green card, you submit “proof” of your relationship. After filling, I tell my clients to continue to gather documents that show that the relationship is real and that the couple lives together. At the time of the interview, I help my clients prepare an updated packet of documents, which should be dated from the date of the application submission to the date of the interview. I advise clients to bring updated bills, photos, insurance policies, and letters of support from family and friends.
“Red Flags” For Fraud/Sham Marriages
I talk to my clients about certain “red-flags” (in USCIS’s eyes), and we address these issues when we meet to prepare for the interview. “Red-flags” can include:
- A large age gap between the parties
- Very short relationship before marriage
- Separate residences
- Different online addresses
- Inability to speak each other’s language
- Not having told friends or family about the relationship or marriage
- Very different “cultural” backgrounds. Unfortunately, this issue stems from what I view as systemic discrimination at USCIS. In my experience I have observed that couples of different races get questioned much more harshly than couples of the same race.
The green card and interview process can be nerve-wracking. You need to prepare well for the interview; your interview can be the basis of a denial for your entire case. I recommend that you meet with me or another immigration attorney before you and your spouse begin the green card process, but I can help you at any step in your immigration journey. Even if you choose to move forward without an attorney, you will have a better understanding of immigration procedures and timelines and any potential problems that might arise in your specific situation (ex., criminal issues, prior arrests, fraud, misrepresentation or misuse of visas, immigration court history, prior immigration applications, insufficient finances to support the application).I work with clients around the world to help make the immigration process less confusing and as efficient as possible.