inside immigration information about marriage green cards and work visas in America
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The marriage green card immigration interview that couples are required to attend in order to get the foreign spouse their marriage green card (lawful permanent residence) through marriage can be very anxiety producing.
This stressful situation can be managed somewhat by thoroughly preparing. The marriage green card interview notice you receive in the mail has an exhaustive list of the documents you will bring with you, so follow it very carefully.
Whether the marriage green card interview is held in San Diego or elsewhere, the marriage green card interviews are conducted the same way. On the day of the marriage green card immigration interview, dress as if you are going to a job interview or to church. Remember that you will be entering a federal building and going through a metal detector. Most of the time the immigration officers allow you to carry your cell phone, but ask you to turn it off.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Immigration Officers are only given a certain amount of time to interview each couple – usually only 10-30 minutes – at the marriage green card immigration interview.
If you are well organized and not too talkative, they appreciate it. Keep all of your answers short and to the point. If the Immigration Officer needs more information, they will ask you a follow-up question. Do not be intimidated by the silence when the Immigration Officer is trying to focus or try to fill the silence with polite conversation.
Try to keep in mind that this is possibly the first time the Immigration Officer has seen your marriage green card immigration file and they cannot listen or respond to idle chit chat while concentrating on reading. It is perfectly acceptable to sit quietly and wait to be asked a question.
What Original Documents Do I Bring?
The original documents you are supposed to bring are listed on the interview appointment notice. The purpose of bringing original documents to the marriage green card interview is so that the USCIS Officer can compare them to the copies of documents that you already mailed with your original adjustment of status (green card) application, to ensure that the copies you sent are accurate.
The Immigration Officer usually does not keep the originals after comparing them to the copies.
However, if a copy of document was not already provided with the marriage green card application, try to remember to make a copy ahead of time to give to the Immigration Officer (they resent it if you treat them like your personal copy clerk).
For example, if you had a baby after you sent your I-485 adjustment of status (marriage green card) application in the mail, you would bring both the original birth certificate of the baby and a copy of the birth certificate of the baby to leave with the Immigration Officer.
Are the Documents Requested Different for a Same Sex Married Couple?
The answer is no, but there are different aspects of “proof of marriage” evidence that may make proving that a same sex couple lives together a bit more difficult in some gay marriage cases.
What Questions Will I Be Asked?
There are no test questions during the marriage green card interview that you have to memorize – simply tell the truth. the Immigration Officer will be asking two category of questions: (1) questions that are on the forms that you submitted and (2) questions about your marital relationship.
For example, the Immigration Officer may ask this I-485 question: What was the date that you last entered the U.S.? to check to see that your answer matches what you put on your I-485 Form, Page 1, for your Date of Last Arrival.
If you filed your marriage green card application too soon after an arrival on a B2 visa, the Immigration Officer may ask you questions about your “intent upon entry.” If you filed your marriage green card application after overstaying your B2 or other type of visa, the Immigration Officer may also ask questions about your “intent.”
FYI when you respond to a question, it is a sign of respect to say, “Yes, Officer” or “No Officer” instead of just “Yeah.”
If you have been married less than two years on the date of the marriage green card interview, the Immigration Officer may only ask you a minimum number of questions about your courtship and marriage because they will only be granting the two year conditional marriage green card.
If you have been married more than two years on the date of the marriage green card interview the Immigration Officer is likely to ask you many questions about your courtship and your marriage because they are granted the ten year marriage green card.
Common questions at the marriage green card interview might be: How did you meet? What is your wife’s middle name? What is your husband’s siblings/parents’ names? Are you planning on having children? Who proposed? How long after meeting did you start dating? Did you live together before the wedding? What do you like doing together?
Here is a 2012 case where it almost went badly: RECENT GREEN CARD MARRIAGE CASE – READ JUDGE’S OPINION IN REAL CASE
What Other Documents Do I Bring to Prove We Live Together?
The interview appointment notice also lists the documents you should bring that prove you live together. The Immigration Officer may refer to these documents as “proof of the bona fides of marriage.” Before the marriage green card interview, copy all of your updated financial and proof of marriage documents listed on the interview notice onto pieces of 8 1/2 x 11 inch paper. The Immigration Officer is trying to organize your file and small receipts, paystubs or odd shaped paperwork are hard for them to organize neatly.
Try to organize your “proof of marriage” documents so that you can hand them to the Immigration Officer in one stack, instead of one piece of paper at a time.
For example,if the Officer asks for proof of marriage, hand the officer the entire stack of proof of marriage documents clipped together (they don’t like fancy cover sheets or binders). FYI, the proof of marriage documents are intended to prove you are really living together (which therefore proves you are married).
What About Photographs?
When submitting photographs to prove your marital relationship, make color copies of 20-30 photographs with the date, location (city, state and country), and names of people, written on the underneath the copies. For example, try to fit 2-3 photographs on each 8 1/2 x 11 inch piece of paper and carefully write the information mentioned above either to the side or underneath each photograph. Try to put the photos in chronological order from the time you met until the present time.
Keep in mind that the Immigration Officer will punch two holes in the documents at the top edge of the page, so that if you place the photos too close to the top edge the photos may be punched with holes. Select a variety of photographs dated from the time you met each other to the present date, and include photos of each of you with the others’ family or friends.
Photos of the wedding ceremony and wedding reception, as well as family holidays, are also important. As you can see, while it is nice to bring your wedding photo album to the interview, the Immigration Officer cannot fit the album into your file and it is better to have a photo spread on 8 1/2″ x 11″ pieces of paper that fits neatly into your immigration file that you can leave with the Immigration Officer.
What If I Forget to Bring Something or I Don’t Have It?
If the Immigration Officer determines that a document is missing, they will tell you at the end of the marriage green card interview exactly which document is missing. The Immigration Officer will give you a piece of paper listing the document(s) they need and where to mail the missing items.
When the green card is not granted at an immigration interview because a document is missing, a second immigration interview is usually not scheduled.
You will be required to send the missing document by mail by the deadline established by the Immigration Officer or your entire marriage green card case can be denied. It is best to use certified or overnight mail so that you have proof that you sent the missing document by the deadline.
A written decision about your marriage green card is usually mailed to you by the Immigration Officer after they receive and review the missing paperwork you send to them in the mail. Sometimes it takes up to 6 months for the Immigration Officer to respond after you mail them the missing documents.
If all goes well at the marriage green card interview, the Immigration Officer will tell you that the marriage green card is granted as of that day. If granting the marriage green card, the Immigration Officer may take your work and travel permit (which are not needed when a person has a green card).
You are not usually given anything to prove your green card has been approved (for some reason they will no longer stamp your passport upon marriage green card approval), but the laminated I-551 green card is normally mailed to your home address within in 2-3 weeks.
QUESTIONS ABOUT HAVING AN ATTORNEY HELP YOU? If you still are nervous about your marriage green card interview, or perhaps your case has complications such as criminal convictions or an illegal entry, you may wish to have an immigration attorney either conduct a practice marriage green card interview (in person or over the phone) or go with you to the marriage green card interview.
HELPFUL TIP: If your marriage green card interview is scheduled prior to being married for two years, keep copies of the proof of marriage documents that you submit to the Immigration Officer on the day of the marriage green card interview. You will need them again later to file with your I-751 Petition.
NEW STRATEGY: Immigration officers are now checking FACEBOOK PAGES and are also allowed to ask you to give them your phones to check your text messages to each other.