Tips For The Green Card Interview Process

The final step of the process to become a legal permanent resident is the green card interview. Here are some tips to help you succeed.

Before being approved for a green card (lawful permanent residence in the U.S.), most -- but not all -- applicants must attend an interview. Where that interview will be held depends on where you're applying. People coming from overseas will ordinarily attend their interview at a U.S. consulate, while those applying in the U.S. (through the process known as "adjustment of status") will attend their interview at an office of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Regardless of where the interview is held, however, the following tips will help you to pass and receive approval for a green card.

Review Your Application Beforehand

An inevitable part of your conversation will be the material in your application. Review all the forms, whether you prepared them or someone else did. For example, if your petitioner submitted an Affidavit of Support on your behalf, which showed financial capacity to support you along with all members of his or her household, you don't want to be claiming at the interview that he or she has more, or fewer people living with him than stated on the form -- which could cast doubt either on your petitioner's truthfulness or ability to support you.

Prepare to Mention and Prove Any Changes to Information in Your Application Forms

Check whether anything has changed in the weeks or months since the forms were filled out and the documents were submitted. Bring along evidence of any changes, such as a new address or name change. For changes in marital status, in a family visa situation, make sure the visa applicant is still eligible for the green card under the relevant category. (Someone applying in the category of "unmarried child," for example, needs to stay unmarried although through obtaining approval for permanent residence.)

Tell the Truth

Lying during a green card interview can get you into greater trouble than whatever the original issue you were trying to cover up. If you feel you need to cover something up, talk to an attorney before continuing with your application.

Of course, this doesn't mean you need to volunteer any and all potentially negative information. Answer the questions that are asked, but don't blabber or offer up more information than serves your interests.

In Marriage-Based Visa Interviews: Prepare for Many Personal Questions

Marriage-based green card applications receive more scrutiny than any others. The immigration officer will want to see evidence of your valid marriage and shared life, such as wedding photos, letters you've written to one another, joint credit card bills, home leases, children you've had together, bills in both names, like utility and cell phone bills, and so on.

Then get ready for very specific questions, like details on how you met, your first date, what you had for dinner last night, if your spouse has any birthmarks or scars, or what some of the family members' names are, where certain objects in your house are, how each of you gets to work who does the shopping, and so on. There is no set list of questions -- the officer is free to invent them. You and your spouse should test each other beforehand. Even validly married couples can easily forget things, like how many people you invited to the wedding, or what gifts you gave each other for the last holiday.

During the interview, your body language will be noticed. You may want to hold hands  to give the right impression, but don't go overboard and make it appear like you are faking the affections.

If the officer gets any impression at all that this marriage was performed only in order for one party to get a green card, he may interview each of you separately and then compare your answers. In certain cases, if there is significant evidence pointing to fraud, the officer may visit your residence to verify that you live together.

See What Happens at The Green Card Marriage Interview for some tips and more information on what to expect.

Try to Remain Businesslike, Calm, and Polite

Immigration officers see huge numbers of people every day. They will appreciate it if you are well-organized and don't waste their time with irrelevant chatter. If the officer appears suspicious or misunderstands something, take a deep breath and don't argue. But point out any errors, calmly. Also see Dealing With a Bad Green Card Interview for more tips.

What Happens if You Don’t Pass the Interview? 

In most cases, unless you clearly don't qualify for a green card, your application will not be denied outright. You will likely be given more time to take follow-up action, such as have another medical exam or submit additional documents, to assure the interviewer of your eligibility. However, if it is denied, you will need to look into your appeal rights. Your most likely route is a I-290B appeal, but you'll probably need to hire a lawyer if you haven't already.

Your Lawyer Should "Prep" You Personally

If you are preparing for a green card interview in the United States, you should consider meeting first with an immigration attorney. The attorney can assist you in understanding what the interview will entail and can help to make sure you are as prepared as possible for answering the questions you might be asked. The attorney can also accompany you to the interview, and help protect your rights or clear up sources of confusion.

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