Tips for the Green Card Interview Process

Before being approved for a green card (lawful permanent residence in the U.S.), most—but not all—applicants must attend an interview with a U.S. government official. Here's what might happen.

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

Regardless of where the interview will be held, however, the following tips will help you to pass and receive approval for a U.S. immigrant visa and/or green card.

Review Your Immigration Application Beforehand

An inevitable part of your conversation with the U.S. government officer will be the material in your written application. Review all the forms, whether you prepared them or someone else did.

If, for example, your U.S. petitioner (sponsor) submitted an I-864 Affidavit of Support on your behalf, which showed financial capacity to support you along with all members of their household, you don't want to be claiming at the interview that the sponsor has more, or fewer people living at home than stated on the form. That could cast doubt either on your U.S. petitioner's truthfulness or their ability to support you.

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

Check whether anything has changed in the weeks or months since the forms were filled out and the documents were submitted to U.S. immigration authorities. Bring along documentary evidence of any changes to your interview, such as a new address or name change.

For changes in marital status in a family visa situation, make sure that 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 all the way through obtaining approval for U.S. permanent residence.

Tell the Truth to U.S. Immigration Authorities

Lying during a green card or immigrant visa 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 you are asked, but don't blab or offer up more information than serves your interests.

In Marriage-Based Immigrant Interviews: Prepare for Personal Questions

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

Then get ready for specific questions, like details on how you first met, your first date, what you had for dinner last night, whether your spouse has any birthmarks or scars, or what some of the family members' names are, where certain objects in your house are located, how each of you gets to work who does the shopping, and so on.

There is no set list of questions. The immigration officer is free to invent them. You and your spouse should therefore practice as much as possible, thinking up questions with which to test each other beforehand. Even validly married couples can easily forget things, like how many people they invited to the wedding or what gifts they gave each other for the last holiday.

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

An officer who gets any impression that this marriage was performed only in order for one party to get a green card may interview each of you separately and then compare your answers. In certain cases, if there is significant evidence pointing to fraud, a U.S. government officer may visit your supposedly joint residence to verify that you live together. (This could happen early in the morning, without warning!)

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

Try to Remain Businesslike, Calm, and Polite in Dealing With the Immigration Officer

Immigration officers see huge numbers of people every day. They will appreciate it if you are well-organized and do not waste their time with irrelevant chatter. If the immigration officer appears suspicious or misunderstands something, take a deep breath and try not to argue. But do 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 Immigration 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 done or submit additional documents, to assure the interviewer of your eligibility.

However, if your application is denied, you will need to look into your appeal rights. Your most likely route is a I-290B appeal, but you will probably need to hire a lawyer if you haven't done so already.

Your Lawyer Should "Prep" You Personally for the Immigration Interview

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 (possibly for an added fee), and help protect your legal rights or clear up sources of confusion on the USCIS's officer's part.

Talk to an Immigration attorney.
We've helped 85 clients find attorneys today.
There was a problem with the submission. Please refresh the page and try again
Full Name is required
Email is required
Please enter a valid Email
Phone Number is required
Please enter a valid Phone Number
Zip Code is required
Please add a valid Zip Code
Please enter a valid Case Description
Description is required

How It Works

  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Choose attorneys to contact you