The green card interview is typically the final step in the process of applying for U.S. lawful permanent residence, whether you are applying at an overseas U.S. consulate or embassy or a USCIS office in the United States. Before making a decision on your application, the immigration authorities prefer (with a few exceptions) to meet the applicant in person. That gives them a chance to review all the application materials, view any original documents that you have brought in to show, and ask any relevant questions.
How many questions you will be asked depends partly on what category of green card you are applying for. For example, in order to obtain a green card through marriage, the interview process will be particularly rigorous, as the officials need to make sure you are not committing marriage fraud. By contrast, a clearcut case of an applicant who will be working for the same U.S. employer through which he or she received an H-1B visa can expect fairly light questioning.
Here are the most likely questions you will be asked.
You will need to prove that you are who you claim to be.
The interviewer will normally start by having you stand, raise your right hand, and take this oath. It means that you will be guilty of perjury if you lie or give false information during the interview.
Sounds obvious, but you can expect this and some other questions that are straight off the forms you filled out. Similar questions may include, "Where were you born" and "when did you last enter the United States."
Though the interviewer probably isn't learning much from the answers, there is always the chance that he or she will catch someone at trying to commit a fraud, who messes up the name, address, or other basic information.
A criminal conviction on your record may be grounds for a finding of inadmissibility -- that is, ineligibility for a green card. Although you will have had fingerprints taken (if applying for adjustment of status in the U.S.) or provided police certificates (if applying through consular processing in a country where such certificates are available), there is always the chance that someone has a crime on their record that wasn't revealed in these reports. This is the interviewer's opportunity to find out about it.
Many people will say "no" to having committed a crime, believing that their arrest led nowhere -- when in fact the arrest had consequences that could lead to a finding of inadmissibility. See our article, What Happens If I Lied About Criminal History on a U.S. Visa Application?
This, too, is meant to reveal whether you are inadmissible, as someone who has falsely claimed to be a U.S. citizen.
If, for example, you have a new address, have married or divorced, have changed your legal name, have lost or switched jobs, and so on, you will need to make sure that your immigration file reflects the latest information. Bring documentary proof of the change. And, of course, consult with an immigration attorney if there is a possibility that the change impacts your eligibility for a U.S. green card.
(This applies only to applicants for are already in the U.S., adjusting status.) If you have received an EAD, and you have been working, that will help your application, by showing that you are unlikely to become a public charge (dependent on government financial assistance), which would make you inadmissible. But if you have been working without having received an EAD, that is a violation of your status, and could create problems for your green card application. See an attorney.
This is just one of the many questions that both the immigrant and the U.S. spouse will be asked if the application is for a green card based on marriage. Expect many more, such as, "How many people attended your wedding," "What did you do for the most recent Valentine's Day?," and "What did you eat for dinner and dessert last night?". For more possible questions, see this page on the marriage-based green card interview.
No matter what category you applied for a green card in, you will be required to bring along various sorts of documents. Examples might include pay stubs or a recent tax return to show continuing employment, evidence of your shared life in a marriage case, and so on. Carefully review the instructions you were sent before the interview. Make copies of any documents that you want to keep the originals of, for the officer's file.