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How to Prepare for a Green Card Interview

Chantal Tanner

How to Prepare for a Green Card Interview

Immigration Law
| 5 min
8 Min

Obtaining a United States green card through marriage can be an exciting, but also stressful time. As in all legal proceedings, being prepared can help you to reduce anxiety and successfully navigate the process.

The majority of marriage green card applications require an official interview as the final step in the process. Interviews are held by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), if you're living in the United States, and by the U.S. State Department National Visa Center (NVC) if you're living abroad. The main purpose for the interview is to determine if your marriage is legitimate and not based on fraud.

Many of the questions you'll be asked will relate to specifics of your relationship, including your history together, your daily activities now that you're married, and your future plans.

Both of you will need to attend if you're living together in the United States, so you'll both want to prepare for the types of questions that will be asked. The sponsoring spouse does not have to attend the interview if the application is for a spouse living abroad.

The green card interview may not occur for months after your marriage, so knowing what to expect can help you to relax and be more confident about meeting the eventual requirements. It typically lasts about 15-20 minutes and the questions are usually fairly simple.

Getting ready for your interview

  • Take a trip down "memory lane." A week before your interview, you and your spouse should review the key dates related to your relationship history, such as when you first met, how long you were engaged, what day and time you were married at, and where you went on your honeymoon.
  • Assemble the original documents you submitted for your green card application, including passports, birth certificates, marriage certificate, prior divorce papers, court records, and any evidence like photos to show the authenticity of your marriage.
  •  Prepare copies of new documents showing further proof that your marriage is real. Include things like recent photos together, joint income tax returns, birth certificates of any children you have together, documents regarding joint property and insurance papers.

If you're living in separate countries, you should include anything that evidences the authenticity of your relationship and marriage. For example, copies of travel documents to your foreign home country, copies of phone records showing you speak regularly, and photos of the two of you on shared vacations, visiting family and friends.

When the U.S. Government tries to determine if your marriage is real, they look for many items on this list:

  • Proof of joint residence—driver’s licenses, utility bills with both names, mail received at the address for both parties
  • Joint lease agreement for rental property, or if home is owned, a deed with both names
  • Mortgage documents in both names
  • Proof of combined finances, such as joint bank accounts, direct deposits for payroll checks
  • Joint tax returns—Federal and State
  • Proof if you have children together—birth certificates, medical records and/or school records listing both parents’ names
  • Joint auto, health and/or homeowner’s insurance policies
  • Life insurance policies with the spouses as beneficiaries
  • Photographic evidence of your time together (the longer the time frame the better)
  • Organize your documents in a folder and assemble relevant photos in a chronological album.

Common questions asked in the interview

Every interview officer will have a unique approach to the interview process, so being prepared for just about any question that validates your relationship is critical.

  • Relationship history—how you met, first date, dating time frame, marriage proposal.
  • Wedding—where and what type of wedding did you have, location, who attended, food served, honeymoon.
  •  Daily routines—household chores, when you start your day, do you communicate often during the day, who does the cooking, who does the laundry, who cleans.
  • Children—how do your kids get to school, who are their friends, favorite foods, interest in sports.
  •  Personal habits—where do you sleep (which side of the bed), medications your spouse takes, pajamas worn.
  • Significant celebrations—when are your birthdays’, how did you celebrate, what gifts did you exchange, holiday celebrations, religious routines.

Red flags

If the officer is suspicious, they can request an additional "Stokes" interview, which means that you and your spouse will be interviewed separately and answers are compared for inconsistencies. There are a few things that may make the interviewing officer suspicious about the authenticity of your marriage:

  • Large age gaps 
  • Short marriages 
  • Cultural differences 
  • Different addresses
  •  Adverse evidence about the marriage based on an FDNS investigation

 The USCIS officer can switch anytime during the standard interview to a Stokes format (especially if something requires further exploration).

Next steps

Assuming everything goes smoothly at your green card interview, you will receive a verbal approval from the officer. You'll receive approval in the mail a few weeks later.

Other possible outcomes to a green card interview are:

  • Request for evidence (RFE)—this is a request for extra documentation or proof of shared utility bills, bank statements, statements from friends and family.
  • Additional review—the officer will tell you that you must wait for a final decision.
  • Second interview—you'll receive another interview notice from the USCIS or NVC.
  • Denial—your case can be denied on the spot or other issues can be uncovered during a background check that negatively affects eligibility.

Final tips for the interview

Although the interview process can be intimidating, these tips can help you successfully obtain your green card.

Be honest and open. The interview will give you a chance to clearly demonstrate you have a real marriage. There is no need to "sugarcoat" your marriage as being perfect as every couple experiences challenges in the relationship.

Don't be afraid to speak up. The questions can sometimes be very personal. Tell the officer if a question is offensive and you can decline to answer.

Rehearse before your interview. This will help you relax and answer the questions more easily. Just like any test, it's better to be over prepared than under.

Relax and have fun. Although it may be difficult to imagine enjoying the green card interview experience, once you finish this step, you're likely to have obtained legal status and enjoy all the benefits of being in the United States.

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