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