USCIS now requires interviews for almost every type of green card case. See USCIS to Expand In-Person Interview Requirements for Certain Permanent Residency Applicants for more information. At first we were worried that this would cause delays, but so far that has not happened. In fact, it can be helpful to sit down with an officer to discuss what is needed to finalize the case, rather than going back and forth by regular mail.
We realize that there are a lot of stories about these interviews, and scenes in movies, so we have written this advice to help you prepare and relax. The interviews vary widely based on the officer and the case. We will do our best to get you ready for the toughest interview, while still hoping that it will be relatively short and smooth.
The interview will be scheduled approximately 3 to 4 weeks in advance. Once we have the interview notice, we will be in touch to schedule an interview prep call or meeting, and see if you want to have an attorney with you at the interview.
In the time between receiving the notice and going for your interview, there are two steps: 1) organizing a set of documents evidencing your current employment situation, and 2) scheduling an Interview Preparation appointment with your attorney.
A common question is whether you need an attorney at the interview. There will be some cases with difficult issues or an important deadline to get the green card where we strongly recommend you have an attorney despite the additional fee. Otherwise, you can discuss this at the interview prep meeting with your attorney. Having an attorney may make the case more likely to be resolved at the interview, may make the experience a bit easier for you, and may make the officer a bit more likely to be polite. However, we have had many clients go to interviews on their own.
Please read the following before your Interview Preparation with the attorney.
We anticipate that the interview will focus on I-485 (green card) issues, if any, including:
1. a marriage less than two years old (if a spouse is on the application)
2. the medical exam
3. criminal history and security check
4. any irregularities in immigration history
5. whether you are still doing what was stated in the I-140
6. whether there is income to support a spouse and child
When you go to the interview, please bring:
- interview notice
- valid forms of identification for each applicant (we recommend unexpired passports and driver’s licenses if available)
- evidence of continued employment (recent paystubs and/or employer support letter. We can assist in preparing this letter if you filed an employer-sponsored petition.)
- your original marriage certificate, if applicable
- your original birth certificate(s)
- applicant’s immigration history, e.g., previous visas, passports, etc. The paralegal on your case can answer any questions on this.
- if you have been married less than two years please also provide evidence of your relationship. Documents may include, but are not limited to:
- Lease or mortgage contract showing joint residence
- Copies of Driver’s Licenses showing joint residence
- Photos of you together with other people
- Financial records showing joint ownership of assets/joint responsibility for liabilities such as:
- Jointly filed tax returns
- Joint checking and/or savings account records
- Insurance policies that list spouse as beneficiary
- Joint bills
We have filed the case with copies of all documents – we ask you to bring the originals because it is possible the officer may ask to see them. Some officers now like to look through old passports and visas.
The USCIS Field Office is a secure federal building so you have to go through security as you would in an airport. Try not to bring items that will make this more complicated, such as liquids, electronics, etc. Arrive to the appointment early (at least 30 minutes before). Prepare to be there several hours.
In the waiting room before your interview, you can review the questions on the forms that we have sent to you. These are scans of the forms we sent to USCIS, and the Officer will have access to these as well. Some of the questions at the interview may come from these forms. In particular, it helps to read through the “inadmissibility” questions on the I-485 form. Don’t worry if you hear an officer asking you if you have been involved in hijacking, drug dealing, prostitution or gambling. They are supposed to ask everyone these questions.
We suggest sitting near the door where they call people in – that way it is easier to understand the names called. Especially because the officers will sometimes mispronounce foreign names.
Once you are called in to the interview room, you will remain standing. The officer will ask you to raise your right hand and promise to tell the truth. Then, you will be asked for photo identification, and you should hand over the documents from the checklist above. If you are a married couple, please be sure your driver’s licenses have your current address. If you did not request your attorney to be present for the interview, the officer will ask you to sign a paper allowing the interview to proceed without your attorney
During your interview, let the Officer lead. Give simple, one sentence answers. Often times, the Officer is just confirming that the information on the I-485 is accurate and up-to-date. There will be questions regarding who prepared the form and if you reviewed the form before signing. If the Officer has more questions, he or she will ask. These officers handle about 8-10 interviews per day, and can get confused or side-tracked if you give too much information. It is better to respond that you “don’t know”, “I don’t remember” or are “unsure” rather than to give a statement and to later find out the facts weren’t accurate. Just be honest – you may not know every answer or remember every date in the pressure of the interview.
If you have been married less than two years you may be asked questions about your relationship. For relationship questions in particular, don’t worry if you do not know an answer. The officers are looking for honesty and that you clearly know each other.
Try to be aware of how you react in tense situations – if you tend to talk quickly, try to slow down. If you tend to talk quietly, try to speak up.
Please make note of your Interviewing Officer’s name. This will help if a follow-up is necessary. Keep in mind that these officers may get lied to or yelled at every week – these are front line jobs. If the officer seems grumpy or negative, just be polite and respectful. The goal is to get your green card – the officer cannot deny your case for no reason, but he/she can make the interview much tougher.
At the end of your interview, there are a few possible outcomes:
(A) The Officer will tell applicants that the case will be recommended for approval and your Green Card will be mailed in the next few weeks. Be sure to confirm the address on file for sending the green card.
(B) You may be given a written request for more information on Form I-72. Please send us a copy of the notice, and we can figure out together how to respond. We can either send in the information requested, or provide a legal response.
(C) The Officer may say that a decision cannot be made that day. That could happen for many reasons, such as a junior officer who needs to consult a supervisor, the computers are down, or a piece of the file has not arrived yet at the office.
Your case will not be denied at the interview! It will either be recommended for approval, or the decision will be delayed. Even if you leave the interview feeling that it did not go well, talk to us before you assume the worst. Tell us what happened, and send us any paperwork.
Five years after the initial green card is approved, you may be eligible for US citizenship.