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What happens at the Green Card Marriage Interview at the USCIS office

By Marie Puertollano, Esq.

When an immigrant gets married with a U.S citizen, the immigrant can obtain a green card either through consular processing, if the immigrant is outside the United States, or through adjustment of status within the United States, if the immigrant entered with a visa and is present in the United States. This article will focus on the interview that will be the last step of the adjustment of status and will take place at a USCIS field office within the United States.

Why are we interviewed?

At the interview, the USCIS officer will review the forms with the petitioner and the beneficiary/immigrant. The officer will also ask to see the originals of documents such as your marriage certificate and passports. The officer will also ask you personal questions about your relationship to verify that your marriage is a good faith marriage out of love, and not a sham done only to get a visa.

Does the U.S citizen petitioner and the beneficiary/immigrant both need to be present?

Yes. The interview notice clearly mentions that both spouses must be present at the interview. However, there is an exception for members of the military. If the petitioner is in the military, the presence of the petitioner can be waived at the interview if the beneficiary brings the deployment letter, a copy of the petitioner’s military ID, and an original of the beneficiary’s military spouse ID.

What kind of questions will the officer ask during the interview?

Once the officer is done reviewing the forms, the officer will ask basic questions such as:

–          How did you meet?

–          When did you meet?

–          When did you decided to get married/ proposed?

–          Where was the wedding? Who came? Was it at the court, at church?

Most officers only ask these few questions and then they recommend the case for approval. But some officers may ask more personal questions such as “when was the last time you were intimate?” especially if you got married a short time after meeting each other or if the officer feels that the marriage might not be real.

Will we be separated during the interview?

No, not at the first interview. But if the USCIS is not satisfied by the first interview and is still not sure whether or not the marriage is real, you will be called in for a second interview, the Stokes interview, also called the “marriage fraud interview” where you will be separated and interrogated separately. Look carefully at the interview notice. If the interview notice says “the interview may take 2-4 hours, plan accordingly” and “interview may be videotaped” then you can be sure that you will go through a Stokes interview. An officer will interrogate one of the spouses in detail for one to three hours while the other waits in another room. Then, the same officer will interrogate the other spouse on the same set of questions. At the end, both spouses are usually brought together and given a chance to explain any discrepancies in their answers.

The questions ask are very intimate and detailed such as:

  • Where did you go on your first date?
  • Where did you buy the wedding bands?
  • What did you spouse do yesterday?
  • When was the first time you were intimate?
  • What is the name of your bank(s)?
  • Does your spouse have any tattoos?
  • Is your stove gas or electric?
  • Is there any beer or soda in your refrigerator right now?

You should hire a lawyer to go with you at a Stokes interview as some officers use very intimidating techniques and act aggressive. If a lawyer is present, the lawyer will be able to object and ask for any necessary breaks.

What happens once the interview is done?

Once the first interview is done, your case will either be recommended for approval or you will receive a notice calling you for a Stokes interview. If your case is approved, you should receive your green card within 60 days after approval (our clients usually receive it within 15 days).

After a Stokes interview, your case could be approved and you will receive the green card within 60 days. Or USCIS will issue a notice of intent to deny (NOID) and give you 30 days from the date of the notice to “offer evidence in support of the petition and in opposition to the proposed denial”. Once you answer to the notice of intent to deny, your case will be approved if you provided strong explanation to the discrepancies that happened during the interview. Otherwise, your green card application will be denied.

USCIS offers a great tool to follow the progress of your application online on the USCIS website under “TOOLS”, “Get Automatic Updates about Your Case” at:

https://egov.uscis.gov/cris/jsps/selectusertype.jsp

What happens if we were married less than 2 years before applying for the green card?

If your green card application has been approved but you have been married less than two years, the green card will be conditional and will be valid only for two years. One year and nine months after approval, you will need to file the I-751 to remove the condition on residence with additional evidence proving that the marriage was a good faith marriage.

For questions and legal advice relating to the marriage interview, please contact us.