If you marry a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, you become eligible for a marriage-based green card. Your green card is proof that you’re eligible to live and work anywhere you’d like in the United States. However, the U.S. government won’t automatically grant you lawful permanent residency; you have to apply for it. Part of applying for your own marriage-based green card is participating in a green card interview, which this guide explains.
What is a Marriage-Based Green Card?
A marriage-based green card is an authorization that enables you to live and work anywhere in the United States, and you’re eligible to apply for one if you marry a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident. This type of green card comes with conditions attached (it’s called a conditional green card), and it’s valid for only two years. You must petition the U.S. government to remove the conditions before your conditional green card expires; if the government removes the conditions, you get a permanent green card that doesn’t expire for ten years.
Note: Keeping your green card is usually conditional on remaining married to the same person for at least two years. However, you may be eligible to remove conditions if you’re no longer married – but only under certain circumstances.
You must participate in a marriage green card interview to get conditional residence (and your conditional green card) in the United States.
The Marriage Green Card Interview: What to Expect
You’ll be interviewed by a USCIS official or consular officer who will attempt to determine whether your marriage is genuine or you married each other so that one of you could obtain an immigration benefit. Your interviewer will ask you several questions to gauge the state of your marriage; these questions are designed so that people who are in a genuine marriage will be able to answer them accurately, but those who are married only for an immigration benefit will likely stumble. (See the later section, “Types of Questions You May Be Asked During Your Marriage Green Card Interview,” for more information on what the official may ask you and your spouse.)
Who Conducts the Marriage Green Card Interview?
The marriage green card interview is conducted by a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) official or a consular officer from the U.S. Department of State – depending on whether you live in the United States or abroad when you apply for your marriage-based green card.
If you live in the United States when you apply, your marriage green card interview will likely take place at a USCIS field office near you. If you live outside of the United States when you apply for your marriage-based green card, your marriage green card interview will take place at a U.S. consulate or embassy in your home country.
Related: What does it mean to sponsor someone for a green card?
Interviewing With Your Spouse
If you and your spouse live together in the United States, you’ll attend your marriage green card interview together. If your spouse lives in the U.S. and you still live abroad, you’ll attend your interview alone, without your spouse.
When you and your spouse interview together, the USCIS immigration official interviewing you will ask you and your spouse many of the same questions. In some cases, the USCIS official will ask each of you different questions to gauge whether or not you know each other well enough to be in a genuine marriage.
The marriage green card interview is not a pass-or-fail test; instead, it’s an opportunity for the USCIS official conducting the interview to get to determine whether you and your spouse are engaged in marriage-based immigration fraud.
You can help yourself by preparing for the interview as much as possible (see the later section, “How to Prepare for Your Marriage Green Card Interview,” for more information).
The marriage green card interview is usually the last step in the marriage-based green card process. After the interview, if the USCIS official is satisfied that your marriage is genuine, you’ll be granted a conditional green card. If the official isn’t satisfied that your marriage is genuine, your application will likely be denied and you may face removal proceedings (deportation).
Related: How to bring your foreign fiancé to the United States
What Happens if the Interviewing Officer Thinks You’re Lying?
If the USCIS official or consular officer who is interviewing you believes that you or your spouse are not telling the truth – for example, if it seems like you don’t know each other well enough to be in a genuine marriage – you and your spouse may be separated and asked more questions individually. Sometimes couples are interviewed by the same official, but one at a time; in other cases, couples are interviewed by two different officials.
These separate interviews are called Stokes interviews (they’re named after a court case against the former Immigration and Naturalization Service; the case established rights for couples being interviewed by the U.S. government). Usually, immigration officials use Stokes interviews when:
- There are circumstances that make the interviewer believe you’re in a fraudulent marriage, such as a huge age gap between you, different addresses showing up for you online, or answers to questions that seem suspicious
- There’s potentially adverse evidence against you
- The official has discovered new information that they believe needs to be investigated further
Types of Questions You May Be Asked During Your Marriage Green Card Interview
The USCIS official or consular officer who interviews you will ask you and your spouse questions about each other and your marriage. They may also ask questions about your history, such as:
- How did you meet each other?
- When did you start dating?
- What are your favorite activities together?
- Do you have any children together? If so, what are their names and ages?
- Do you own any property together? If so, what is it and where is it located?
- What are your spouse’s parents’ names?
- Who pays the bills in your household?
- Which side of the bed do you sleep on?
- What’s your morning routine like?
- Where was your first date?
- Who proposed, and how did they do it?
- What kind of wedding did you have?
- Do you have any pets? If so, what are their names and breeds?
- How do your children get to school?
- What are your kids’ favorite foods?
- What kind of pajamas do you wear?
- What medications does your spouse take?
- What do you do to celebrate birthdays in your home?
The questions asked during a marriage green card interview vary from case to case, but they all relate back to the same thing: proving that your marriage is genuine. The questions may seem personal, but remember that the interviewer is just trying to become familiar with your situation and determine whether you’re involved in immigration fraud against the U.S. government.
How to Prepare for Your Marriage Green Card Interview
The best way to prepare for your marriage green card interview is to review your marriage-based green card application (Form I-485) and supporting documents, and make sure that you and your spouse are on the same page about the information you submitted. If there are any discrepancies in your application, be prepared to explain them during the interview.
You should also take some time to familiarize yourself with questions that are commonly asked during marriage green card interviews. Though you won’t know exactly what questions will be asked in your case, preparing in advance will help you feel more confident and reduce the chances of getting caught off-guard by a question.
Common Questions About Marriage Green Card Interviews
Check out these common questions about marriage green card interviews. If you don’t see the answer to your question here, please feel free to schedule a consultation with our office by calling 914-481-8822.
How Long Does the Interview Take?
The interview itself usually only lasts about 20 to 30 minutes. However, you should expect to be at the USCIS office or consulate for several hours, as there may be a wait before your interview is scheduled.
Related: Can you help your parents get U.S. green cards?
Can I Present Evidence During My Interview?
Yes, you can present evidence during your marriage green card interview. This may include photos, receipts, emails, text messages, social media messages, and anything else that can help prove that your marriage is genuine. It’s a good idea to bring copies of these documents, as well as the originals, in case the USCIS officer or consular officer wants to keep a copy for their records.
What Should I Wear to a Marriage Green Card Interview?
You should dress conservatively for your marriage green card interview. Wear something that’s appropriate business environment. Both you and your spouse should avoid wearing casual clothes, such as jeans or T-shirts.
Is There Anything I Shouldn’t Say During My Interview?
You should never lie, exaggerate or stretch the truth during your marriage green card interview. It’s absolutely essential that you tell the truth; if you fail to do so, you could be denied a green card and ordered removed from the United States.
Related: The most common removal defense strategies
Do You Need to Talk to an Immigration Attorney About a Marriage Green Card?
If you need to talk to an immigration attorney, we may be able to help you. Call our office at 914-481-8822 to schedule a consultation with an experienced, knowledgeable immigration attorney who can answer your questions and give you the legal advice you need.