If you’re like most people immigrating to the United states, there’s a good chance you’ll have to participate in an immigration interview. But what happens during an immigration interview, and what are the possible outcomes? Does U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) interview everyone who wants to come to the United States? This guide explains.
What is an Immigration Interview?
An immigration interview is a sit-down chat with an official from USCIS or someone working at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad. The person interviewing you will determine whether or not you’re eligible for an immigrant visa, green card or United States citizenship. Your immigration attorney will most likely tell you that immigration interviews are nothing to worry about. As long as you take a little time to prepare, understand what the official will ask you and understand your responsibility for answering truthfully, your immigration interviews should go off without a hitch.
Where Do Immigration Interviews Happen?
Immigration interviews typically take place at a USCIS field office within the United States, but if you’re outside the United States, yours will take place at the U.S. embassy or consulate closest to you.
Who Has to Participate in an Immigration Interview?
Most people who are applying for an immigration benefit in the United States I required to participate in an immigration interview. However, there are a few exceptions, including those for children and some senior citizens. There are also exceptions for people who are physically unable to participate in interviews, as well. But the vast majority of people are required to participate in an immigration interview.
How Long Do Immigration Interviews Take?
Most immigration interviews only last around 20 minutes. However, in some cases, interviews can take longer. Sometimes green card marriage interviews last a bit longer than standard immigration interviews do; that can be the case when an interviewer suspects that there’s fraud involved in your case. See the later section, “Marriage Green Card Interviews,” for more information on these types of interviews.
Differences Between Visa Interviews, Green Card Interviews, and Citizenship Interviews
In most immigration interviews, the interviewer’s primary job is to determine whether you’re admissible to the United States. The interviewer will look at your initial application and review your answers. They’ll also ask you questions about anything they need clarified. With that said, most interviews are pretty standard. The following sections describe the basics for each type of immigration interview.
Immigration Interviews for Visas
Before you attend an immigration interview to get a visa, you’ll need to gather supporting documentation. That means you need a copy of your medical examination results, if applicable, as well as original or certified copies of all civil documents that you submitted as part of your original application. You also need to bring your appointment letter, passport and two identical color photographs of yourself and every other applicant applying with you.
When you arrive for your interview, you may need to bring your spouse and any children who are immigrating with you. Generally, everyone who is required to participate in your interview will be named in the letter you receive from USCIS or the National Visa Center.
You can expect your interviewer to ask you things like:
- Why are you traveling to the United States?
- How long do you plan to stay in the United States?
- Where will you stay in the U.S.?
- Who will be paying your expenses?
- Do you have friends and relatives in the United States?
- Have you visited the U.S. before?
- Have you already booked your tickets?
- Do you have any other plans, such as working, studying or tourism?
- What are your plans after your visa expires?
As with any other immigration interview, it’s very important that you’re honest with your interviewer. The person who interviews you needs to see whether your answers match up with your visa application, as well as whether you’ve chosen the right type of visa for your purposes. It’s the immigration official’s job to ensure that you’re not planning to violate U.S. immigration law by overstaying your visa, as well.
Immigration Interviews for Green Cards
Immigration interviews for green cards are a little different from those designed for visas. Usually, green card interviews occur between 7 and 15 months after you apply for a green card – but not everyone is required to attend this interview. The U.S. government will notify you if you need to attend an interview for a green card; if you don’t receive a notice from the government, check with your immigration attorney to clarify.
If you’re applying for a green card based on your family relationships (such as a spouse), both you and your sponsoring family member may be required to appear for the interview. However, there are exceptions – such as when the sponsoring family member lives in a different country, or when you’re applying for a green card from within the United States.
If you’re applying for a green card as an employee, only you need to attend the interview. Your employer doesn’t have to attend with you.
A Word on Marriage Green Card Interviews
When you apply for a green card based on your marriage to a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, you can expect to be required to attend an interview. Usually, you and your spouse both have to show up to a marriage green card interview. During this interview, your interviewer will review your application and go over your answers with you – and your interviewer will also try to determine whether your marriage is legitimate. That’s because many people try to commit immigration fraud by getting married. It’s your interviewer’s job to make sure you’re in a bona fide (genuine) marriage, and that you didn’t simply get married so that you could get a green card.
During your marriage green card interview, the official interviewing you will most likely ask questions like these:
- How did you two meet?
- How long did you date before you got married?
- Who proposed, and what’s the story of your proposal?
- What was your wedding like, and who attended it?
- Did you perform (or did someone else perform) any special rituals at your wedding?
- What kind of food did you serve at your reception?
- Did you go on a honeymoon? If you did, where did you go?
- What is your daily life like at home?
- How often do you communicate with each other when you’re apart?
- Who cooks and who cleans around the house?
- How do your children get to school?
- What are your kids’ favorite activities? Their favorite foods? Who are their friends?
- Which side of the bed do you sleep on?
- Does your spouse take any medications?
- When is your spouse’s birthday, and what do you do to celebrate?
- What’s the most important holiday in your household, and how or where do you celebrate it?
The purpose of these questions is to ensure that you’re in a genuine marriage. Your interviewer will be looking for signs that you and your spouse aren’t married because you’re in love, or that you don’t live together and are only married on paper.
To be very clear, it’s okay if you trip up. Even couples who have been married a long time may have difficulty remembering which medications a spouse takes, who their kids hang out with, or remembering small details. Your investigator is looking at the big picture.
What’s not okay is being dishonest. If you don’t know the answer to a question, just say so; don’t try to make something up. Making up answers is bad news for your case, because it makes you less credible – and you need the investigator to understand that you’re in a bona fide marriage. If the investigator suspects you’re being dishonest, they may call you back in for a Stokes interview.
What is a Stokes Interview?
A Stokes interview is another chance for a couple to prove that they are engaged in a legitimate marriage period during this type of interview, and immigration official will interview you and your spouse together and separately.
First, the immigration officer will most likely explain to both of you why another interview is necessary. After doing so, the official will most likely separate you from your spouse and ask you questions individually. These questions may be very personal, but rest assured that your spouse is getting the same questions you are. you can expect questions similar to those in your first interview, such as how you met and who proposed. The official may also ask you questions such as:
- Who typically does the dishes?
- Do you pay your bills online, or do you write checks?
- Who gets up first in the morning?
- How many sinks and toilets are there in your home?
- Where did you buy your furniture?
- Who is your phone service provider?
- What television shows do you watch together or separately?
- How often do you go out to eat?
- Where do you keep your toothbrushes?
- Who fell asleep first last night?
The immigration official will then compare your answers to see if they match.
After both interviews are complete, the immigration official will bring you and your spouse back to the same room together. At that time, they’ll ask you and your spouse to explain any discrepancies in your answers. This type of interview is your last opportunity to convince the immigration official that your marriage is real, and that you didn’t just get married to obtain an immigration benefit. After your interview, the immigration official may approve your petition or deny it. If your petition is denied, you may wish to talk to an immigration attorney about your options.
Immigration Interviews for U.S. Citizenship
When you apply for citizenship, you can expect to attend an interview. During this interview, an immigration official will go over your application and verify your answers. They may also ask you additional questions.
You’ll take your U.S. citizenship test during your naturalization interview. Usually, immigration officials make a decision following this interview. If USCIS needs more information, you won’t receive a decision immediately; you can expect a request for more information to follow.
Do You Need to Talk to an Immigration Attorney About Your Immigration interview?
If you need to talk to an immigration attorney about an upcoming immigration interview (or anything else related to immigration), 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.