Today, we would like to share with our readers the green card interview experience. We are doing this to provide a sneak-peak into what the day of the USCIS interview may look like. The experience below is likely not going to be exactly as described below. Personal circumstances vary. And to all fairness, the green card interview experience below is probably the easiest and smoothest you can hope for.
What Happened Prior to the Green Card Through Marriage Interview
After attending the biometrics appointment, we received an invitation to attend the green card through marriage interview. The invitation arrived on Form I-797 and instructed us – both my spouse and I – to show up for the interview at the USCIS office on a specific date and time at the specific address. I knew the interview is a big deal and did not take it lightly. I knew that my case would never be approved without an interview (see How to Get Marriage Based Green Card Without Interview), thus the interview was the most important milestone in my entire green card application. I wanted to come prepared with appropriate documentation (What to Bring to an Immigration Appointment?). And I also practiced the possible interview questions as much as possible.
For a Positive Green Card Interview Experience Arrive Early
Having dealt with the USCIS for the past 20+ years, I never experienced its offices not to be crowded. On the day of the interview, we arrived 40 minutes in advance of our appointment. It was a good call because the security line was out of the door. We went through a traditional security screening you’d experience in the airport: You have to empty your pockets of all metal objects and run your belongings though an x-ray machine. Afterwards, immigration services officer directed us to our appropriate interview waiting room.
The Green Card Interview Office at USCIS
After we arrived to our green card interview office, a USCIS officer checked us in and asked us to wait. (It occurred to me that waiting is an integral part of the green card through marriage process.) We were asked to take a sit in a room with about twenty-five or so people also waiting. Some people were couples; some were clearly child-parents groups; I noticed a few people came with lawyers, as lawyers tend to carry bunch of documents with them organized in folders; one group, it appeared brought a translator for their elderly mother (I was not sure from which Asian country they were).
There are urban legends out there that the wait rooms in USCIS offices are filled with closed-circuit video cameras. The USCIS officers observe your body language before inviting you in and make decisions about your green card by observing you during your wait. And such legends advocate you should hold your partner’s hand, give him/her a kisses or do something else that implies close and intimate relationship. On the internet, you will probably find both sides supporting and refuting these urban legends.
My wife and I stayed quiet for the duration of the wait – it lasted probably 30 mins or so. We did not speak. We did not hold hands. We did not kiss. I did not believe the urban legends that the immigration services officers would make decisions about my application just by merely observing me and my wife without interacting with us. But I was pretty sure that the cameras were there – it was a Federal building for crying out loud. Legends or not, I wasn’t going to test them.
Meeting the Immigration Services Officer
Our number was called and we followed the instructions regarding which room to enter. Your interview can be conducted by one immigration services officer from the Department of Homeland Security. Based on my research, I knew that other officers, including FBI agents, may be present for such interviews. In our case, there was only one interviewing USCIS officer. She was a nice lady in her late 30s, with quiet and very polite demeanor. She was not intimidating at all – she certainly tried hard to come across as a nice human being.
Kicking Off the Green Card Through Marriage Interview
First, we were asked to take an oath, which we did by raising our right hands and swearing to tell the truth on the bible. The officer also reminded us of our rights during the interview. Specifically, she reiterated that the interview is a voluntary procedure and we could leave at any time. However, she stated, if we refuse to answer pertinent questions, our refusal could negatively impact our application.
Then the officer took a few minutes to reviewing our paperwork. Those couple of minutes were one of the longest in my life. I expected there may be some issues with the paperwork and was prepared to respond to questions around the applications, including the documentation that we previously submitted. I also expected questions about our relationship. Finally, I expected to be split up from my spouse during the interview so that the officer could make sure we answer questions honestly and not taking cues from each other.
None of my fears or concerns came true. The officer asked us questions about our respective birthdays. She asked about how we met and when we got married. She also requested two photographs and asked if she could keep them for her file. She thanked us and said our application is approved. She also mentioned that we were the most prepared couple she interviewed in a while.
The Green Card Interview Experience in a Nutshell
Preparation was the key. We came prepared. We communicated we were prepared. And I believe this is what carried us to success that morning. Download the Do It Yourself Green Card guide to be as prepared as we were.