June 3, 2021
What to Expect During a Spousal (Marriage) Interview with Immigration (USCIS)
Typically, Spousal (Marriage) Interviews in the USA are done when an application for Adjustment of Status (Form i485), sometimes together with the Family Petition (I-130), are filed in the United States when the foreign national spouse is in the USA. Not all spouses of United States Citizens or Legal Permanent Residents are eligible to adjust their status to legal permanent resident in the United States. Some spouses must consular process outside the USA and some spouses have what is known as the permanent bar under Immigration and Nationality Act 212(a)(9)(c). Please consult with a knowledgeable Immigration Attorney before filing forms on your own to make certain you are eligible to do all of your paperwork in the USA.
When a spouse is eligible to adjust status to legal permanent resident in the USA, we typically file all forms and documents at one time by mail. After filing the documents with Immigration (USCIS) & paying the correct fee, we first get the receipt notices. Always send documents to USCIS with a tracking number in case your application gets lost in the mail or lost at Immigration. It’s a good way you can prove the documents were in fact sent.
Receipts / Biometrics Notice / Background Checks
After receiving the receipts, the next document you will receive is a Biometric Notice. This gives you the date, time and place to have your fingerprints and photo taken at Immigration (USCIS). Many of our clients have been nervous doing this step, but with hundreds if not thousands of applications filed, we have never had a negative experience reported. The appointment is just what it is supposed to be — a time to get your photo and fingerprints taken by Immigration (USCIS). Immigration uses this to check your criminal background (if there is one) and to check for any negative immigration history — like stops at the border, deportations etc. Even if you used a different name, it typically will show up because these checks are also done with your fingerprints.
Work Permit / Employment Authorization
Typically your work permit will arrive in the mail about 4-7 months after filing your application–you must have also filed for i765 (employment authorization form).
The spousal interview typically happens within 1 year, but there have been some delays to Covid 19 & backlogs at Immigration. During the interview, both you and your spouse will be present. The officer will swear you in to tell the truth, take your photo with their webcam and fingerprint you to verify your identity. You will also be asked for your photo ID. You should bring your driver’s license (they will check that it matches your spouse’s address), certified copies of any documents you submitted, the petitioner’s tax returns, the co-sponsor’s tax returns, certified copies of court dispositions, & certified police reports etc. Keep your answers brief and to the point. If it’s a yes or no answer, just say yes or no. Do not pull out papers unless the officer specifically asks for the paper. Do not try to be friends with the officer and go on and on about stories or jokes, this is a government interview and it is formal.
Review Application / Questions / Joint Documents
Next the officer will either go over your application line by line to verify the information is accurate and any changes that need to be made to the paperwork will be done at that time. So if there is an error, this is the time to correct it. At times, the officer will first ask you how you met and then ask your spouse the same questions. The officer takes notes so this will be in your file. The officer is looking at the way you tell the story and whether or not the story is the same.
It’s best to have lots of joint documents and pictures to show the officer. The officer is trying to determine if this is a real marriage or one entered into solely for an immigration benefit. If you have children together with certified birth certificates to show the officer that has both your names as parents on the certificate, then this part of the interview may be easier. It’s easier to prove it’s a valid marriage when the couple has children together. If you don’t have children together, bring as many joint documents as you can. Joint documents can include: a lease with both of your names on it for your home, or a joint mortgage for your home, joint bank accounts, joint car insurance bills, joint utility bills, joint medical insurance or other type of insurance. I have heard clients say they can’t get a joint bill because the foreign national spouse does not have a social security number, but most utilities will add a spouse without a social security number, as a non-primary user. Document your relationship with photos — officers like to see photos and your story through photos.
If the officer suspects the marriage may be fraudulent, you and your spouse may be separated and asked questions about your living situation and personal questions like: when was the last time your spouse gave you a gift? What was it? How many rooms are in your home? Where are the televisions located? What side of the bed do you sleep on? What did you wear to bed last night? What did your spouse wear to bed last night? What type of car do you and your spouse drive? What color is the car? Do you have carpet or tile in your home? Where is the carpet? Where is the tile? Do you have any fans in your home? Where are the fans located? Where do you keep the extra toilet paper, vacuum etc?
I’ve also had clients asked whether or not a key is used to get in their home. Then whether or not they both had a key with them. The officer then matched the keys. Another question is do you know his/her cell phone number? What is it? If you don’t know, they may ask to see your text messages to each other right there and then.
The officer may have checked your social media accounts before the interview.
If the officer is still not convinced the marriage is valid, the officer may send immigration officials to your home for a surprise check in some time after the interview. These often happen early in the morning. I’ve also known of immigration officials going to an ex-spouses home to question them about your current marriage.
It’s rare to be separated or investigated. To avoid this, be prepared and have as many joint documents as possible.
After the interview, the officer may tell you are approved and that your legal permanent resident card will come in the mail or that the officer needs to review the file further or that the officer needs additional information. Typically you will receive something in the mail within 30 to 60 days after your interview.
We have prepared and attended hundreds of marriage interviews with Immigration over the past 22 years. Having an experienced Immigration Attorney will help ensure you qualify for the benefit, that your application is submitted correctly, that you are prepared for the interview, and will help your confidence level with the attorney at your interview. While the attorney can’t answer questions for you, the attorney may clarify any misunderstanding, is able to take notes, and help get anything else the officer may want to the officer quickly.
Please call Bailey Immigration at 866-521-8472 for a free consultation regarding your eligibility.