The marriage green card interview can be extremely intimidating process. You have a lot on the line, your future together, the ongoing ability of your spouse to work and stay in the US, and you can have little notice from CIS to prepare for it (averaging 7-30 days depending on the work load of the CIS office where you live and where your case is assigned). Remember throughout this process that you have rights and options:
- You can reschedule your interview at least once if you cannot make it for work, health or other unavoidable obligations and can document that. You must obviously inform immigration by at least sending back the interview notice via certified mail before your interview with the rescheduling request to prove the request.
If you are one of those couples that get invited back for a second interview (which can happen more if you appeared without an experienced attorney the first time since you likely did not know what documentation to provide the first time around), again it is wise to bring an experienced immigration attorney with you and it can be truly critical to do so at this stage. Usually couples are separated on the second interview, and asked a series of questions and the officer compares the couple’s answers. This interview is referred to as a “Stokes” interview and is usually conducted for suspected marriage fraud. Having an attorney present helps because this person, first and foremost, acts as a witness to what is happening so it’s not just your word against the officer’s.
- You have the right to have an attorney present at your green card interview. This is not required, but always advisable if you can afford it. Remember thought that not all immigration attorneys are the same; thoroughly interview and vet your attorney to make sure they understand the amount of documentation your have, can help you counter any challenges your case may have, and prepare you for what’s to come.
And, if you have a second interview, the officer is already questioning the bona fide nature of your relationship and is skeptical of your marriage.
This could be your last chance to refute any derogatory or questionable documentation or answers, especially if a notice of intent to deny is not issued, a step that CIS can skip altogether. A competent attorney can also ask for a supervisor or cut off an interview if inappropriate questioning occurs, which is so hard to tell when a couple goes into an interview alone, worried about where that line is. Is it ok to ask about the couple’s sex life? How much personal information can the officer ask about? How long should the interview, itself, be before a supervisor is brought in? How are officers allowed to talk to you?
An experienced attorney can also help clarify any legal issues or counter the officer if the officer is asking for documentation that is not required for an approval or may be particularly singling out one type of evidence and discounting all others.
If CIS claims that your session is being videotaped and later issues a denial relying on your testimony during the interview, you have a right to see that video tape.
- You do not have to submit all joint documentation of financial accounts you may have together; this is up to you. If the officer asks for a particular piece of information or documentation such as health insurance, which you wish to keep private or do not have, you have a right to not offer it.
You have the right to remain silent! Do not spill your guts. The officer may seem friendly and talkative. Many are great people. Don’t let down your guard. Ever heard of a person fishing for information? The officers are looking for signs of fraud and even if you think your case is easy and clean, you never know how an officer will interpret your comments. The more relaxed you feel, the likely more talkative you will become in your interview. Remember to listen exactly for what is being asked of you. Do not elaborate or go off on a tangent that you may not be prepared to answer questions that lead from that tangent. A competent attorney’s goal is to get you in an out of that interview as soon as possible with just the necessary information the officer needs. Green card interviews should generally not last more than 20 minutes.
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Attorney Heather L. Poole practices exclusively in the area of U.S. family-based immigration law and citizenship law. Heather is a nationally-published immigration author, frequent lecturer on immigration issues, and member & officer of the American Immigration Lawyers Association’s Southern California Chapter. For more information about Heather and the services offered, visit www.humanrightsattorney.com
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