Before coming to the interview, you need to make sure you collected all of the required documents. You need to bring proof of holding the green card (permanent resident) status, travel records such as a passport or USCIS-issued travel documents, then proof of current marital status and termination of your prior marriages, and similar. To ensure that your marriage is legit, the interviewing officer, a USCIS officer, or a consular officer trained for such marriage-based green card interviews will ask a set of questions. During this process, he or she will focus on your relationship’s history, daily activities as a married couple, your kids if you have any, your future plans, etc.
A typical citizenship interview lasts about 20 minutes, but the exact time frame varies by applicant. During that time, the interviewing officer asks relatively simple questions and is looking to assess whether the foreign spouse qualifies for a marriage-based green card addressing details surrounding the spouse’s entry to the United States and previous immigration history. You will be asked a set of questions and expected to answer honestly, directly, and briefly. You might not feel comfortable answering some questions because you cannot recall or don’t know the right answer. It would help if you remembered that it is always better, to be honest, and admit that you cannot think of the required specifics than trying to make something up in these cases. Putting in front of you simple questions about how and where the two of you met, the spouse’s birthday, who takes care of finance, the name of the spouse’s best friend, and similar, the USCIS officer will thoughtfully value the answers trying to understand your relationship. Get prepared and learn more about common interview questions. You may also deem the interview an opportunity to present additional evidence to prove your marriage’s authenticity that you haven’t filed along with your application, so be free to bring it with yourself, as well.
Usually, the same USCIS officers will interview you and your spouse. Still, you can expect no matter if your interview was scheduled at the same time, that officers will decide to talk separately with both of you. This way, the interviewing offices want to compare your questions and assess whether there were any discrepancies or if one of you told a lie. You can be interviewed either by different officers or by the same officer, but one at a time. When spouses are interviewed separately, it is called a “Stokes” interview. Officers from USCIS’ Fraud Detection and National Security unit (FDNS) mostly conduct these interviews. In this case, they will interview each spouse separately, and then the officer will compare the answers for inconsistencies. If you and your spouse have been questioned, there is still a chance to be called for a Stokes interview a second time if officers suspect your answers’ validity. You can also expect to be interviewed in Stokes format if there is a large age gap between you and your spouse, if your marriage is very short, or if the USCIS officer chooses to switch to a Stokes interview because new information has come up that they want to explore more.
To avoid any inconvenient feelings during the questioning or proceeding to the Stokes interview that can be demanding, you and your spouse should take preparation steps that will help you prepare your green card interview goes smoothly. For example, it would be good to sit down with your spouse, or have an extended phone call if one of you is in another country, and refresh your memories. This means that you should go over the key dates, holidays, and any other significant events in your relationship’s history, so both of you are sure that none of you will miss or interpret any details differently. Also, make sure that you collected all original documents of the copies you submitted to the government in your green card application package. It includes your passports, birth and marriage certificate, court records, and prior divorce documents if there are any previous marriages, as well as photos and other evidence of the authenticity of your marriage.
Moreover, as we mentioned previously, we strongly advise you to bring with yourself any additional documents that you haven’t submitted before for any reason and if you believe that now those could help you prove the authenticity of your marriage. Those can be the same items we mentioned: recent photos of you and your spouse, birth certificates of any children you have, joint income, recent joint bank account statements, tax returns, joint property documents, and similar.
Suppose you and your spouse live in different countries. In that case, you may consider including copies of travel itineraries for vacations you took together, particularly to the foreign spouse’s home country, so the officer can see that the two of you have visited each other regularly. Also, any copies of phone records showing you talk on the phone frequently can be valuable for your case. Before coming to the interview, make sure you organize all of your required documents neatly and correctly and place any photos in a chronological album.