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What Happens at a USCIS Interview?
Green Card (photo source: http://www.whicheb5.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/EB5-Visa-Conditional-Green-Card.jpg)
An AOS Interview, or an Adjustment of Status interview, is part of the process of obtaining Green Card or Permanent Residency status in the US. My application was based on marriage to a US citizen, so this is what this article will focus on.The basic purpose of the USCIS interview is as follows:
- To check you are who you say you are - your name, date of birth, nationality and other personal information.
- To check that your reasons for entering the US are genuine - for example, if you applied for a green card based on marriage, the interviewer will want to make sure your marriage is legitimate.
- To check that you are eligible to live in the US - for example, if you have committed any crimes or intend to take part in any questionable activities in the US.
Depending on your background and the information you include in your petition for an adjustment of status, the USCIS interview could be fairly intense or a stroll in the park. For example, if you are applying for an AOS based on marriage, the interview could get hairy if there is reason to doubt your marriage. This can happen when one party speaks no English, one party is significantly older than the other, or if there is no evidence that both parties live together or have met in person.
If, on the other hand, your reason to apply for an AOS is legitimate and you can prove it, you won't have too many problems in the interview room. Step-by-step, this is the USCIS interview process as it is most likely to go for the average person (that is, someone whose intentions are legitimate and legal and who has no criminal record or intentions and no prior visa issues):
- You'll receive a date, time and location for the interview. Be on time, but you should not arrive more than 30 minutes early.
- You will be searched on entering the building. It's really not smart to bring any weapons or suspicious items (nothing sharp or dangerous, and leave the weed at home) and electronics should be switched off. It's basically like airport security, but you hopefully won't be flying anywhere.
- You shouldn't have to wait long - usually these guys are on top of their schedules. You'll be taken to an office-style interview room (no interrogation rooms or anything!) and that's where the fun begins.
- First of all, the immigrant will probably be asked a few questions to prove his or her identity. Unless there's any reason to doubt you are who you say you are, you shouldn't have too much trouble with this. I was asked for:
-My full name, including my maiden name and any other names I used.
-My date of birth
-My town of birth
-Any other countries I had lived in
-My current address
- Once that's over, the immigrant will be asked standard questions about their criminal history. The trick here is to answer 'no' to every single question. As long as the honest answer is 'no', there should be no problems with this part. The questions you will be asked include:
-Have you ever engaged in prostitution or do you plan to in the future?
-Have you ever been part of a terrorist cell or any terrorist activity or do you intend to in the future?
-Have you ever been deported from the US?
-Have you ever entered the US illegally?
-Have you ever smuggled illegal substances over US borders?
-Have you ever been arrested?
So long as you can safely say no to any of the above, you should be on fairly safe ground.
- The next spate of questions will probably be directed at both the US citizen and the immigrant, assuming the AOS is sponsored by a US citizen (usually a spouse). My husband and I were given a comprehensive list of over 300 questions by our lawyer, but the ones we were asked, and the most common, were as follows:
-Where did you meet?
-When did you decide to get married?
-Why did you decide to get married?
-What are your plans for the future?
-What do you do for work?
-Have you met each others' parents?
-Have you taken any trips together?
-What do your parents think about your marriage?
-What do you enjoy doing together?
- If something doesn't seem to add up, there are dozens of more colourful questions on the list, including:
-How is the furniture laid out in your apartment?
-What food do you have in your fridge right now?
-How often does he/she call his/ her parents?
-When did you last have sex?
- Once you've had your personal life thoroughly invaded, the interviewer will request paper evidence that your relationship with the US citizen is valid. For a married couple, this usually includes:
-Joint lease and/or utilities
-Joint finances and bank account
-Joint loans, such as mortgage and car payments
-Correspondence and photographs.
We showed our checkbook, which was in both our names, and a photograph album (which you are advised to bring) with photos from the beginning of our relationship to the present day. Although the interviewer flicked through briefly, he did not study it in detail.
It's important to remember that a lot depends on the interviewer - some may be more thorough than others so it is best to have as much evidence as possible to hand.
- Once that's over and done with, the interviewer will probably inform you whether or not you have been awarded permanent resident status. I was congratulated and given a guide to being a permanent resident in the US to peruse. Following the interview, the Permanent Residency Card or Green Card will be sent in the mail and arrive in 2-4 weeks.
Each and every interview will vary, and many of the questions will be based on the specific circumstances of the immigrant. An AOS interview based on something other than marriage will be different in format than this. Depending on whether the immigrant has previously overstayed a visa or has entered the country illegally, the interview will probably be more complicated and may not result in a green card. In addition, if there is reason to doubt that a marriage is bona fide, there may me more questions and possibly even individual interviews for both parties. In general, though, an AOS interview will last about 30 minutes (ours lasted under 15) and there won't be too many tough questions.
For more information about the interview process, there are dozens of forums dedicated to the issue, and a bit of research will probably answer most questions. the USCIS website also has a lot of information worth knowing about the immigration process.