You may have seen a marriage-based immigration interview in movies and on TV. The movie, The Proposal, showed a scene in which an immigration officer questioned a couple about where and when they would marry – in essence, interviewed the couple before they were actually married. The popular TV show, Will and Grace, had a “green card wedding” involving the marriage of a gay man to a female friend to allow her to stay in the U.S. When the couple went to immigration, a gay officer interviewed them and felt that their marriage was not bona fide, but nonetheless approved their petition for the woman’s green card. You may be wondering what happens at a marriage-based green card Interview in real life?
Neither of these scenes are an accurate depiction of what actually happens when a person goes to an interview for a green card based on marriage. What does happen is that a couple has to show that their marriage is real, meaning that they have an intent to establish a life together, and the person applying for a green card has to show that they are allowed to become a resident.
Do I Have to Attend a Marriage-Based Immigration Interview?
If you and your spouse are filing for permanent residence based on marriage, and you are filing using the Adjustment of Status process, both of you will be required to attend an interview at your local USCIS office. If the U.S. citizen or Permanent Resident who is petitioning for their spouse does not attend the interview, the marriage-based petition may be denied.
What Happens at a Marriage-Based Immigration Interview?
A marriage-based interview occurs so that an immigration officer can make two determinations:
- Whether your marriage is real and not just for immigration purposes; and
- Whether the person applying for the green card is eligible to become a permanent resident of the United States
In determining whether the marriage is real, the immigration officer will request documents that show that you and your spouse have a legally valid marriage and that you live together. A legally valid marriage can occur in the United States or in another country –either way, the marriage must have been legally valid in the place where it occurred. The officer will also ask the couple questions about their relationship and each other’s personal information.
To make a determination about whether the spouse applying for a green card is eligible, the officer will review information submitted and ask questions about how the person entered the United States, any travel in and out of the United States, their criminal history, any prior immigration applications, immigration court cases, and other requirements.
Do I Need a Lawyer at My Marriage-Based Green Card Interview?
The decision to have a lawyer representing you at your interview is up to you. You are not required to have a lawyer at your interview.However, having a knowledgeable immigration lawyer prepare you for your interview and attend with you can help you to avoid problems with your marriage and immigration issues.
Your attorney can suggest documents and evidence that you can take to the interview, which may help avoid delays in processing your case. Your attorney can also make notes about what takes place in your interview, so if your responses to questions are in dispute or there is confusion regarding the facts of your case, your attorney can help to explain your situation or clarify legal issues.
Having an attorney on the record in your case also means that your lawyer should receive copies of correspondence about your case. If your case is not approved at interview, future case notices should be sent to both you and your attorney. Your attorney can also follow up on the status of your case after interview.
What If the Immigration Officer Doesn’t Believe My Marriage Is Real?
If an interviewing officer does not believe your marriage is real – that you and your spouse married only for purposes of getting a green card – you may be separated and questioned about your marriage. If this occurs, the officer will compare your answers to questions. If your answers differ, or the Officer still requires information for your case you may later be issued a Request for Evidence or Notice of Intent to Deny your marriage-based petition.
Alternatively, after your interview is over, Homeland Security Investigations officers may come to your home to interview you and your spouse and determine if it appears that you are living together. A Notice of Intent to Deny may still be issued after a site visit.
If you receive a Notice of Intent to Deny, or ICE Homeland Security Investigations officers visit your home, your case may remain pending for several more months before any action is taken.
What If My Marriage-Based Green Card Application Is Denied?
It depends on the reason your application was denied.
If the marriage-based petition is denied, your application for the green card will also be denied – the application is dependent on the marriage-based petition being approved. If this happens, it is important to talk to an experienced immigration lawyer about your options. Among other options, you may choose to re-file your case with additional evidence.
If your marriage-based petition is approved, but the interviewing officer determines that you are not eligible to become a resident, your application for a green card will be denied. If this happens, you may choose to re-file your application, or you may receive a Notice to Appear in immigration court, where you may be able to apply for your green card before an immigration judge.
Can I Be Arrested at My Marriage-Based Green Card Interview?
Yes, you can. However, you may also be taken into ICE custody (or criminal custody) at your interview. Why would this happen?
- You could be taken into ICE custody if you have a criminal history that makes you deportable from the United States.
- You also could be detained by ICE if you have a prior deportation order against you.
- You could be taken into criminal custody if you have an outstanding warrant for your arrest
What Should I Do If My Spouse and I Want to File a Marriage-Based Green Card Case?
If you and your spouse want to file a marriage-based green card case, talk to a specialized immigration lawyer so you can determine that you are eligible to become a permanent resident before you file, and you know what to expect during your marriage-based green card interview. An experienced immigration lawyer can also represent you during the interview and help with follow up if your case is not approved at interview.
If you and your spouse are thinking of filing a marriage-based green card application, consult with a specialized immigration lawyer so you know what to expect.