The marriage interview is the ultimate test from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services when a foreign national resides in the U.S. and is seeking to change status to Legal Permanent Resident, a.k.a. “Green Card holder.”
It is important to always make a good impression by dressing well, being amicable and respond clearly and solely to the questions that the officer asks you.
An officer will interview you and your spouse separately. The US citizen is usually interviewed first. The officer will ask identical or similar questions and then he/she will compare the results of both interviews. If the officer suspects marriage fraud, he/she will keep asking more probative questions until you or your spouse make a mistake or confess to marriage fraud or finally convinces the officer the marriage is bona fide, i.e. real.
If your marriage is fraudulent, no matter how much you may prepare or memorize answers and dates, it can be difficult to answer some obvious and simple questions.
At times when the interviewer truly believes the marriage is fraudulent, he/she may apply harsher tactics during the interview. For example, the officer might falsely state to the foreign national that the spouse has already confessed to marriage fraud. This tactic is used to obtain a real confession from the foreign national. The officer might further intimidate you by reminding you that a finding of marriage fraud is subject to monetary fines and incarceration. In the alternative the officer might ask the US citizen spouse to withdraw the visa application (I-130, Petition for Alien Relative).
It is important to remember that some officers may be kind and helpful while others may be rude or hostile. Do not get angry, argumentative or aggressive under any circumstance! You must honestly and respectfully answer all of the officer’s questions. If you momentarily forget a date or event do not panic and relate to the officer that you cannot recall at the moment since you are very nervous. You should never guess or lie!
If you are living separately from your spouse because one of you is in school, you must bring school transcripts and copies of documents showing that you often call or visit one another. If you are temporarily separated, you should bring a letter from your marriage counselor or religious advisor stating that you are undergoing marriage counseling on a regular basis because you are both committed to resolving your marital issues since you are a loving couple.
If you have a step-child with your spouse, you must bring copies of documents that demonstrate your relationship with them, e.g. authorization letter from school, stating the parental rights.
Many times the officer cannot make a decision at the end of the interview and may ask for additional documents or for additional time to send a decision via mail. Therefore, it is paramount to write down the officer’s name at the beginning of the interview. The officer usually states his/her name at the beginning of the interview, if he/she does not introduce himself/herself you should look for the name on the desk or office door. It is useful to write down the name in case you need to follow-up with the officer, discuss the matter with a supervisor or consult an attorney.
Please see below a list of possible questions you may be asked during your marriage interview. Note this is not an exhaustive list of all the questions that may be asked.
SAMPLE INTERVIEW QUESTIONS
1. What is your spouse full name?
2. What is your spouse’s birthday?
3. What is your current address?
Courtship and Dating Questions
4. When did you meet?
5. Where did you meet?
6. When did you first meet in person?
7. Who introduced you to each other?
8. How did you meet?
9. How long did you talk?
10. What happened after?
11. How often did you talk to each other over the phone after you initially met?
12. How often did you see each other after you met?
13. How soon after you met did you start dating?
14. How often did you go out?
15. How often did you talk on the phone?
16. Give us examples of restaurants you went to?
17. Give us examples of some movies you watched together?
18. Did you ever travel out of town while you were dating?
19. Where did you go?
20. How did you decide on getting married?
21. When did he propose?
22. Where did he propose?
23. Did he give you a ring?
24. Where did you buy the ring?
25. How did he propose?
26. What is your date of marriage?
27. Did you get married in Court or in Church or both?
28. Which Court did you go to?
29. Around what time was the Court wedding?
30. How many people where with you in Court?
31. What did you do after you got married in Court?
32. Did you eat out after you got married in Court?
33. Where did you eat?
34. Who were with you at the restaurant?
35. Which Church did you go to?
36. Around what time was the Church wedding?
37. How did you get to the Church?
38. How many people attended the Church wedding?
39. Did you have a reception?
40. Where was the reception?
41. Around what time was the reception?
42. Around how many people were in the reception?
43. Have you met your spouse’s parents?
44. What are their names?
45. When did you first meet your spouse’s parents?
46. Where did you first meet them?
47. How many brothers and sisters does your spouse have?
48. Have you met your spouse’s brothers and sisters?
49. When did you first meet your spouse’s brothers and sisters?
50. Where did you first meet your spouse’s brothers and sisters?
51. Does your spouse have any kids?
52. What are their names?
53. Where do they live?
54. Where do they go to school?
55. Who takes them to school?
56. How do they go to school?
57. How old are the kids?
58. When was the last time you saw her parents?
59. What was the occasion?
60. When was the last time you saw her brothers and sisters?
61. What was the occasion?
62. Where does your spouse work?
63. What does your spouse do?
64. What are your spouse’s hours at work?
65. What is your spouse’s salary?
66. How does your spouse get to work?
67. What is your spouse’s position at work?
68. Does your spouse drive, take the subway, bus, or walk to work?
69. Which bus does your spouse take?
70. Which subway does your spouse take?
71. Which subway station does your spouse go to for work?
72. Which subway station does your spouse get off at?
73. How long does it take for your spouse to get to work?
74. How many days per week does your spouse work?
75. What days are they?
76. Do you live in a house or apartment?
77. How may bedrooms in the apartment/house?
78. How many bathrooms in the apartment/house?
79. What did you do for Christmas, or Thanksgiving, or 4th of July Weekend, Labor Day Weekend, Memorial Day Weekend etc.?
80. What did you do for her/his birthday?
81. Did you give her/him a gift for her/his birthday?
82. What gift did you give her/him?
83. Did you give her/him a gift for Christmas?
84. What gift did you give her/him?
85. Did you eat together last night?
86. What time did you eat?
87. What did you eat?
88. Did you sleep together last night?
89. What time did you sleep?
90. What did you do last weekend?
91. Was there any point in your marriage where you did not live together?
92. How long a period was this?
93. What was the reason for not living together for that period?
94. Where did your spouse live during that period?
95. What address?
96. Does your spouse have tattoos?
97. How many tattoos?
98. Where are they located?
99. Does your spouse have criminal records that you know of?
100. What are they?
101. When did they occur?
102. Where did they occur?
103. Did your spouse get hospitalized over the past year?
105. Which hospital did he go to?
THE MOMENT OF TRUTH: THE GREEN CARD INTERVIEW
Romeo and Juliet, the ultimate love story tale of romance, Romeo and Juliet, speaks of an impossible love between two teenagers who meet on Sunday, marry on Tuesday, and die for their love on Thursday. Their story is known across the globe as the perfect example of love at first sight!
Nevertheless, an US immigration officer would have probably considered young Romeo’s and Juliet’s wedding to be a sham. This is because:
- They barely knew each other;
- There was really no time for courting apart from a brief serenade on the night of their first encounter;
- Their families did not approve of the marriage and the marriage was conducted in secret;
- After the wedding, Romeo and Juliet continued to live apart. In fact, Romeo was even banned from Verona;
- The couple did not commingle funds;
- There was no paperwork with both names on it or any ‘family portraits’; and
- The legal validity of their marriage would have been questioned due to their age.
Thus, this epic love story that to this day is equated with true love or love at first sight would have had a woeful end if it had been subjected to the scrutiny of a Green Card Interview. The Immigration Officer is tasked with evaluating paperwork, pictures and answers that document the length, duration and veracity of the relationship. The officer does not care whether the couple is truly in love. The officer only cares about whether the couple has submitted sufficient evidence to demonstrate that the couple did not get married simply to circumvent US immigration laws.
Watching the movie ‘Green Card’ with Gerard De Pardieu won’t help you. If you entered a sham marriage or if you fail to provide the right evidence, the officer will deny your Green Card.
GREEN CARD THROUGH MARRIAGE
A fraudulent marriage to a US citizen, i.e. a marriage entered solely to obtain an immigration benefit, is unlawful. Despite the fact that only the actual couple can know the intention behind their marriage, the officers at USCIS will determine the veracity of the marriage on several factors. There are many situations that can lead an officer to suspect that the marriage is fraudulent such as: a couple living in different households, marrying a few months after meeting, difficulty in communicating with one another due to language barriers, coming from extremely different backgrounds, and not knowing each other’s parents etc.
Nevertheless, there are also multiple evidence that tend to prove that the marriage is bona fide such as: birth certificates of children born of the marriage, staying in the same house, commingling of finances, joint property ownership etc.
In addition, marriage to the US citizen must itself be valid, meaning that the couple was legally able to get married. For example, if either person had been previously married, a legally valid divorce must have since taken place. The actual ceremony must also be legally recognized in the country where it was performed. This means that a tribal marriage would be valid in the US if the country where it took place recognizes it as lawful and binding. The couple must also be of legal age to get married. Proxy marriages are not recognized by the Department of Homeland Security.
The marriage must still exist at the time the Green Card petition is filed. Thus, a former marriage to a U.S. citizen does not qualify to apply for a Green Card. While a marriage can remain in existence despite the physical separation of the couple, more serious arrangements, such as the execution of a legal separation of the couple, do tend to generate substantial obstacles to immigration. It is also important to remember that if the marriage took place within the two years after permanent resident status is obtained, the marriage terminates or is discovered to have been a “sham,” the grant of permanent resident will be revoked. Conditional permanent residence grants the same privileges of a permanent residence with the exception that it is only valid for two years. Before the expiration of the two years provisional Green Card, the foreign national will need to file a petition with USCIS to remove the conditions on residence. This means that the couple will need to submit evidence showing that they are still married and living together. If the marriage terminated during the two years of conditional residence, the foreign national may still obtain a permanent Green Card if he/she qualifies for a waiver.
**** It is important to note that foreign nationals that entered the US unlawfully, usually by crossing the border are not eligible to obtain a Green Card within the US. In fact, the foreign national spouse will need to qualify for a I-601A, Waiver to waive his/her unlawful presence in the US. To qualify for the waiver the US citizen spouse will need to demonstrate to USCIS that he/she will suffer extreme and undue hardship if their spouse cannot obtain a Green Card and he/she will need to relocate to the spouse’s foreign country.