After you file the Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status Form I-485, some months later you will be scheduled to meet with a USCIS immigration officer for an interview. Some people are nervous about attending the interview for fear that the officer may decide to deny the application. Being nervous may be a result of uncertainty of what to expect. Therefore, this article explains the USCIS interview process in greater detail so that you can know what to expect and be prepared.
What is the purpose of the USCIS interview?
Some employment based applicants wait several years before an interview although the vast majority of EB applicants are never interviewed. During the interview, you will be asked questions designed to determine whether or not you are qualified to adjust status to permanent residence (green card) according to the requirements of the particular immigrant category for which you are applying. For example, if you are applying for residency based upon marriage to a US citizen, the USCIS officer will ask questions to see if your marriage is indeed bona fide and genuine as required by law. If your application is employment based, the officer will ask questions to see if you meet the qualifications necessary for that immigration category. It is important to know going into the interview the requirements for your particular immigrant category so that you can provide satisfactory answers.
What should I expect when I arrive?
This interview will likely take place at your local USCIS office. Once you arrive, the first thing you will do is to pass through a security checkpoint that is similar to security checkpoints at the airport. You may be asked to show identification, pass through a metal detector, and turn off any electronic devices. Obviously, you should not bring any weapons or other suspicious items with you. Once you clear security, you will be asked wait in a waiting room, probably with several other foreign nationals who also have interviews. Although the interview may start on time, it is common for interviews to start late, so bring something to read or otherwise occupy your time.
Who will conduct the interview?
You will meet with a USCIS officer in his or her office where the meeting will take place. The interview normally takes about an hour, but can take longer. At the beginning of the interview you will be asked to raise your right hand and take an oath to swear to tell the truth. Lying during the interview can be considered perjury, so tell the truth. The entire video and audio of the interview will be recorded.
Should I bring someone with me?
If your I-485 application is based on a family relationship, the family member who sponsored you must be present to testify, so be sure to bring that person with you. It may be helpful to bring a copy of your I-485 application package with you to the interview in case something in your original package was lost, or in case you want to refer to something in your application. Although it is unlikely, the officer may ask to see original documents or photographs.
What about petitions based on marriage?
If your application is based upon marriage to a US citizen or US permanent resident, the officer may interview you and your spouse separately. The purpose for this is so that the officer may determine whether your marriage is a bona fide real marriage, or a sham marriage only for the purpose of obtaining an immigration benefit. The officer will then compare the answers that each of you gave to see if they match. If you are separated during the interview, the officer will ask each of these same set of questions about various aspects of your life together, such as how and when you both met each other, your history together, what foods you eat, what items are in the household, what you both do during the day, what you did yesterday, where you work, and so on. It's difficult to predict exactly what questions will be asked since it depends upon the individual officer.
What happens at the end of the interview?
The interview may result in one of several possible outcomes. If the officer is satisfied with the evidence submitted with your application and with your testimony, the officer may issue an approval after the interview. If the officer needs additional documentation, you may be given a request for more evidence with the deadline to respond. If the officer discovers a serious problem with your case, you may be issued a Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID), which will give you a chance to cure the problem before a deadline of usually 30 days. If your case has a problem that the officer believes cannot be overcome, you may be issued a denial.
Should I bring an attorney with me to the interview?
It is fairly common for immigration applicants to bring an attorney with them to the interview. An attorney can take notes, observe the interview, determine whether a question is appropriate or relevant, and possibly help you in the event you misunderstand the officer's question and give an incorrect answer. Many applicants do just fine without having an attorney present. However, one reason for this may be that a case that was filed by an attorney should have all of the evidence necessary for approval and then some.