A U.S. citizen married to a foreign spouse can apply to have that spouse enter and stay in the U.S. on a green card. However, approval is not automatic. As part of a marriage-based green card application, the couple will need to convince the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that their marriage is genuine.
This article provides answers to common questions about green card marriage interviews. Information for consulting an immigration lawyer is also provided.
Q: What is a green card marriage interview?
When applying for a marriage-based green card, a U.S. citizen and his or her foreign spouse must submit to an interview with an immigration officer. The interview is a crucial part of the application process, as a green card will not be issued to a "spouse" in a fraudulent marriage. In fact, there may be fines and other penalties, including permanent refusal of entry into the U.S., imposed against those who attempt to deceive the USCIS by falsely claiming a legitimate marriage.
Q: How should I prepare for a green card marriage interview?
Make sure to keep all important documents and evidence and bring them to the interview. Useful evidence can include letters, photographs, emails, bills, and bank account statements (particularly those held jointly by both spouses), tax statements, and your marriage certificate. You should also bring your passports, birth certificates, and any visa or other immigration documents that you have.
During the interview, the USCIS officer will probably ask about the statements you previously provided in your application, so make sure to review everything you've submitted to ensure that your interview answers are consistent with your previous statements. If your situation has changed since the time you filed the application, be prepared to explain those changes.
Above all, be honest, not only during the interview, but in all aspects of your application. If you can't remember the answer to a question, just say so. Arrive early to minimize nervousness, and dress conservatively but comfortably. For additional green card interview tips, review this article.
Q: What is a "Stokes Interview?"
A Stokes interview, also known as a marriage fraud interview, serves as a second chance opportunity for a married couple to convince the USCIS that their marriage is genuine. Typically, if a couple is required to submit to a Stokes interview, it's because their first interview failed to sufficiently demonstrate the legitimacy of their marriage. The term comes from a 1975 court case that touched on the marriage interview process.
During a Stokes interview, the U.S. citizen and his foreign spouse are typically separated for individual questioning. Responses are recorded and analyzed for discrepancies. The questions may be extremely detailed and personal, and the interview may last for several hours or even longer.
If you've been directed by the USCIS to submit to a Stokes interview, you should take the matter seriously and consult an immigration attorney. The Stokes interview may be your final opportunity to show the USCIS that your marriage is genuine.
Q: Can I apply for a green card after entering the U.S. with a B-2 Visa?
A foreign spouse of a U.S. citizen may enter the U.S. on a B-2 visa (holiday or medical treatment visit) and apply for a green card during his or her stay. However, foreign nationals should avoid using a B-2 visa to enter the U.S. to marry. The USCIS may consider doing so to be misuse of a B-2 visa, and such a finding can have negative effects on a subsequent green card application.
Q: Can U.S. permanent residents obtain green cards for foreign spouses?
Yes, although there may be a long waiting period, and the process may be faster if the permanent resident becomes a U.S. citizen before applying for a green card for his or her spouse. Keep in mind that the USCIS will check that the spouse remained in lawful status during the green card application process. In other words, he or she cannot have been in the U.S. illegally, such as by staying despite having an expired nonimmigrant visa.
Need Help Preparing for a Green Card Marriage Interview? Talk to an Attorney
If you'll be applying for a marriage-based green card, then you should be prepared for an interview with the USCIS. It's a good idea to speak to a skilled immigration attorney who will be able to help you to understand the process and ensure that you have the best possible chance of having a successful interview.
Contact a qualified immigration attorney to help you with visa procedures.