How To Prepare For Your Family-Based Green Card Interview

Apr 11, 2024 | Immigration

Being granted a green card in the United States, which allows an individual to live here legally and permanently, can open the door to a host of opportunities for an immigrant. They will have the right to live, work, seek education, and travel more freely, as well as start down the path to naturalized citizenship. Some people spend their whole lives working toward the goal of a green card in order to take advantage of the professional prospects and safety that the United States of America can provide.

Family-based green cards make up the largest number of green cards granted each year, but the journey to approval is an incredibly complex legal process which involves an immense amount of paperwork and documentation. Petitioners (applicants) and their sponsors (the citizen or permanent resident they are related to) will also be subjected to an interview by a USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) agent as part of their application process. Each interview type has its own unique requirements and focus areas, making thorough preparation essential for success. 

In this blog, we’ll explore how you can effectively prepare for a family-based green card interview and help you understand the process a bit better to put you in the best possible position for being approved!

Immediate Relative And Family Preference-Based Green Card Interviews

Family-based green cards are divided by two distinctions: immediate relatives, which have special immigration priority, and family preference, which are granted in a limited capacity. The immediate relative categories are as follows: IR1 (spouse of a U.S. citizen), IR2 (unmarried child of a U.S. citizen who is under the age of 21), IR3 (orphan adopted abroad by a U.S. citizen), IR4 (orphan to be adopted in the U.S. by a citizen), and IR5 (parent of a U.S. citizen who is 21 or older).

There are 5 categories of family preference green cards which range from highest preference to lowest; they are F1 (unmarried adult children of U.S. citizens who are 21 or older), F2A (spouses and unmarried children of permanent residents who are under 21), F2B (unmarried adult children of permanent residents), F3 (married children of U.S. citizens of all ages), and F4 (siblings of adult U.S. citizens). 

If both the petitioner and their sponsor are living in the U.S. already, they will likely both be required to attend the interview, in order to establish whether they are both eligible and determine whether the information provided in the forms and evidentiary documents are valid. This interview will happen at the specified time, date, and location provided to them by the USCIS. For petitioners living outside the U.S., their interview will happen at the specified time, date, and location provided to them by the Embassy or Consulate that processes application in their native country. 

The following documents will be required at the interview:

  • The original appointment notice from the USCIS
  • Identification documents, such as passports and government-issued IDs
  • Immigration forms and petition-related documents
  • Marriage certificates (if applicable)
  • Birth certificates 
  • Adoption decrees
  • Evidence of bona fide relationships
  • Financial documents
  • Immigration history and legal documents
  • Medical exam results, and
  • Any additional documents requested by USCIS relevant to the specific case.

The questions that may be asked in the interview will depend on the nature of the relationship between the petitioner and their sponsor. But generally, the officer may ask:

  • About the relationship between the petitioner and sponsor
  • The date of birth and current address of the petitioner and sponsor
  • How often the petitioner and sponsor communicate, and in what way (phone, email, letters, etc.)
  • Details about about other family members, like parents or siblings
  • If either has visited the other in the past
  • If either has lived together in the past
  • What family traditions or cultural practices that are integral to the family
  • And more.

Marriage-Based Green Card Interviews

This green card is a specific type of family-based green card, and is for those who are legally married to another green card holder, or to a United States citizen. Because it is common for people to commit immigration fraud through marriage, the process is much more in-depth than other family-based categories, but still quite similar. 

For spouses living together in the U.S., both of them are required to attend the interview at the specified time, date, and location provided to them by the USCIS; for spouses living abroad, the applicant alone will attend their interview at the specified time, date, and location provided to them by the Embassy or Consulate that processes application in their native country. 

To prepare for the interview, it is recommended that both spouses discuss (either in person or on the phone) and refresh themselves on the key dates and events in the history of their relationship. Additionally, they’ll need to collect as many documents as necessary that can further prove the authenticity of the marriage, as well as the original documents that were submitted in the application package, including:

  • Passports
  • Birth certificates
  • Marriage certificate
  • Court records
  • Prior divorce documents
  • Recent photos together
  • Birth certificates of shared children 
  • Joint income tax returns
  • Recent joint bank account statements
  • Joint property documents
  • Joint insurance documents
  • Copies of travel itineraries of vacations taken together 
  • Phone records proving communication
  • And more.

The questions that may be asked at the interview are likely to be intimately personal, so it’s especially important to be ready for this. Some example questions include:

  • How and where did you meet?
  • Where was your first date?
  • When did you marry?
  • Where did your wedding take place?
  • Who were the bridesmaids and groomsmen?
  • Where did you go for your honeymoon?
  • How many rooms does your house have?
  • What does your daily routine look like?
  • Who takes care of the finances? 
  • And more. 

The most important things to do in the interview are to be honest and open (no marriage is perfect, so it’s okay to tell the truth about the ups and downs), be punctual, and remain composed. 

Ortega Law Group Is Here To Help You Navigate Your Green Card Journey With Success

As a final tip, many people don’t know that they have a right to bring an immigration attorney to their green card interview! Having legal representation present can be beneficial in ensuring that your rights are protected, providing guidance on answering questions, and advocating on your behalf if any issues arise during the interview. 

Even if you are not at the interview phase of your green card journey, our skilled and experienced green card lawyer, Isaac Ortega, can put you in the best position for being approved. We have helped hundreds of clients in a variety of immigration matters and are seasoned in the nuances of the USCIS. Call today to schedule your free initial consultation and learn more about how we can serve you!

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