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How to Prepare for a Green Card Interview

By Thomas M Lee

Ever since I began practicing immigration law in 2000, I have used the same methodology in preparing my countless clients for their green card / adjustment of status interviews. First impressions are truly important during any interview with the USCIS. A key to making that important first impression is thoughtful organization of your supporting documents. Many USCIS adjudicating officers have complimented me on how I prepare my clients for their interviews and tell me terrible nightmare stories for those who come to their interviews unprepared. In particular, the USCIS officers tend to disfavor the unprepared - those who bring their documents in a disorganized fashion piled randomly in a shopping bag. This is because the unprepared interviewees take the longest amount of time when they are asked to show their documents, causing needless delay to the process by fishing through a haystack of papers to find the all important needle. Testing the patience of a USCIS officer who has to go through an entire day of 10 or more interviews in a day benefits no one.

Organize your documents in labelled manila folders:

The typical green card interview involves cases where a U.S. citizen seeks to sponsor their spouse. If the marriage is less than 2 years old at the time the green card application is filed, the law presumes that the marriage is fraudulent and places the burden of proving the marriage is bona fide on the petitioner and their spouse. Hence, organization is imperative as it shows preparation and transparency. The organization of the documents should be focused and organized in 3 major groups: (1) documents about the beneficiary, such as their passport, visa, I-20, divorce records, birth certificate, and marriage certificate; (2) documents about the petitioner, such as evidence of their U.S. citizenship, divorce records, and 3 years of tax returns with paystubs and a job letter; and (3) evidence of living a shared life together (such as an apartment lease agreement / grant deed, bank account statements, utility bills, cell phone bills, credit card statements, health and life insurance, auto insurance, DMV registration(s), and other applicable records. Note, it is a good idea to bring as many of each of the documents rather than just one. For example, don't just bring the recent bank account statement, bring as many of them that you have. All of these documents should be kept in their own labelled manila folder as pictured below:

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Originals on the Left and Copies on the Right

USCIS officers want to examine original or certified copies of relevant documents, such as marriage and birth certificates along with passports, and then have a copy for their file. When an interviewee does not provide copies of their documents, this will force the USCIS officer to get up from their desk, walk down to the copier, and return with a copy, inevitably causing more needless delay and possibly annoying the officer. Hence, it is advisable to organize each folder such that the original document is clipped on the left side and a copy clipped on the right as pictured below:

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Use Binder Clips, NOT Paper Clips

Paper clips are simply not strong enough to hold on to thick documents such as passports, and they tend to slip off or get stuck to other folders. Binder clips are preferred because they are stronger and help keep your documents in place

Photo Albums

Photo albums need to be traditional and focus on the relationship. In order words, print out your digital photos on 5X7 or 6X4 photo paper and put them into a bulky scrapbook album. The USCIS will not accept a CD or thumbdrive of your 10,000 plus photos. Plus, keep your pictures G-rated. Finally, make sure your pictures belong in a photo album worthy of keeping as a cherished memory. Pictures of you and your spouse watching TV at home have zero value compared to pictures taken during trips, in front of landmarks, and with extended families and friends at various parties and occasions.

Final Thoughts

Most important of all is to be yourself and nothing more. If you and your spouse are not into having public displays of affection, there is no need to do it at the interview. Remember, the USCIS officers expect you to be nervous, but most of all, honest. If you are nervous and can't remember the date your spouse was born or when you were married, say so! It is 1,000 times better to say "I can't remember because I am nervous" than making up a date as that will be seen as perjury. Lying to a USCIS officer could lead to not only a denial of your green card, but also being placed into removal / deportation proceedings. However, being truthful and open will often be appreciated by the USCIS officers and likely lead to favorable results.

Please note that the information provided on this website is for general information purposes only and is not to be construed nor relied upon as legal advice nor the formation of an attorney-client relationship. For a free consultation with Attorney Thomas M. Lee, please contact us.