If you have applied for a green card based on marriage, and are eligible to do your entire application process in the U.S., then a few months after submitting your adjustment of status packet to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the agency will schedule your interview. It will be held at one of its local offices, hopefully near where you live.
If the interview goes well -- your marriage is obviously the real thing, you do not fall into any of the grounds for inadmissibility, and your documents are in order -- the interview can take as little as 20 minutes, and result in an approval for a green card. You will be approved for either permanent residence or, if you have been married for less than two years or entered the United States on a fiancé visa, what's called conditional residence (which expires in two years unless you take steps to convert it to permanent residency).
The appointment notice will look much like the one below. Read the notice carefully. Your local USCIS office may have added new or different requirements.
Here’s what will probably happen at your adjustment of status interview, step by step.
1. You will need to pass through a security gate and metal detector. The guards will ask to see your appointment notice. You will not be allowed to bring any weapons, food or drink, cameras (including camera phones) into the building.
2. After sitting in the waiting room with dozens of other couples for so long that you’re sure you have been long forgotten, you will be summoned to the inner rooms of the USCIS adjustments unit.
3. The USCIS officer will lead you to his or her desk and check your identification. Just when you are seated comfortably, you, your spouse, and your foreign language interpreter (if you have brought one) will have to stand up again, raise your right hands, and take oaths to tell the truth. The officer will ask to see all of the immigrating family's passports and travel documents, work permits (if any), Social Security cards (if any), and driver’s licenses (if any). The officer will also want to see documents from the petitioning spouse, such as a driver’s license, Social Security card (if available), and proof of legal U.S. immigration status (such as a green card or U.S. passport).
4. The officer will start by going through your written application for adjustment of status, asking about the facts and examining the medical and fingerprint reports for factors that might make you ineligible for a green card. This is one of the most important parts of the interview. You will sign the application to confirm its correctness.
5. The officer will ask you and your spouse about your married life, such as where you met, when and why you decided to get married, how many people attended your wedding, or what you did on your most recent holiday celebration. You will back up your answers with documents showing the genuine nature of your marriage, such as mortgage or rental agreements, joint credit cards, and joint utility bills.
6. If the officer spots a problem in your application that you can correct by submitting additional materials, he or she will likely put your case on hold and send you home with a list of documents to send in by mail within a specified time. For example, if your spouse’s earnings are insufficient to get past the U.S. Poverty Guidelines, the officer may suggest you find another family member to sign an Affidavit of Support. It's rare for USCIS to deny an application on the spot.
7. If the officer suspects that your marriage is fraudulent, however -- just a sham to get you a green card -- he or she will add a whole new step to the process. You will have to meet the Fraud Unit. There, officers will interview you and your spouse separately and intensively, asking mostly the same questions of each of you. The officer will compare the results of your two interviews.
Who gets called in for fraud interviews? It's not only the couples faking a marriage. Some couples whose personal characteristics or living situations raise red flags in the eyes of USCIS might have to go through this as well. USCIS is on the lookout for couples who, for example, do not seem to share a common language; have large differences in their age, religion, class, cultural, or educational background; or do not live together, at the same address.
At the end of the adjustment of status interview, if you are approved, you will be given a letter stating so. The letter is just for your records and cannot be used like a green card, and definitely not to travel in and out of the United States. Several weeks later, however, your actual green card will arrive by mail. If you receive conditional residence, you will have to file an application about 21 months from your approval date in order to progress to permanent residency.