If you are applying for a marriage-based visa through the procedure known as consular processing, you will eventually have to go to a U.S. embassy or consulate for an interview. Many applicants wonder if their U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse will need to attend the interview with them. This raises legal, practical, and strategic questions, as discussed below.
(Note: This article covers only interviews at U.S. embassies or consulates overseas. If you are applying for a marriage-based green card and will be interviewed inside the U.S., using the procedure known as adjustment of status, your spouse will have to attend the interview with you.)
In most cases, a spouse does not need to attend a consular interview. Since the purpose of the interview is to determine whether the applicant is eligible for a visa, there is no need for the petitioner (the U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident spouse, in the case of a marriage-based visa application) to attend as well. The U.S. spouse has already proven the legalities of the marriage relationship, in the course of obtaining an approved I-130 visa petition using USCIS Form I-130.
In addition, it is often difficult for the applicant’s spouse -- especially one who lives in the U.S. -- to travel to the consulate. However, any children who are at least 14 years old and are included in your application do have to attend the consular interview.
If you would like to bring your spouse with you to your interview, perhaps for emotional support, or for help in answering questions about financial matters (your spouse is, after all, required to serve as your financial sponsor), you are likely welcome to do so.
However, each consulate is generally free to determine its own rules and procedures. At some, due to limited space, a spouse will not be permitted to wait with the applicant in the waiting room. At other consulates, a spouse may be allowed to sit in on the interview. For information about the rules at the consulate where your interview will be held, visit the consulate’s website or contact it directly.
If your case presents any of certain types of complications or red flags, it may be helpful to have your U.S. spouse attend the consular interview, is possible.
If, for example, you were only recently married, then the interviewer will be seeking to determine whether there is any reason to believe that your marriage was entered into fraudulently, that is, for immigration purposes. While your spouse’s presence (or absence) should not be considered a major factor in either direction, it certainly cannot hurt for the interviewer to see that your spouse is there to support you. And if you arrive at the interview without your spouse, you may be asked to explain why he or she is not with you.
Questions like these are often asked as a way of gaining insight into the nature of your marriage. The interviewer may be looking to see if there is a “good” reason why your spouse is not there, such as travel difficulties or the need to stay home to take care of your young children. The interviewer may also have concerns about whether your spouse can meet the financial support requirements. If the interviewer suspects that your spouse could not afford to travel to the interview, this may increase the chances that your application will be delayed or denied.
In rare cases, consular officials may specifically ask that an applicant bring his or her spouse to the interview. This could be for any number of reasons, and may not be any cause for alarm. But if this happens in your case, realize that it is also possible that officials have some reason to suspect that your application contains false information about your spouse, or that your marriage is fraudulent (in which case you and your spouse will probably be interviewed separately). If your spouse has been asked to attend your interview, you may want to contact a lawyer to discuss whether there are potential problems with your application.
You (and your spouse) should remember that you are the one being interviewed. The consular officer will become concerned if it appears that your spouse is the only one who can or will provide information in your case. Your spouse should remain quiet unless the interviewer asks him or her a direct question.
If you have any questions about whether your spouse is expected to attend your interview, or whether your spouse will be allowed to accompany you, contact the consulate where your interview will be held. You can find links to U.S. embassy and consulate websites at USEmbassy.gov.