What to Expect at Your Family-Based Adjustment of Status Interview

Preparing yourself for the questions and requirements at your U.S. green card interview.

By , J.D. · University of Washington School of Law

After you send your family-based adjustment of status application packet to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the agency is likely to eventually schedule you for an in-person interview (though it occasionally waives this requirement in straightforward cases). The interview will take place at one of USCIS's local offices, hopefully near where you live.

Below, you'll find more information on:

  • how soon the USCIS adjustment interview will be
  • what to bring to your adjustment of status interview
  • whether you'll need to bring a foreign language interpreter
  • what the USCIS examiner will do during the adjustment interview, and
  • when it makes sense to hire an attorney to assist and accompany you to your adjustment of status interview.

When Will Your Adjustment of Status Interview Be Scheduled For?

In the best of times, the USCIS adjustment interview can take many months to schedule. And delays of well over a year are not uncommon (as of early 2024).

To get an idea of the wait times in your area, go to the USCIS Check Processing Times page and, from the drop-down menus, choose "I-485" then "family-based adjustment applications" and then the city in which your local USCIS office is (the one that will likely hold your interview).

After you click "Get processing time," you'll be told the average number of months that applicants are currently waiting for their interviews. Of course, the length of the wait could change by the time your application is in line.

What and Who to Bring to the USCIS Adjustment of Status Interview

The USCIS appointment notice will tell you what you must bring, so read it carefully for details. For example, you will be asked to bring a photo identity card, such as a driver's license, and all travel documents (such as advance parole).

You'll want to bring your own copies of documents you've sent to USCIS as well, for reference. And bring any originals that you sent copies of earlier, so that the USCIC examiner can verify their authenticity. For further detail (especially if yours is a marriage-based case) read Documents to Bring to Your Marriage-Based Adjustment of Status Interview.

Also take not of WHO the USCIS appointment notice says to bring to the interview—your U.S. petitioner might or might not be required to attend (but definitely will if it's a marriage-based case). You can bring an attorney to represent you, if you wish. You, not your attorney, will have to answer the questions, however. Your attorney's role will simply be to discuss any legal issues, provide moral support, and perhaps clear up procedural misunderstandings.

Uncomfortable Speaking English? Bring an Interpreter

USCIS does not provide interpreters at adjustment of status interviews in the United States. A few of its officers speak Spanish or some other language, but you cannot count on getting a bilingual officer, nor can you request one.

If you're unsure of your ability to understand questions and express yourself in English, by all means bring a friend or hire a professional interpreter to help. Even if your petitioning U.S. family member is capable of interpreting for you, the USCIS officer might not allow this, particularly in a marriage-based case. Having all questions go through the same person reduces the USCIS officer's ability to compare both members of the couple's answers and to detect marriage frauds.

The interpreter must be over the age of 18 and fluent in both your language and in English. Some USCIS officers also require that the interpreter be a legal resident or citizen of the United States. (Of course, a person in the U.S. illegally would be taking a huge risk by walking into a USCIS office.) Also see Rules for Bringing Interpreters to Immigration (USCIS) Interviews.

What the USCIS Officer Will Do and Say at the Adjustment Interview

Thousands of different immigrating family members are normally interviewed each day across the United States. Regardless, these interviews tend to follow a pattern. Here's what will probably happen at yours.

  1. You will arrive at the federal building housing the USCIS office, show your appointment notice and photo identity document to a security guard, and pass through a metal detector and other security checks. (Be sure to allow extra time for this.)
  2. You will proceed to the waiting room and turn your appointment notice in to a reception desk. There, you will wait. Your interview might not happen at the time on your notice—USCIS often books several people for the same time. That does not mean, however, that you should arrive late, which could result in your not being interviewed that day at all. At last, you will be summoned to the inner rooms of the USCIS adjustment unit.
  3. A USCIS officer will walk you to a desk and check your identification. Follow the officer's instructions carefully on whether you should sit down. Even if you are asked to sit, the officer will soon ask you to stand up, raise your right hand, and take an oath to tell the truth. The officer will ask to see all of your passports and travel documents, your USCIS work permit (employment authorization document or EAD, if you have one), your Social Security card (if you have one), and your driver's license (if you have one). The USCIS officer will also want to see documents from your petitioning U.S. family member, such as a driver's license, Social Security card (if available), and proof of legal U.S. immigration status.
  4. The USCIS officer will ask, or you should offer, documents to update the application. If, for example, the immigrant has found a new job since getting a work permit, bring proof of that employment (pay stubs or an employer letter), to help clear the "public charge" hurdle to obtaining a green card. Or if the immigrant has been arrested for a crime, documentation of that needs to be presented (though in such a case, you'll definitely want to hire an attorney, as well).
  5. The officer will start by going through your written application, asking you about the facts and examining the medical and fingerprint reports, looking for any factors that might make you inadmissible or ineligible for a green card. This is a vitally important part of the interview. You will sign the Form I-485 application to confirm that the information within it is correct to the best of your knowledge.
  6. For couples applying based on marriage only: The USCIS officer will ask you and your spouse to answer questions about your married life. These questions will start out fairly polite, regarding things like where you met, when and why you decided to get married, how many people came to your wedding, what you did on your most recent birthday or holiday, and so on. The purpose is to prove that your marriage is the real thing, not a sham to get you a green card. Practice ahead of time! You will need to also supply copies of documents that illustrate the genuine or bona fide nature of your marriage, such as rental agreements and joint utility bills. If the officer suspects that your marriage is fraudulent, a whole added step will be incorporated into the process. You and your spouse will need to meet the Fraud Unit, and have what's sometimes called a "Stokes interview." An officer will interview each of you separately and intensively, then compare the results of your two interviews, looking for discrepancies and signs that you have not really established a life together.
  7. If a problem is revealed in your application that you can potentially correct by submitting additional materials, the officer might put your case on hold and send you home with a list of documents to submit by mail by a certain deadline. For example, if your U.S. petitioner's earnings are insufficient to support you, the officer might suggest you find another family member to sign an Affidavit of Support (Form I-864). It's rare for USCIS to deny an application on the spot, unless the applicant is clearly inadmissible.

If the adjustment interview goes well—your family relationship is obviously the real deal, you don't fall into any of the grounds for inadmissibility, and your documents are in order—the interview can take as little as 20 minutes.

What Happens If the USCIS Examiner Approves—Or Denies—Your Adjustment

At the end of the interview, if you are approved for U.S. residence, you will be given a letter stating this. The letter is just for your records. It cannot, for example, be used like a green card in order to travel in and out of the United States. The USCIS officer might also ask you to turn in your work permit (EAD), on the basis of the fact that you are no longer an applicant for adjustment of status, but a permanent or conditional U.S. resident, such that your existing EAD is no longer valid. This should not interfere with your life much, however, because several weeks later, your actual green card will arrive by mail.

If you receive conditional residence (rather than "permanent," because your marriage was still less than two years old on the day USCIS approved you for residence), you will have to file an I-751 petition about 21 months from your approval date in order to progress to permanent residency.

When to Get an Attorney to Help

You could make your life easier by hiring an experienced immigration attorney to handle your family visa case from the beginning, or at least to attend the interview with you.

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