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What Happens at a USCIS Interview?

Emily is an expat, a writer, an editor, a vegan foodie, and a bookworm.


An Adjustment of Status (AOS) interview is part of the process of obtaining a green card or permanent residency in the United States. The interview will be conducted by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). I applied for an AOS and participated in the accompanying interview when I married a U.S. citizen. The basic purpose of the USCIS AOS interview is as follows:

  1. To verify your identity, including your name, date of birth, nationality, and other personal information.
  2. To ensure that your reasons for entering the U.S. are genuine. If you applied for a green card based on marriage, the interviewer will want to make sure your marriage is legitimate.
  3. To ensure that you are eligible to live in the U.S. If you have committed any crimes or intend to take part in any questionable activities in the U.S. you may be denied permanent residency status.

Depending on your background and the information you include in your petition for an adjustment of status, the USCIS interview could be fairly intense or a stroll in the park. For example, if you are applying for an AOS based on marriage, the interview could get complicated if there are reasons to doubt your marriage. This can happen when one party cannot speak English, when one party is significantly older than the other, or if there is no evidence that both parties live together or have met in person. If, on the other hand, the reason you applied for an AOS is legitimate and you can prove it, you won't have too many problems during the interview.

The Entire Interview Process

This is a step-by-step breakdown of the USCIS interview process for the average person:

  1. You'll receive a date, time, and location for the interview. Be on time, but you should not arrive more than 30 minutes early.
  2. You will be searched when you enter the building. It's really not smart to bring any weapons or suspicious items to the interview. Don't bring anything sharp or dangerous, and leave weed or other recreational drugs at home. Electronic devices should be switched off during the interview. The process is similar to going through airport security.
  3. You shouldn't have to wait long. The people who will conduct the interview are usually prepared to move through the process effectively. You'll be taken to an office-style interview room, so don't expect to be interviewed in an interrogation room or another dramatic place. Once you're there, the interview will begin.
  4. First of all, the immigrant will probably be asked a few questions to prove his or her identity. Unless there's any reason to doubt your identity, you shouldn't have too much trouble with this part of the interview. when I went through this process I was asked to state my full name, including my maiden name and any other names I used, my date of birth, my town of birth, any other countries I had lived in, and my current address.
  5. Once the initial questions have been answered, the immigrant will be asked standard questions about their criminal history. You must respond to all of these questions with the word "no." As long as "no" is the honest answer to each question there shouldn't be any problems with this part of the procedure. The questions you will be asked include:
  • Have you ever engaged in prostitution or do you plan to in the future?
  • Have you ever been part of a terrorist cell, participated in any terrorist activities, or do you intend to in the future?
  • Have you ever been deported from the U.S.?
  • Have you ever entered the U.S. illegally?
  • Have you ever smuggled illegal substances over U.S. borders?
  • Have you ever been arrested?

As long as you can honestly say no to any of the aforementioned questions, you should be on fairly safe ground. The next round of questions will be directed at both the U.S. citizen and the immigrant, assuming that the AOS is sponsored by a U.S. citizen (usually a spouse). My husband and I were given a comprehensive list of over 300 questions by our lawyer, but the ones we were asked, and the most common, were as follows:

  • Where did you meet?
  • When did you decide to get married?
  • Why did you decide to get married?
  • What are your plans for the future?
  • What do you do for work?
  • Have you met each others' parents?
  • Have you taken any trips together?
  • What do your parents think about your marriage?
  • What do you enjoy doing together?
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If something seems suspicious, a couple will be asked more specific and invasive questions including:

  • How is the furniture laid out in your apartment?
  • What food do you have in your fridge right now?
  • How often does he/she call his/her parents?
  • When did you last have sex?

Once you've had your personal life thoroughly invaded, the interviewer will request paper evidence that your relationship with the U.S. citizen is valid. For a married couple, this usually includes providing:

  • Joint lease and/or utility documents
  • Joint finance and banking documents
  • Joint loans, such as mortgage and car payments
  • Correspondence and photographs.

During my interview, my spouse and I presented our joint checkbook and a photo album (which you are advised to bring) full photos from the beginning of our relationship to the present day. Although the interviewer flicked through briefly, he did not study it in detail.

It's important to remember that a lot depends on the interviewer. Some may be more thorough than others, so it is best to have as much evidence as possible just in case your interviewer is thorough.

Once the process is complete, the interviewer will probably inform you of whether or not you have been awarded permanent resident status. I was congratulated and given a guide to being a permanent resident in the U.S. Following the interview, the permanent residency card or green card will be sent to you in the mail, and it will arrive in 2–4 weeks.

Each interview will vary, and many of the questions will be based on the specific circumstances of the immigrant. An AOS interview based on something other than marriage will be conducted differently than an interview based on marriage. The interview may be more complicated if the immigrant has previously overstayed a visa or if he/she has entered the country illegally.

A typical AOS interview will take about 30 minutes, and there won't be too many tough questions to answer.

There are dozens of online forums dedicated to the AOS interview process. The USCIS website also has a lot of information that's worth knowing about the immigration process. Do lots of research and learn as much as you can to prepare for your interview.

© 2013 Emily Nemchick

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