When you apply for a Green Card, the interview is a way for the government to meet you. During the interview, whether it’s a virtual Green Card interview or it’s in-person, the government official you’re speaking to wants to verify you’re eligible for permanent residency. The goal is also to make sure everything on your application is valid.
The interview is typically the last step in the process of applying for a Green Card, and it can be anywhere from 7 to 15 months after you file typically.
Below, we talk more about Green Cards and what to expect during the interview.
An Overview of a Green Card
When you have a Green Card, it is officially called the Lawful Permanent Resident Card. You can obtain a Green Card through a lottery or different application processes. When you have one, you have the ability to work without restrictions, and you are authorized as a resident of the U.S.
Once you complete your application process and get your Green Card, you are able to choose where you want to live and work, and you can leave the country and come back relatively easily.
There are a number of advantages, including the fact that you have nearly all the rights of a citizen. You can be eligible for certain government assistance programs like Medicare after five years. You can’t be deported because of a change in immigration laws, and you may be eligible for federal student loans.
Family members, which include your spouse and any unmarried children younger than 21, are automatically eligible to also receive a Green Card.
After three to five years, you can apply for citizenship.
There are different ways you can get a U.S. Green Card. You might get one through a job, by winning the Green Card Lottery, through investing in a company in the U.S., or by reuniting with U.S. relatives.
In the Green Card Lottery, there are 55,000 Green Cards raffled each year. However, if you don’t submit your application exactly right, you are disqualified.
Before you’re approved for a Green Card, the majority of applicants but not all, have to attend an interview. If you’re coming from overseas, meaning you’re doing consular processing, you’ll ordinarily attend your interview at a U.S. consulate.
If you’re applying through an adjustment of status, meaning you’re already in the U.S., you will attend an interview at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
The name on the interview appointment notice is the person who has to attend.
If you’ve filed a family-based application, both the sponsor, who is the petitioner, and the beneficiary, who is the applicant, must appear unless they live in different countries. This is typically the situation for a marriage-based application.
In marriage-based applications, the interview is a way for the government to discern if your marriage is authentic. The interviewer needs to talk to both of you to do that.
If you live in the U.S. and you’re filing for a Family Green Card for someone who lives outside the U.S., you don’t have to go with them to the interview.
There are limited situations where no interview is needed at all. Asylees are an example, and the government of the United States will let you know what you need to do.
What Can You Bring?
Some things to know about what you can and can’t bring include:
- If you’re not a fluent English speaker and you need help understanding the interview, you can bring an interpreter. There are interview guidelines as to what the interpreter can translate without their own opinion or commentary.
- You can bring a lawyer, and if you have an issue on your record or a criminal background, this might be a good idea. Attorneys have to submit a form to go with you.
- The only people who should attend interviews are the people listed on the appointment, interpreters, and lawyers—you typically shouldn’t bring a family member or friend who’s not part of the application.
If you’re being interviewed for a marriage-based Green Card, then there are different ways it can go. You might be interviewed together by the same person simultaneously. You can also be interviewed separately, by the same interviewer at different times, or by a different officer. After the initial interview, you might be contacted by the officer for a second separate interview.
The person who’s going to interview you if you’re in the U.S. will be a USCIS immigration officer. If you’re doing an interview outside the U.S., it’ll be a consular officer who’s trained for your type of application.
The primary goal, no matter the type of application you submit, is making sure that your application is consistent to what any answers you provide.
The secondary objection to these interviews is going to vary depending on the type of application. For example, the interviewer is going to want to make sure your marriage is legitimate if this is the type of application you completed.
For family-based Green Cards, an interviewer wants to confirm you’re related to your sponsor. For Green Card issued under asylum laws, the goal is to ensure you need protection. The questions can become very personal. You may have to answer questions about your previous history with immigration and past criminal history if you have any.
These interviews are important, so you should arrive at them as prepared as you can be. This means that you may even want to practice a bit with some of the questions.
If you have proof that can show that what you said is true on your application, in reality, you should bring it with you. This might include photos, receipts, plane tickets, bank account statements, or phone records, as examples. If you are going to bring proof to your interview, keep it well organized so you’ll know how to find it when you want to refer to it.
Finally, you want to be honest with the officer interviewing you. Answer truthfully and completely, and if you don’t know the answer to a question, say that rather than making something up.