It’s not uncommon for a United States citizen to begin and continue a relationship with an individual that does not have permanent residence in the U.S. In order for your immigrant spouse to live, work, and pursue higher education in the U.S., he or she must obtain a marriage-based green card.
One of the most stressful parts of this process is the interview. It will be conducted by immigrant officials with the purpose of verifying the validity of the marriage. These officials will ask you a series of marriage based green card interview questions as well as verify any forms and documents submitted in the couples filed a petition.
The main purpose of this entire process is for immigration officials to verify and confirm that the marriage isn’t a sham to elude U.S. immigration laws and gain immigration benefits.
Table of Contents
- What is a Marriage Based Green Card?
- Marriage Based Green Card Interview Questions
- How Can You Obtain a Marriage-Based Green Card?
- Conditional Marriage Based Green Card
- Biometrics Services Appointment
- Are You Prepared for Your Interview?
- Tips for a Marriage Based Green Card Interview
- After the Marriage Green Card Interview
- Stokes (Marriage Fraud) Interviews
- Stokes Interview Questions
- Marriage Based Green Card Cost
- How Long Will the Green Card Take to Process?
- Want to Feel at Ease About Your Marriage Green Card Case?
What is a Marriage Based Green Card?
A spouse is eligible to obtain a green card for an immediate relative of a U.S. citizen. A green card for your immigrant spouse is more commonly known as a marriage-based green card and has special immigration priority.
This green card grants the immigrant spouse permanent residency in the U.S. which allows them to live, work, and study in the U.S. legally. Additional green card benefits include being able to:
- Travel in and out the U.S. (as long as each trip is less than a year)
- Obtain a driver’s license
- Apply for social security
This marriage-based green card, which should be carried on the immigrant spouse at all times, is valid for ten years. It can be renewed no less than six months prior to expiration for the immigrant spouse to maintain his or her legal residency.
Marriage Based Green Card Interview Questions
Your interview process will begin the moment you walk into the USCIS office. When walking into the building, officers will look at the demeanor of both parties as individuals and as a couple from the moment they enter the building until the time they leave.
You will be placed together in an interview room and an officer will begin directing questions for you both to answer as individuals or as a couple. The interview usually lasts an average of 15-20 minutes and the questions are relatively simple.
Below are a few sample categories and marriage-based green card interview questions that each partner in a relationship should know about one another. Please note that these sample questions are not definite and an immigration officer can ask questions that are not listed below.
How You Met – Questions about how your relationship started and progressed prior to being married. It’s important to display that you and your spouse established a relationship and actually fell in love prior to being engaged then married.
- Where did you meet?
- What did the two of you have in common?
- Where was your first date?
- When did your relationship turn romantic?
- How long was it before you decided to get married?
- Who proposed to whom?
- Why did you decide to have a long or short engagement?
- When did you meet each other’s parents?
Wedding – Questions about the day you tied the knot are common. Your wedding day is a special day that most couples cherish. You should be able to account for many details of that day.
- How many people attended your wedding?
- Did each of your parents attend?
- Where was the wedding held?
- Who were the bridesmaids/groomsmen?
- Where did you go for the honeymoon?
Relationship– these questions usually deal with the intimate details of your marriage. Most married couples discuss these topics at least at some point in the first year.
- Who takes care of the finances?
- When is your spouse’s birthday?
- Have you ever been on vacation together?
- Do you attend church?
- When is your anniversary?
- Do you plan on having children?
- Do you have any children from previous marriages?
- Do you live together or plan on living together?
- Do you spend a lot of time together?
Friends and Family
- Have you met each other’s families?
- How often do you see each other’s families?
- When was the last time you saw them?
- How do you typically celebrate holidays? For example, do you spend Thanksgiving with one family and Christmas with another?
- How many brothers and sisters does your spouse have? What are their names?
- Does your spouse have any nieces or nephews?
- Do you have mutual friends?
- What’s your spouse’s best friend’s name?
- Where did your spouse go to school?
- Did they go to college?
- What did your spouse major in?
- What did your spouse get a degree in?
- Who is your spouse’s employer?
- How long has your spouse been working there?
- What is your spouse’s position?
- Where did your spouse work prior?
It’s understandable and normal that the marriage-based green card interview will make you nervous or stressed out. Before and while answering marriage-based green card interview questions, it is best that you utilize the tips for marriage-based green card interview questions listed above to be a few steps ahead.
How Can You Obtain a Marriage-Based Green Card?
Here is a comprehensive list of the items required to apply for a green card:
- Petition for Alien Relative (USCIS Form I-130)
- Application to Register Permanent Residence (USCIS Form I-485)
- Biographic Information (USCIS Form G-325A)
- Affidavit of Support (USCIS Form I-864)
- Permission for Work Authorization (Optional) (USCIS Form I-765)
- Medical Examination Results (USCIS Form I-693)
- Request for Travel Documents (Optional) (USCIS Form I-131)
- The appropriate supporting documents
If you are a U.S. citizen within the country through lawful admission/parole, you will need the following:
- File Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative
- Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust status
If you are a citizen outside the U.S.:
- File Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative
Conditional Marriage Based Green Card
So your green card petition was approved. The only problem is that it’s a conditional marriage-based green card. No need to panic; this doesn’t mean that you answered your marriage-based green card interview questions wrong.
If your marriage is less than two years old at the time of approval, you will be given what’s known as conditional rather than a traditional marriage-based green card.
A conditional marriage-based green card cannot be renewed and is only valid for two years. In those two years, the immigrant spouse must prove that he or she did not get married fraudulently to enter the United States and illegally disregard immigration laws.
90 days before your conditional marriage-based green card expires, you can file a petition to have the conditions removed.
- To remove the conditions on a green card based on marriage, you must file Form I-751, Petition to Remove the Conditions of Residence.
If these conditions are not removed, you will no longer be a permanent resident of the U.S. after the granted two years. If you remain in the U.S. after the expiration of your green card, you will be at risk for deportation.
Biometrics Services Appointment
After filing a petition for a marriage-based green card, you will need to appear at a biometric services appointment to provide any requested fingerprints, photographs, and signatures.
You will receive an appointment noticed (Form I-797C). This will include the date, location, and time of your appointment at a local Application Support Center (ASC).
The purpose of a biometric services appointment is to confirm your identity and to run a required background and security checks.
At the time of the appointment, the applicant is also required to confirm that the filed petition was complete, true, and correct at the time of filing by providing a digital signature.
Are You Prepared for Your Interview?
Marriage-based green card interviews are held at a USCIS office and will be conducted by a trained immigration official. The interview usually takes place between 3-4 months after your petition is filed with USCIS. During this time, you may want to gather any additional documents that show proof of the relationship for your interview.
Remember that the main purpose of this interview is to confirm the validity of your relationship. Take the time to review your relationship in entirety with your spouse. It’s normal for you to forget things about your marriage but you can work together to jog each other’s memory prior to the interview.
They are also looking to see if the U.S. citizen in the relationship can support the immigrant spouse. Your spouse will need to submit an affidavit of support to show that they have adequate means of financial support and are not likely to rely on the U.S. government financially.
Going through a process as tedious as a green card interview is not something you should do alone. If you have any questions or concerns before the interview, consult your immigration attorney.
Tips for a Marriage Based Green Card Interview
We know how stressful the interview process can be, so take a look at these top tips to make the best of your situation.
- Be punctual for your scheduled interview by arriving at least 30 minutes prior to the scheduled time.
- Wear professional and/or conservative clothing because first impressions are important and you want to give the impression that you are taking this interview seriously.
- Be prepared to answer all types of questions. Immigration officials are likely to ask simple marriage-based green card interview questions as well as ones that you may have to think a little harder about to answer.
- Come with a calm and organized demeanor because immigration officials look for red flags that indicate fraud. Looking flustered and nervous looks will raise their suspicion. Remain calm and be confident in the knowledge of your marriage.
- No need to memorize facts. It can potentially make the couple sound rehearsed, which is a red flag. Immigration officials understand that you won’t remember every small detail about your marriage. If you’re not sure or don’t know, then simply say it. It is always better to say you don’t know than it is to lie. Not knowing might lead to having your green card denied, but lying or other fraudulent behavior might lead to barred access to the U.S. altogether. However, you should be able to answer simple questions about your marriage.
- Act normally; not overly affectionate or uncomfortable. USCIS immigration officials are trained to recognize signs that individuals are not behaving normally. This type of in-authenticity is a red flag, so it’s best you both be yourselves and act normal.
- Don’t panic if you are separated. If you and your spouse are moved to separate rooms, remain calm and answer the immigration official’s additional marriage-based green card interview questions honestly.
- Remember to bring the necessary paperwork which can be any necessary forms and any proof of your relationship. This can be wedding or vacation photos or bank statements.
- Confide in your attorney if you’re unsure about anything pertaining to your green card case. Your attorney will know your case inside and out and will make you feel more prepared by addressing any and all concerns you or your spouse may have.
- Review additional resources to feel even more confident about the marriage-based green card interview. Marriage related green card resources are available at the bottom of this page.
Ultimately, having a legitimate case and an experienced attorney should be your most valuable assets during this interview. These questions are designed to determine if your marriage is fraudulent. If that is not the case, then simply follow the above tips and be confident.
After the Marriage Green Card Interview
Once you’ve completed your marriage-based green card interview, you’ll have to wait for the USCIS to approve your petition. There isn’t a defined period of time for marriage green card approvals which can make the waiting process even more stressful.
A few weeks from the interview date, you may receive the news that your green card has been either granted or denied. It can take longer if your file is undergoing an additional security review. If your petition is approved, then your passport will be returned to you with the conditional green card printed inside, allowing you and your spouse to enter the U.S. as legal permanent residents.
You and your spouse are able to check the status of your green card case by entering your case number into the USCIS Case Status Search.
Stokes (Marriage Fraud) Interviews
If your interview has raised any suspicion when answering marriage-based green card interview questions, you will be asked to come back for a second interview. Raised suspicion can stem from hesitating to answer questions, having different answers, and simply not being able to answer the questions
At a marriage fraud interview (also known as a stokes interview) an officer will place both spouses in their own interview room and you will each be interviewed separately. An immigration official will ask the same questions to each spouse then compare the two sets of answers to see how well they match.
Unfortunately, it’s likely that your case will be denied if each spouse has different answers to the same questions. For example, if the immigration official asks each of you the date of your wedding and one says June and the other says July, that will further suspicion that your marriage is fraudulent. If the immigrant spouse is in the United States, he or she will be placed into removal proceedings for possible deportation back to their home country.
You will also likely need to provide the following documents if you have not already:
- Marriage certificate
- Passport for the immigrant spouse
- Bank statements
- Receipts for rent/mortgage payments
- Regular bills
- Proof of citizenship for sponsoring spouse
- Photos of the two of you
- Active insurance policies
- Employment evidence and pay stubs
Each case is different, so you may need to provide more or less than the above list.
Stokes Interview Questions
Obviously, you want to avoid a stokes interview. However, if you find yourself in one and your relationship is legitimate, then just stick to the facts and remain calm. Making facts up is the quickest way to sabotage your own efforts.
Here are some questions you may receive during a Stokes interview. Note that these are extremely specific and in-depth questions that are intended to catch fraudulent marriages. If your marriage is legitimate, you should have little trouble answering these questions, though newer relationships may have difficulty. Just remember to remain calm and honest throughout the interview.
- When and where did you meet?
- What types of vehicles do you drive?
- Who typically rises earlier in the morning?
- Who sleeps on which side of the bed?
- Who does most of the cooking?
- What kind of pets do you own, if any?
- How often do you eat out?
- How is your living room arranged?
- Who is in charge of the finances?
- What do you both typically eat for breakfast?
- What is your spouse’s favorite food?
- What is your nightly routine before going to bed?
- What cell phone provider does your spouse use?
- What types of entertainment do you both enjoy?
- What are some of the brands you use? (e.g. toothpaste, shampoo, deodorant, etc.)
This list is not exhaustive. Your immigration officer may ask you some, all, or none of these questions. They only serve to provide an idea of the level of depth you may be subjected to during your Stokes interview.
Marriage Based Green Card Cost
Like most green cards and visas, the marriage-based green card has certain unavoidable filing costs associated with it. Here is the breakdown:
- I-130 filing fee of $535
- I-485 filing fee, which varies depending on your age. You can find the fee schedule on the USCIS website. However, for most applicants, the cost will be $1,225, which includes the $1,140 filing fee and the $85 biometrics fee. Keep in mind that the I-485 is only required if you are adjusting your status from a nonimmigrant status (such as a K-1 visa)
- For those that are not under a nonimmigrant status, consular processing will be required. This includes having to file a DS-260 application online along with a filing fee of $220. You will also be required to submit an affidavit of support, which comes with a fee only if you are in the U.S.
Important Note: On October 2, 2020, USCIS will be adjusting the fees for all immigration forms with some fees increasing and other decreasing. See the updates fess if. you file on or after October 2.
- I-130: $550 (online filling) or $560 (paper filing)
- I-485: $1,130
- Biometrics: $30
- DS-260: $190
How Long Will the Green Card Take to Process?
Once you send in your I-130 petition, you can expect to receive a notice of receipt from the USCIS within two weeks. After that, it will usually take an average of 11 months for you to receive an answer on whether or not it was approved. However, it could take substantially longer or shorter depending on the caseload the service center that is processing your petition and the complexity of your case. This step can be significantly delayed if the USCIS issues a Request for Evidence (RFE).
If your petition is approved and you are outside of the U.S. under no visa status, you can schedule a consular interview at the U.S. consulate or embassy in your home country. This can be scheduled out a few weeks to a few months in advance of the appointment.
If you are currently under a U.S. visa status, then you can choose to adjust your status through the I-485 form, which takes an additional six months to process. However, after your I-485 is approved or your consular interview is concluded favorably, you will immediately be granted lawful permanent resident status and your green card should arrive in the mail within six months.
All told, your marriage-based green card timeline can take as little as seven months or as long as two years depending on your route and situation. An immigration lawyer will be able to help you determine more accurately what you can expect as a processing time.
Marriage Green Card Related Topics
- Marriage-Based Visa
- Fiance K-1 Visa
- Children of US Citizen K-2 Visa
- Spouse of US Citizen K-3 Visa
- Guide to Renew Green Card After 2 Years
- What Happens to Green Card After Divorce
- Top Tips for Sponsoring a Family Member Green Card
- J-1 Visa to Marriage Green Card
- Getting a Marriage-Based Green Card With a Criminal History
- F-1 Visa to Marriage-Based Green Card
- How to Prove Your Marriage is Bona Fide for a Green Card
- Can I Work While Waiting for a Marriage-Based Green Card?
- Marriage-Based Green Card Denial
- Green Card Through Marriage Document Checklist
- Marriage-Based Green Card Timeline
- Obtaining Citizenship Via Marriage