Marriage based adjustment of status interviews
So you've submitted your paperwork, done the biometrics, paid the fees, and finally you've received the notice that your interview with USCIS is scheduled. What now?
First off, read the appointment notice / instruction letter. This letter comes on a form I-797C Notice of Action, a form similar to others you may have received. It will be titled “REQUEST FOR APPLICANT TO APPEAR FOR INITIAL INTERVIEW”.
Make sure that your name is the name on the form. The standard letter they send out is pretty long with lots of fine print. Carefully note the date, time and address where the appointment will take place. The notice clearly states if you fail to appear your application will be denied.
Keep the notice in a safe place, as you will need to bring it with you to the interview.
Plan to leave so you arrive in plenty of time to the interview. The notice itself tells you not to arrive more than 30 minutes early. Arriving early does not mean your interview will be held earlier. The Officer will call you in for your interview when he or she is ready (and it may be a long time after the scheduled hour).
At the Salt Lake CIty USCIS office, the waiting room is large. At the far end, there is a mail slot in the wall where applicants need to actually place their interview notice. If your attorney has not yet arrived, and you place the notice in the slot, then you may be called for your interview before your attorney arrives. You may want to wait for the attorney to arrive before placing the appointment notice in the slot.
At the Salt Lake City USCIS office, there are four "windows" where some officers may be working. That is not where adjustment of status interviews take place. Rather, an officer will come out of one of the doors, call your name, and take you back to his or her office to conduct the interview.
What to do if you cannot attend the interview
This is a very important interview. You should attend if at all possible. It is hard to reschedule the interview and you can't choose a new interview date. If there is a good reason you cannot attend the time of the interview, you can request to reschedule the interview. You need to make the request before the date and time of your interview however.
What to do if the attorney does not arrive
Hopefully this never happens to you, but you must be prepared in case there is an emergency and your attorney isn't present and it's time for your interview. Note that while the applicant has a right to have an attorney in these interviews, the attorney role is limited in some ways. If the attorney is not present, and the case is being called, the applicant can elect to proceed without the attorney being present. The USCIS officer will have the applicant sign a consent to proceed without the attorney and will place that form in the applicant's file. You can decide whether to proceed with or without the attorney. If your case has some tricky legal issues that the attorney could help explain, you may want to wait. Otherwise you may decide to proceed without the attorney.
What to bring
The interview notice provides a long list of documents to bring. I won't go over each individual item in this article, but will summarize what you need to bring.
- Identification Documents. The notice points out that a government issued i.d. Is required. Many applicants, by the time of their interview, will receive their E.A.D. (Employment Authorization Document or work permit). That document should be brought to the interview. Utah's Driver Privilege Card is not an identification document. At an absolute minimum, a current passport issued by the foreign national's home country should be presented.
- Originals and a copy of all the documents you previously submitted with your application. USCIS does not require originals to be submitted when you file your case. The time to present the originals is at the interview. It is a good idea to also bring a copy of what you turned in, just in case the document is not in your file or sometimes the officer can't locate it in the volume of documents in the Alien file.
- For marriage based cases, several months have probably passed since your initial submission. Bring updated proof of financial comingling of assets. This means 2 or 3 recent bank statements that show the transactions with both names on the statement. Utility bills with both names, insurance cards and letters with both names, current lease or mortgage with both names, car registration and titles in both names. Financial proof of marriage are critical in such a case, and if some documents are not available, be prepared to explain why. Sometimes a short time has elapsed since the marriage, or the individual was undocumented and did not have identification to open accounts. That circumstance can be understood by the officer. However some of these items should be brought to the interview, both the original and a copy to leave with the officer.
- Updated I-864 documents. The sponsors should submit the most recent tax year's taxes (or extension) and W-2's. In addition, the most recent pay stubs and a letter from the employer stating current rate of pay and average hours worked.
- Your spouse must bring their birth certificate, passport if possible, state i.d., and if they naturalized, their naturalization certificate.
- The original proof of legal entry into the United States if applicable.
- Original marriage license (certified).
- Divorce decrees (certified copies).
Failure to bring the necessary documents may cause a delay in the decision on your case. If there is a necessary document that is missing, the officer will usually give you the chance to bring it or send it in at a later time.
How the interview proceeds
Usually a marriage based adjustment of status case will have the interview with both spouses present. Sometimes, they will separate the spouses. The attorney can be present during both interviews, if both spouses have signed the G-28's.
The officer will put the applicant under oath, will examine identification, and then will proceed with the interview.
Two main decisions are usually made at this interview. The first is to decide the US Citizen's (or Lawful Permanent Resident's) I-130 petition for their relative. This just establishes there is a legal marriage between the petitioner and the beneficiary.
The second decision is made on the I-485 application. That application is for the foreign national to become a Lawful Permanent Resident. Once the marriage is proved as a legitimate, or bona fide relationship, then the applicant's individual eligibility will be determined. The questions will be focused on the applicant. The officer will go through the application and may make check marks and notes on the application itself. It is a good thing to review the I-485 prior to the interview.
Some points to remember
Answer questions honestly. Listen carefully to the question. Answer the question. Don't expound or give additional information. If you don't know the answer, then say you don't know. If you don't understand, say you don't understand.
In a best case scenario, the applications are approved on the day of the interview! The day of approval is the day you become a Lawful Permanent Resident. However, often an officer will tell you that the decision will be made later, and the results will be mailed to you. Do not be alarmed, as this is very common. Sometimes an officer must obtain a supervisor's approval, or sometimes a name check must be completed, or maybe the officer just needs to take time to review part of the submission. If you do not receive notice within four weeks, then you should probably make an Infopass appointment to ask about the status of your case. See my article on checking case status.
A note on conditional residency. If you've been married less than two years at the time you were granted permanent residency, you will be a conditional resident. This means that your greencard will have an expiration date two years from the day you were granted residency. 90 days before the two year expiration, you need to file an I-751 petition to remove the conditional status. Then you will be given a ten year green card.
If you're married to a US Citizen you can become a US Citizen three years after you first become a Resident. 90 days before the three year anniversary of your residency you can submit the N-400 to become a US Citizen.