The final step of the United States permanent residence (green card) process usually requires an in-person interview at a local U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (USCIS) office. The purpose of the interview is for the USCIS officer to verify the accuracy and completeness of the information on the application and to make a determination regarding the applicant’s credibility. What happens at the interview often determines when or if the individual gets the green card. Therefore, green card applicants would be wise to treat these interviews with the importance they deserve. Below are some helpful tips to keep in mind prior to and during your immigration interview.
HOW TO PREPARE
Carefully Read the Interview Notice. The interview notice may invite more questions than answers. Interview notices apply to all 40+ ways an individual can qualify for a green card, but it also contains important information to help prepare for the interview. It’s important to thoroughly read and understand the notice so you know what to expect and prepare for regarding your unique situation. And remember, the notice is your ticket in the door, so don’t forget to bring it to the interview!
Determine Whether an Updated Medical Examination is Required. Most adjustment applicants are required to submit a medical examination administered by a USCIS civil surgeon. In November 2018, USCIS revised its policy regarding the validity of medical examinations. If you submitted a medical examination with your application prior to or after November 1, 2018, check the USCIS website to determine whether you need a new medical examination.
Be Prepared to Wait. As of October 2017, employment-based adjustment applicants must now appear for an in-person interview as part of the green card process. This new requirement created a ripple effect on USCIS field offices and foreign nationals across the country, dramatically increasing the number of cases transferred to local field offices for interview; which in turn, significantly increased interview wait times. The number of pending employment-based cases in Houston increased from 158 to 3,517, a 22 times increase from the third quarter of 2017 to 2018.
Be Wary of Changes in Employment. As interview wait times increase, so does the likelihood that an applicant’s employment situation may change. Changes in employment during the green card process could potentially impact an applicant’s approval. Individuals who have or will likely experience a change in employment should consult with a qualified immigration attorney to discuss his or her immigration options.
HOW TO SURVIVE THE INTERVIEW
Tell the Truth. Your job is to tell the truth. Your testimony, taken under oath, will be used by the officer to determine whether you are credible. So, if you don’t know the answer to the question, then state that. Don’t go digging for an answer that isn’t there. If you require clarification, ask for it. If you need a minute to think, take it. If you are concerned that the truth could hurt your case, consult a qualified immigration attorney who can advise you on your unique situation and potential consequences. Remember to tell the truth to your attorney and the government.
Know Your [Immigration] History. Review prior USCIS filings and visa applications. Make sure the information is accurate and look for any inconsistencies across applications. Inconsistencies affect your credibility and may need to be proactively addressed.
Don’t Underestimate What the Government Already Knows. The USCIS officer has access to every visa application, petition or application you have ever filed. The officer has access to interagency systems (federal, state, and local) that contain information on aliens’ background, immigration histories, and state and local databases. The government can also audit your social media accounts.
Answer the Question Asked. And avoid the need to ramble. Listen to questions that begin with “Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How.” Make sure your answers stay concise and on point.