How Long Is The Marriage-Based Green Card Interview?

Marriage-Based Green Cards are an integral part of the immigration process. They help unite families across the world. However, the interview that goes along with this process is a point of worry for many couples. Many have questions about the interview, including how long it will last, and what details surrounding the marriage/relationship will be asked. Read on to discover answers to these questions and more.


Related: VAWA: How Long Does A Petition Take?


How Long Do USCIS Interviews Take?

USCIS interviews have the potential to be stressful and involve many personal questions. Because of this, couples often wonder how long the interview will last, so that they can prepare themselves for the process.


How long an interview will last will depend on a variety of factors. An interview for a couple who has strong evidence of the relationship/marriage, no previous immigration issues, no previous criminal background, and solid evidence of financial support for the foreign spouse, should take somewhere between 30 – 60 minutes. In some cases where the evidence is strong when filed, USCIS may waive the marriage-based interview altogether and approve the green card without an interview.


However, it is important to keep in mind that this can and most probably will vary from case to case or more specifically, from couple to couple. The following is a list of some common issues that could add to the length of the interview:

  1. Nervousness
  2. How well the couple know each other
  3. Interview Preparation
  4. Strong and well-organized evidence of the relationship
  5. Good solid evidence of the petitioner’s ability to support the foreign spouse financially
  6. Updated civil and financial documents presented to the interviewing officer
  7. Previous immigration history/issues (both with USCIS and/or the Immigration Court)
  8. Criminal background
  9. The interviewing officer
  10. Other issues that may be particular or specific to a case


The length of the interview and outcome will vary depending on the specific nature and details of the case. It is important to take all factors into consideration when evaluating your own situation and understand that even though “good” straightforward cases should come with shorter interviews, some may take more time and still be approved. It will all come down to the specific circumstances of a case/couple.


Is the Marriage-Based Green Card Interview Hard? What Are They Looking For?

In general, marriage-based green card interviews revolve around the couple, their relationship, and marriage. How “easy” or “complicated” the interview questions are, will depend a lot on how well the couple knows each other. Most permanent resident interview questions are relatively straightforward.


USCIS and the interviewing officer are interested primarily in establishing that the couple has a real bona fide relationship and that the marriage was not entered into with the purpose of evading immigration laws. The officer will ask questions regarding, but not limited to, the following:

  1. How did the couple meet
  2. When did they become an official couple
  3. When did they get engaged (and details surrounding the engagement)
  4. Details regarding the wedding
  5. Current marriage relationship (living arrangement, children, home life dynamic)
  6. Joint assets, bank accounts, insurance, leases, property
  7. Personal details regarding the spouse (family members, studies, health issues, previous marriages, previous marriage termination, children from other relationships)


It is important to highlight that, even though USCIS officers can and will ask many questions regarding the relationship, there are certain rights that the couple has that must be respected. This is one reason to consider having an attorney represent you at the immigration interview.


The officer will primarily be focused on determining whether the couple has a bona fide relationship. Nonetheless, other questions and factors will also come into play. USCIS needs to determine that there are no significant criminal issues from either the petitioner or the foreign spouse, no previous immigration violations that could impede the foreign national from becoming a permanent resident, and no other inadmissibility issues outlined in the Immigration and Nationality Act that could affect the approval of the marriage-based green card. Having an immigration attorney evaluate your case to determine possible issues and the solutions to them before embarking on this process and the interview it entails is an excellent way to make this process easier and much more manageable.


Can You Fail a Green Card Interview?

When a couple goes for a green card interview, there are several possible outcomes. First, the interview could be a success, and the green card is approved. Second, the interview could go poorly for a variety of reasons (nervous clients, inconsistent answers, not enough evidence, mistakes or errors on the forms, etc.) In this case, the officer could separate the couple and interview them individually in an effort to compare answers and determine if the clients are being truthful and consistent, or schedule a second interview, in which the couple would have to come in again and answer more questions, depending on the reason why the initial interview went awry.


However, the process doesn’t necessarily end with one unsuccessful interview. As mentioned, the officer could schedule a second interview, or instead send a request for more evidence or a notice of intent to deny the petition/case. In all of these situations, the common denominator is that the couple is not automatically denied, but rather given the opportunity to salvage their immigration process.


It is extremely important to be well prepared for the interview, in an effort to have things run as smoothly as possible. Second interviews, requests for evidence, notices of intent to deny, or a denial, could mean more expenses, longer waiting times, or even more severe consequences for the couple, and particularly for the foreign spouse.


Related: What Information Will I Need to Register for the H-1B Lottery?


How Long Does It Take USCIS to Make a Decision after the Interview?

Bride and groom running happily

Like most of the spousal permanent resident interview process, the amount of time that USCIS needs to provide the couple with a decision will vary from case to case. Difficult or complex cases may take longer than simple or more straightforward cases. Some could make a decision at the moment the interview is done, while others have to wait much longer for a decision. The amount of time it takes the officer to make a decision will vary greatly depending on the complexity of the case, the officer, and the field office where the case is processed.


Other factors like the number of cases the office is currently handling, along with the backlog created by the pandemic, also impact the amount of time USCIS takes to make a decision. Nonetheless, it is important to know that there are different resources available to the couple, such as the USCIS contact center, service requests, the Ombudsman, and more, that could be of assistance if the decision is excessively delayed. Consult an immigration attorney regarding your options.


Does USCIS Track Your Phone?

There are a lot of worries that surround the immigration process. Some people wonder if USCIS will track your phone or go through your phone records. It is safe to say that USCIS will not go through your phone or look through your record as part of the immigration process of a marriage-based green card interview. So, there is no need to add this to the list of worries regarding the interview process.


However, if the government is suspicious about a relationship, they could, for example, present themselves at the alleged marital address, to verify that the couple truly lives together or look through a person’s public social media page or pages in an effort to corroborate the couple’s relationship. USCIS could utilize the information provided in the forms and evidence submitted to further corroborate the authenticity of a relationship. Things like accessing phone records require judicial authorization and can only be done in specific circumstances where there is probable cause.


Looking for legal advice for your Green Card interview? Learn more about Pratibha Kanive Agarwal, Managing Attorney-Agarwal Law Group


What Should You Not Say in an Immigration Interview?

When it comes to things to say or not say during an immigration interview, there are definitely a few things to avoid. Here is some advice/suggestions to keep in mind. First, do not lie. USCIS officers have access to information regarding the couple, particularly when it comes to the foreign spouse’s immigration history. It is best to lead with the truth. At times, this could mean dealing with some unwanted consequences, but these could possibly be much easier to deal with, than the consequences for lying under oath. This is one of the reasons why consulting with an immigration attorney is key. They are well prepared to evaluate a case and detect possible issues that could arise during the green card process. They could help you prepare for these issues and come up with possible strategies to deal with a possibly negative situation. Being untruthful about details or facts may seem like it will help, but it will only lead to creating a more difficult situation which could lead to a finding of fraud and a bar to receiving any immigration benefits.


Secondly, do not memorize or rehearse your answers. This does not mean you should not prepare in advance for the interview, but rather that preparing for the interview and rehearsing answers are not the same thing. The information needed for the interview is mostly basic information regarding your relationship, partner, and marriage. This should be information that comes naturally to you. When an attorney prepares you for an interview, they will ask you questions similar to those the officer will ask, in an effort to familiarize you with the process and help you feel more comfortable with what will take place. It is best that you do not memorize answers since it will make you sound unnatural and/or suspicious. Instead, simply make sure you know your partner, relationship, and history well. An attorney can help you identify the strongest parts of your application so you can be sure to highlight those aspects during an interview.


Do I Need a Lawyer for a Green Card Interview?

Hiring an attorney for your marriage-based green card interview, or any immigration process for that matter, is optional. You can choose to go to your green card interview on your own or bring a lawyer with you. While it could be possible for some people to prepare and handle the interview on their own, having a lawyer there will definitely help.


Immigration processes are complex and often require a person such as an attorney who is savvy and knowledgeable in immigration laws. They will be able to evaluate your case, foresee or detect possible issues, and come up with strategies as to how to handle them. In the interview process, the lawyer will do everything possible to help and assist you. During the interview, they will ensure that you understand the questions before answering them, to prevent you from giving an incorrect answer, and they will also ensure that your rights are respected and that you are not coerced into saying or doing anything that could be harmful to you or your case, and can take notes of important things that need to be stated or presented in the eventuality that your case needs to be appealed. An attorney is an invaluable asset to have during an interview.


If you do choose to bring a lawyer along, you need to ensure you have chosen the right lawyer for the job. When you search for an attorney, make sure you are selecting a lawyer who is well-versed and knowledgeable in immigration law. There are plenty of great lawyers out there, but if they aren’t familiar with immigration law, they will not be helpful in an interview. In addition, make sure they are professionals who have been experienced and successful in assisting other immigrants.


Related: Citizenship and Naturalization


Prepare for the Marriage-Based Green Card Interview

Woman beginning an interview

The above-mentioned information presents a good starting point when getting ready for your marriage-based green card interview process. The information listed here will serve to make the process easier than initially expected. This does not substitute the expertise and experience that an immigration lawyer can provide. Having a knowledgeable professional in the immigration field by your side can be the difference between an approval or a denial of your case.


Want to make sure your interview goes smoothly? Contact us at Agarwal Law Group today!


10.0Pratibha Kanive Agarwal
top attorney 2022

Agarwal Law Group

1100 H Street NW,

Suite 1220

Washington DC 20005