What happens at a marriage petition interview?

Takmeomeo.  Pixabay

Takmeomeo. Pixabay

The Immigration Services in the United States (USCIS) often conducts interviews for immigration petitions based on marriage to make sure that the marriage is real. They describe a real marriage as being “bona fide” or “legitimate.” The USCIS is concerned about people getting getting married solely for immigration purposes. It is important to remember this because the USCIS will ask you some personal questions that may seem very invasive, and it may also seem that they are questioning the truth of your marriage, which can feel very uncomfortable. It’s important to know what to expect so that your interview can go as smoothly as possible. This blog post discusses what to expect for your marriage interview.

In general, a marriage interview (which is called an I-130 interview) follows the following pattern:

(1) You will be asked to provide original documentation showing your nationality and proof of your marriage. Please remember to bring both you and your spouse’s original passports, birth certificates, marriage certificate, and prior divorce certificates if applicable. The interviewing Officer will inspect them and then return them to you.
(2) The U.S. citizen spouse (the petitioner) will begin to be questioned. Remember that the U.S. citizen spouse, not the immigrant, is the one who brings the I-130 petition. The U.S. citizen spouse is also called the petitioner. Therefore, I-130 interviews tend to focus on the U.S. citizen, although the Officer will also ask the immigrant beneficiary questions about the relationship. People often think the immigrant spouse will be questioned the most, but it’s actually the opposite.  
(3) You will be asked about how your relationship developed and why you decided to get married. The Officer will commonly first ask the petitioner where they met for the first time, when they started “dating”, and how it was that they eventually decided that they would get married. As we know, everyone “dates” in different ways and that not everyone dates for a few years before getting married. Some people get married very quickly and that is fine—just be prepared to explain why and also be prepared to get some push back from the Officer as he or she may getting married quickly is an indicator of marrying solely for immigration benefits.
(4) You will be asked about biographical information from the immigration petition you submitted. The Officer will also go through the I-130 application and verify information from either spouse, in particular biographical information such as dates of birth, where one is employed and in what position, names of parents, etc. The Officer is doing this to make sure that you and your spouse know each other. You very well may get very nervous during the interview, so please review everything that you submitted to immigration beforehand. If there is any incorrect information that you see upon reviewing them, you can always bring it to the Officer’s attention at the time of the interview and amend your petition.
(5) You may be asked very personal and detailed questions. The Officer may ask you some very detailed questions to see if you really are living with each other. They may ask what you had for dinner last night, what your spouse wears to bed, how you got to the interview that morning, where you go to the supermarket, etc. Don’t be thrown off by the questions. If you don’t remember, just say so. If you need a moment to recollect your memory, also say so. You also don’t need to give extremely detailed answers—listen to what is said, and provide a short answer to that question.
(6) You will be asked to provide copies of documentation evidencing that you have a bona fide, or legitimate, marriage. After the initial questioning, the Officer will ask you to provide the bona fides of the marriage which is essentially documents that show you are living with each other, pooling your money together, and publicly hold yourself out as a married couple. The Officer will keep these documents so please bring copies. The Officer will look closely at your documents and ask you questions about them. For example, you may be asked how money is contributed into the joint bank account and even receive questions about specific transactions. Make sure that you know everything that is on the documents you are providing. Also, if you don’t have certain documents, you will need to explain why. There are many reasons why someone may not have a lease or why they don’t have any pictures with their other family members—again, all of this can be okay so long as there is an explanation. Common documentation includes:

  • Print outs of joint bank account statements for the entire time you have been married,
  • A lease with both partner’s names on it,
  • Joint health/car/life insurance statements,
  • Taxes showing that you filed as married,
  • Photos of yourselves with friends and family,
  • Letters from individuals who can attest to your relationship,
  • Evidence of trips taken together, and
  • Other documentation that objectively evidences that you are married and living your life together.

After that, the interview will conclude. You may be told that the petition has been approved right on the spot, or you may be given a paper saying that the Officer needs 30 -120 days to make a decision. If you didn’t have a certain necessary document (for example, your passport or marriage certificate), you may be asked to come back with it. Lastly, you may be asked to come back for another interview, which is known as a Stokes interview. If this is the case, it means that the Officer suspects fraud. Your follow up interview will happen with you and your spouse in different rooms being asked the same questions and recorded. The Officers do this to see if there are inconsistent answers.
With adequate preparation, the I-130 interview should go smoothly. Please reach out if you would like to schedule an immigration consultation. We are here to help! Follow us on InstagramTwitterFacebookLinkedIn or Tumblr for up-to-date immigration news.

Rasoulpour Torregoza is the law firm for immigrants, by immigrants. We are founded on the motto of LegalEase: we do away with the legal jargon and make law easy to understand, so you can focus on what’s important to you – going for your American Dream.
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