By:  Richard Hanus, Esq.

Published August 10, 2022

With some exceptions, foreign nationals seeking to live and work permanently in the U.S. will undergo some sort of interview before being approved for lawful permanent status, aka Green Card status.  If the applicant is overseas, the process culminates with an ”immigrant visa interview” conducted by a U.S. Department of State official at a U.S. consular post in the applicant’s country of residence.

If the applicant is present in the U.S. and meets eligibility requirements for consideration, an “adjustment of status” interview will take place before a U.S. Department of Homeland Security/Citizenship and Immigration Services (DHS/CIS) officer at a local DHS/CIS office nearest their place of residence.

If approved following either type of interview, the applicant will receive their Green Card in the mail within a few weeks, although the overseas applicant is first issued an immigrant visa to travel to the U.S., and will only be mailed their card after entering the U.S.  Once issued, the Green Card will generally be valid for 10 years and quite easily renewable.  However, those obtaining their resident status by way of a marriage to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident will be issued a renewable 2 year “conditional” green card, when the marriage took place less than 2 years prior to card issuance.

Whether conducted in the U.S. or abroad, the Green Card interview has many purposes, including to determine whether the applicant:

— has adequate financial support,

— has a disqualifying medical condition, criminal background, U.S. immigration history or

— is a national security risk.

For marriage based applicants, interviewing officers are charged with confirming the sincerity of the spousal relationship, and that the marriage was not entered into solely to facilitate immigration benefits.  For job based applicants, the genuineness of the underlying job offer along with the applicant’s qualifications are assessed, although most U.S. based applicants these days (adjustment of status), will have their interviews waived if a background check reveals no security risk or adverse criminal or immigration history.

For marriage based applicants, what are the most common questions?

First, if applying for adjustment of status in the U.S., both the Green Card applicant and the U.S. petitioning spouse will be present in the interview – unlike in an overseas consular interview setting where only the foreign national applicant is present.  There are literally hundreds of questions that can be asked, but most often it’ll be questions about how, when, and where the relationship started and details on the path the relationship followed leading toward marriage.  Overseas applicants, especially, can expect questions surrounding the number of times and duration of trips the U.S. petitioner traveled abroad to meet the applicant in person.  Also common are questions about when the idea of marriage arose, if/when a meeting of the spouse’s family and friends took place, along with the reasons you married.

What types of criminal or U.S. immigration history issues most often impact applicant eligibility?

An applicant arrest that leads to a conviction may have significant consequences for Green Card eligibility, and the more serious the crime the more likely the problem.  Even arrests that end in dismissal of charges can pose problems, especially when it comes to drug offenses.  There are of course many circumstances under which a single conviction for a misdemeanor may be inconsequential, and with so much of the outcome depending on case specifics and the exact section of law under which the applicant was convicted.

As far as a disqualifying immigration history may be concerned, the interviewing officer looks for possible U.S. immigration law violations related to past travel to the U.S. or misrepresentations related to inconsistencies between previous U.S. visa applications and the current one.

In many cases involving seemingly disqualifying criminal or U.S. immigration law violations, a “waiver of inadmissibility” to excuse the ineligibility may be available.  Approval of such a waiver will depend on a wide range of factors, such as the nature of the crime, immigration violation or misrepresentation, family ties in the U.S. and hardship to certain U.S. family members.

Successful immigration interviews depends not only on legal eligibility but on thorough preparation, especially when it comes to anticipating the problem or issue before it is raised by a government official.  Having an experienced immigration lawyer by your side as you navigate the U.S. immigration system will undoubtedly heighten one’s chances of success.

PUBLISHED August 10, 2022– “IMMIGRATION LAW FORUM” Copyright © 2022, By Law Offices of Richard Hanus, Chicago, Illinois