The key to a smooth interview is preparation. If you haven’t looked at the forms we have sent to the government in a while now is a good time to look at them. Please let us know if there are any changes or corrections that need to be made.
What To Review
In order to prepare for the oral part of the interview, your most important homework task is to review your paperwork. Look at the questions and answers on every form that we have submitted for you. Though they seem to contain only boring, dry bits of information, this information is loaded with meaning to a USCIS or consular official. The dates of your visits to different places, the financial figures, and your immigration history can all add up to a revealing picture in the officer’s eyes.
After you’ve reviewed your written work, spend some time with your spouse reviewing the facts and circumstances surrounding your relationship, such as where you met, how your relationship developed, how you’ve corresponded or visited and when, and why you decided to get married.
Recall what occurred at your wedding and how you settled into your marriage. The officer will ask you about these details in order to test whether you are truly establishing a life together, not committing a fraud in order to obtain a green card.
We will want to discuss the interview with you two weeks before your interview date. At this mock interview we will review the paperwork with you, demonstrate how the interview will be conducted and answer any questions you may have. This part of the preparation is very important. Often times we discover information that may cause a question in the officer’s mind. With this preparation we can identify what additional evidence or information to present at the interview, to make it easier for the officer to approve your case.
What To Wear
The interviewing officer’s decision rests almost entirely on whether he or she believes that you’re telling the truth. You’ll come across as more sincere if you’re dressed neatly, professionally, and even conservatively. Avoid T-shirts or jewelry with slogans or symbols that might make the officer wonder about your lifestyle or morals. We suggest that you dress as if you were going to visit your grandmother or church. Think about what you’ll wear to your interview earlier than the night before, so that you’re not up late with your ironing board.
What To Bring
You’ll need to bring a number of documents to your interview, for purposes of proving your identity, the validity of your marriage, and more. We will send you a list and sample letters, after we receive your interview notice.
Arrange For An Interpreter
Neither USCIS nor our office provides interpreters at interviews in the United States. A few of their officers speak Spanish or other languages, but you can’t count on getting a bilingual officer, nor can you request one. If you’re not comfortable in English, you’ll need to bring a friend or hire an interpreter to help. Even if your spouse is capable of interpreting for you, the USCIS office probably won’t allow it.
The interpreter must be over 18 and fluent in both your language and in English. The interpreter be a legal resident or citizen of the United States
Procedures For USCIS Interviews
About three to four months after you submit your adjustment of status packet to USCIS, USCIS will schedule your interview at one of its local offices, hopefully near where you live. This could be your biggest day since your wedding: If the interview goes well—your marriage is obviously the real deal, you don’t fall into any of the grounds for inadmissibility, and your documents are in order— the interview can take as little as 20 minutes. If you have children in common, USCIS is much less likely to question whether your marriage is bona fide. You will be approved for permanent residence or conditional residence (if you’ve been married for less than two years or entered the United States on a fiancé visa).
What The USCIS Officials Will Do And Say
In spite of the fact that hundreds of very different couples are interviewed each day across the United States, these interviews tend to follow a pattern. Here’s what will probably happen at your adjustment interview, step by step.
- Shortly after your scheduled interview time, you’ll be summoned to the inner rooms of the USCIS adjustments office.
- You’ll be brought to the USCIS officer’s desk, where your identification will be checked. You, your spouse, and your interpreter (if you’ve brought one) will have to stand up, raise your right hands, and take oaths to tell the truth. The officer will ask to see all of your passports and travel documents, your work permit (if you have one), your Social Security card (if you have one), and your driver’s license (if you have one). The officer will also want to see documents from your spouse, such as a driver’s license, Social Security card (if available), and proof of legal U.S. immigration status.
- The officer will start by going through your written application, asking you about the facts and examining the medical and fingerprint reports for factors that might make you ineligible for a green card.
- The officer will ask you and your spouse about your married life. At this stage, the questions will be polite ones, such as where you met, when and why you decided to get married, how many people attended your wedding, or what you did on your most recent birthday or night out. You’ll back up your answers with documents that illustrate the genuine nature of your marriage.
- If there’s a problem in your application that you can correct by submitting additional materials, the officer will usually put your case on hold and send you home with a list of additional documents to provide by mail within a specified time. This is called a “Request for Evidence”.
At the end of the interview, if you are approved, you will be given a letter stating that your case is approved. The letter is just for your records and cannot be used like a green card to travel in and out of the United States. Several weeks later, however, your actual green card will arrive by mail. If you receive conditional residence, you’ll have to file an application about 21 months from your approval date in order to progress to permanent residency.
Loss Of Permanent Residence
Even short departures from the United States may result in the loss of permanent resident status. When you are inspected by an immigration officer upon your return to the United States, you may be found to have lost your “permanent residence” if the immigration officer determines that your home is no longer in the United States. Loss of permanent residence may occur if any one of the following occurs:
- you accept a job abroad;
- you fail to file a resident tax return;
- you stay outside the United States for more than one year without a valid re-entry permit; or
- you are otherwise found to have abandoned your residence in the United States.
Taking a permanent job overseas, or a job for an indefinite term, can create problems, but a clearly temporary job that is for a specific and relatively short period of time is sometimes acceptable.
In determining whether you have abandoned residence, USCIS (or the U.S. Consul, if you are applying for a visa as a “returning resident”) will consider a number of factors which bear upon your intent to reside in the United States. These include:
- the amount of time you have spent in the United States;
- where you are working;
- whether your trips abroad are clearly temporary in purpose;
- what your ties are to the United States;
- the existence of a home in the United States;
- your payment, or failure to pay, taxes as a resident of the United States;
- your ownership of property; and
- the reasons for your trips abroad.
If you are planning on spending extensive periods of time abroad, we strongly recommend that you contact this office to discuss steps that may be taken in order to protect and support your status as a Lawful Permanent Resident of the United States.
If You Work Outside The United States
Before moving abroad to take up employment, even temporary employment, you should consult with our office. Under certain circumstances, your residence in the United States can be preserved for naturalization purposes, and in any case, we can provide you with advice on to how to maximize your chances for maintaining your residence.
Possible Loss Of Status
Even though you have a “green card,” you can be deported from the United States under certain circumstances, including:
- Conviction of even a minor drug-related offense;
- Conviction of certain felonies;
- Conviction of any two crimes not arising out of a single scheme;
- Knowingly encouraging or aiding anyone else to enter the United States illegally or fraudulently;
- Failing to notify the Immigration Service of a change of address; or
- Engaging in espionage, sabotage, or terrorist activities.
You may also lose your status if you were ineligible to obtain that status in the first place. This can happen if USCIS discovers that you misrepresented yourself or any of your documents at the time you obtained permanent residence. You may also be found to be ineligible for permanent residence if you separated from your spouse or the employer who petitioned for you shortly after obtaining your status, and the Immigration Service finds that you did not intend to live with your spouse, or work for your employer, at the time you became a permanent resident.
Proceedings To Take Away Your Status
If you are living in the United States as a permanent resident, USCIS can bring an action to rescind that status, or an action to deport you from the United States. The former begins with the service by USCIS of a “Notice of Intent to Rescind.” The latter begins with the service of a “Notice to Appear.” Your failure to respond to either of those documents could result in the loss of your residence and your removal from the United States. USCIS can serve the Notice of Intent to Rescind by simply mailing it to you at the last address in their files which you have given them. Therefore, it is extremely important that you keep USCIS advised of your address following any change of address. Should you be faced with a criminal prosecution, or should you receive a Notice of Intent to Rescind or a Notice to Appear, please consult our offices or another competent immigration attorney immediately.
U.S. Resident Tax Return
Every permanent resident of the United States is a U.S. tax resident. As such, you are required to pay U.S. taxes on all your income–worldwide. You do receive credit for certain taxes paid abroad. Your failure to pay taxes can result in a finding that you have abandoned your permanent resident status, even if you can legitimately claim nonresident status under a tax treaty. You are also liable for state income taxes.
The estates of persons who are U.S. tax residents when deceased are subject to U.S. estate tax. If you have not already done so, you may wish to consider consulting a professional with regard to minimizing the amount of taxes which would be involved under such circumstances. If you do not know of an appropriate tax professional, please contact our office for a referral.
Obtaining A Social Security Card
Generally, you may obtain a Social Security Card once you are legally authorized to work in the United States. Such authorization may be evidenced by receipt of an employment authorization card, an Alien Registration Card (Green Card), or receipt of temporary evidence of Green Card status (as established by presentation of an I-551 stamp in your passport). You will need to file an application for a Social Security Number in person at the Social Security Office. When filing this application at the Social Security Office, you should bring the following documents with you: your original birth certificate, passport, and employment authorization document, stamped passport or Green Card. Call 1-800-772-1213 for further information including the address of your local Social Security office, or visit their website at www.ssa.gov.
Restriction On Your S.S. Card
If you already have your Social Security card, but it is annotated indicating that it is not valid for employment without a USCIS employment authorization document, you should contact Social Security with your evidence of permanent resident status to have the restrictions removed.
Your Social Security Account
Even if you have a Social Security number, you should check to make sure you received credits under Social Security for any taxable work you did before you got your Green Card. Sometimes the Social Security Administration misplaces the records if you did not have a valid card, and this is the time to unscramble the records. Request a form SSA-7004, Request for Earnings and Benefit Estimate Statement, from Social Security to check these records. In fact, you should check your earnings statement every three to four years because errors more than four years old usually cannot be corrected.
Change Of Address
- It is no longer necessary to report your address annually.
- If you move, you are required to report your new address to the USCIS District Office within 10 days. Failure to report your address is a ground for deportation. The correct form for entering your change of address is Form AR-11, available on the Internet at http://uscis.gov or our website at www.geygan.com, or by calling our office. Whenever you send correspondence to USCIS, please send it certified mail with return receipt to show proof of mailing. It is recommended that you send one copy of Form AR-11 to the address on the Form AR-11 and another copy to the District Office if your Adjustment of Status application was filed locally.
- If an I-864 Affidavit of Support on your behalf was filed, then you will need to file an I-865 Affidavit of Support Change of Address. This form is also available on the Internet. Follow the instructions on the form.
The United States does not currently have a draft. However, all men age 18 to 26 are required to register for Selective Service within 30 days of their 18th birthday, or within 30 days of the time they become permanent residents of the United States. (In fact, aliens who are not in lawful nonimmigrant status are also required to register.) If you become a permanent resident before your 26th birthday, you are required to register for Selective Service. If you have a son who holds a “green card” or is a U.S. citizen, he is required to register within 30 days of his 18th birthday. Notwithstanding the fact that you have registered with the Selective Service, you may be exempt from military service based on your nationality. However, claiming such exemption could disqualify you from citizenship. Failure to register will also bar you from U.S. citizenship.
How To Register
You may complete your Selective Service Registration at any U.S. Post Office. The form is a simple postcard type document.
Petitioning For Relatives
- You may file a petition for a spouse or an unmarried child under age 21 once you have been approved for permanent residence even though your Green Card has not arrived in the mail. Please note that there is a substantial waiting period for immigrant visa numbers under this category. Available immigrant visa numbers are required in order to complete immigrant visa processing. You may also file for an unmarried child over age 21, but the waiting period is currently eight years or longer.
- Once you become a U.S. citizen, the waiting period for a spouse or unmarried child can be eliminated, and an application for permanent residence can be submitted immediately, once all supporting documentation has been prepared. In addition, you can file for a parent or a married child. There is no waiting period for a parent, but the waiting period for a married child is currently eight years or longer for all countries. In addition, you can file a petition for a brother or a sister, but the waiting period is currently projected to be at least 11 years for most countries.
- Our office can provide you with assistance and advice in processing a petition to classify eligible relatives under an appropriate category. Because the waiting periods are so long, we recommend that you file such petitions as soon as possible if there is any indication your relative may wish to immigrate to the United States at some time in the future. Should your relative desire to come to the United States more quickly, we can advise you as to what other paths may be available. Please keep in mind that the mere filing of a petition may, in some cases, make it harder for your relative to obtain a visitor visa to come to the United States, as an intent to immigrate will be on record with USCIS.
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