If you’re preparing for a marriage-based interview, one of your main questions is going to be, “What kind of questions are they going to ask us?”
There are some things that the immigration officers across the country like to ask to see if the relationship is legitimate. There are a few main categories that are super important that you have reviewed ahead of time so that you are prepared for your interview. A big caveat a lot of people who are in legitimate relationships think, “We’ve been living together. We’re totally in a legitimate relationship. Why should we practice or prepare for this at all?”
That’s a huge mistake because this is a very short window of time that you get to present your relationship to someone in person and sometimes, just being off by one question sets this tone where the officer takes it the wrong way and puts you in a bucket. They’ll think, “These people are in a fake relationship.” And then, they give you a really hard time.
Even though you’ve been together in a relationship for a long time or not but you feel really close, review these main categories so that you don’t find yourself in a tough situation and feel under a lot of stress. You want this to go as smoothly as possible.
There are two main categories of questions: first is about the filed petitions and the second is about your relationship.
They’re always going to ask questions about the actual application that you filed. For the petitioner, the US citizen, those are the questions on the petition itself. That’s the application that you signed and they’re going to ask you about the information that’s on there.
For the immigrant, say this is an adjustment of status interview, in most cases that’s what the joint marriage interviews would be, then you would be answering the questions about the green card ,the I-485 application, that you filed. They’re going to go into a lot of your immigration history, whether you’re a terrorist, et cetera. Lots of crazy security questions and things like that. You both should be completely familiar with what was on those applications.
Typically, there’s a lag time of at least a few months in between when you file and when you have the interview. Sometimes, it’s years depending on which office you’re at and the time frames for processing. You want to take a look at that.
If there’s anything that’s changed since then, you need to be prepared to discuss it. If you moved addresses, you should have updated it with USCIS. If it’s something more complex, like you got arrested or something more serious happened, you should definitely get legal advice about the best way to handle that.
You want to prepare by looking at the application. Remember all the places you lived and the jobs you had and that your partner had and the important dates and things like that to the best degree possible.
The other category would be the actual questions about your relationship that they’re going to ask at the interview. There are several categories that they tend to focus on. What the officers will typically do is they’ll start in one of these categories and they’ll follow the breadcrumbs and see what information they can get out of you until they have enough details that they think, “I don’t think they would have practiced this. This is really specific.”
And then, they will test it against the testimony of the other partner. In some offices, the officers frequently separate the couple and they interview one person and then the other person and compare their answers. In other offices, they seem to be a lot more lax about that and they typically interview people together.
We’ve been seeing both things at different offices so just be aware that either thing could happen. For categories that you should definitely review ahead of time so that you’re prepared for this interview: the trajectory of your relationship, family history, daily habits, finances, and major events.
A lot of times people have different perspectives on life and what has happened and that’s totally normal. Science proves that that’s how our brains work and so, you might find that you and your partner actually have slightly differing memories of how you got together and what the timetable was for that.
Immigration is not really as up on the neuroscience, they always think you’re trying to trick them. You want to review, “When did we meet? What month and year?” and “How long until we we’re dating exclusively?”. That sort of thing and then talk about the leading up to the wedding itself and honeymoon or party that you may have had as part of that event. You want to talk about all of those different phases and get on the same page.
A lot of times, I find there’s one member of a couple who’s like “I think it was two years ago” and the other person’s like “On October 12th exactly at 3 PM, I looked up and there she was”. It’s okay if you have different styles. If you could at least get on the same page about the time of year that it was, the season or the month of the year, that would be ideal.
The next thing you want to review is each other’s families and family history. They might get into the siblings that you each have and where they live and if they have kids and who you’ve met of each other’s families. Things like that about your families.
You don’t have to remember all 72 first cousins of your spouse if you haven’t met them. It’s some things you might not know but try to review what you do know and who you have met. Be on the same page with that.
The next thing you want to review is your daily habits: what time do you get out, what’s our usual process. You’re familiar with that just from your day-to-day lives but you want to go over that because you wouldn’t want to get in a situation where you had a different perspective on that and it was taken the wrong way. Review your commutes and your job schedules and if you ever work overtime and if you ever work on the weekends and how you tend to communicate with each other throughout the day. Things like that. Just day-to-day life.
The next thing is finances. You really want to be on the same page about your financial lives. Some people have their finances separate and just a few things joined together. Other couples will only use one joint account. Immigration tends to think of it in a little bit of a 1950s way, where they think that the most true relationship situation would be to have one joint account that you pay everything out of.
But people have different arrangements. What you really want to make sure is that you’re telling the truth. If your arrangement is like, I have an account and my spouse has an account and then we we pay certain bills this way or that way or we put money together to pay the bills. You just want to be upfront about what it is and you both need to know what the situation is.
Other financial discussions that you’d want to have would be, how much your spouse has paid, when they’re paid, how they’re paid. They also sometimes ask questions about the bank account statements that you submit. Which is why you want to be careful about what you submit because a lot of information is in bank accounts.
All the stuff that you’re buying over time, it really shows the rhythm of whether this account is actually being used by both members and the couple or if it’s just one person’s using it primarily or you just made it because you heard online that you’re supposed to have a joint account and that’s all you did. You definitely don’t want to try to argue that that’s your sole account if it’s clearly not because you can tell.
Review all your financial information accounts. Sometimes, one member of the couple is the person who’s in charge of that in your relationship and so the other person who’s not really in charge of that should still have an idea about it for the purposes of the interview. And probably for life. It’s good to know who your cable company is or whatever.
The last thing that you definitely want to review is major holidays from the past year and vacations and what you did on each of those. What did you do on each other’s birthdays, what did you do on Valentine’s Day, any other major religious holidays you celebrate together. If you’ve taken any vacations, anything like that. In 2020, people have not been able to travel very much at all. So maybe less relevant than typical. But I’m still hearing people asking that question. And so, you really want to think through how you celebrated different major milestones in the past year or so.
If you review all those things and you’re legitimately married, then you’ll have a pretty good chance at doing well at your interview. If you need any help, please let us know. Good luck to you.