Here’s another edition of “Dear Sophie,” the advice column that answers immigration-related questions about working at technology companies.
“Your questions are vital to the spread of knowledge that allows people all over the world to rise above borders and pursue their dreams,” says Sophie Alcorn, a Silicon Valley immigration attorney. “Whether you’re in people ops, a founder or seeking a job in Silicon Valley, I would love to answer your questions in my next column.”
My employer sponsored me and my family for green cards. We’re expecting to get a green card interview scheduled soon. What should we expect and how should we prepare for our interview?
— Nervous in Newark
Thanks for reaching out. Great to hear that you’re in the final stretch of the green card process! Fortunately USCIS is starting up in-person interviews again now that they have COVID-precautions in place. For more info, check out what to expect and how to prepare for a green card interview.
Before 2017, USCIS waived interviews for most employment-based green card candidates. But an executive order directing federal agencies to implement screening and vetting processes prompted USCIS to institute a green card interview for all candidates, including dependents.
USCIS offices just reopened to the public on June 4, after being closed for nearly two months due to COVID-19, so scheduling — or rescheduling — a green card interview may require a bit of a wait. Be aware that USCIS tries to schedule families together for their interview at the same time and location; however, this is not guaranteed. USCIS may waive the interview requirement for children 14 years old and younger.
Always inform your immigration attorney of any changes to your employment prior to or immediately after the interview, such as:
- Reduction in salary or work hours
- Change in job location, job title, duties or responsibilities
- Promotion or demotion
- Your employer has gone through a corporate merger, acquisition, name change or restructuring
Because USCIS allows individuals to bring an immigration attorney to their interview, I usually recommend doing so. Having an experienced immigration lawyer at your side — or with your spouse and children if they are scheduled to be interviewed separately from you — will give you peace of mind. An immigration attorney can offer further information about what you can expect from interviewers from a particular USCIS office and make suggestions for preparing. USCIS also allows interpreters to an interview, but now often telephonically.
Make sure to arrive early to the USCIS office for your interview. You will have to go through security and check-in when you arrive. A green card interview typically lasts about 20 minutes, but can go longer if there are additional questions.
The USCIS interviewing officer will ask the primary green card candidate questions to:
- Verify information submitted on green card petition (Form I-140) and adjustment of status (Form I-485) and supporting documents
- Determine your eligibility
- Assess your admissibility, such as arrests, misrepresentations made to an immigration officer or whether you are or could become reliant on public benefits
- Get information on your educational background, job and job duties
- Make sure all information is up-to-date
- Get an explanation of any discrepancies
- Explore any other topics according to their discretion
Your spouse and kids will be asked questions to verify their relationship to the primary green card candidate in addition to other questions to verify the information submitted and assess admissibility. If a child’s interview is waived, the interviewing officer may still ask you questions about the child. Be sure to bring that child’s information and documents to the interview.
To prepare for your interview, I recommend reviewing all documents already submitted to USCIS and assembling all documents listed in the interview appointment notice along with any certified English translations, if necessary. Documents you and your family should bring to the interview typically include:
- Interview appointment notice
- Passport and other government-issued photo ID, such as a driver’s license
- Copy of adjustment of status application packet
- Originals of any supporting documents you submitted with the adjustment of status, including marriage and birth certificates, and divorce decrees if applicable
- Any travel documents in addition to your passport
- Doctor’s report from your medical examination
- An up-to-date letter from your employer stating you continue to be employed and at what salary
If you have questions about these documents it’s best to seek the advice of an experienced immigration attorney.
During your interview, be honest and concise with your answers. If immigration officials find out you lied, your green card will be denied and you could be barred from entering the U.S. in the future.
While the USCIS official may tell you that you’ve been approved for a green card at the end of your interview, that doesn’t always happen. USCIS is required to make a decision on a case within 30 days of an interview. However, if USCIS issues a Request for Evidence (RFE), the decision clock restarts.
USCIS will send you a notification if your green card has been approved. You will receive a stamp in your passport. The physical green card should arrive in the mail in two to three weeks.
If you receive a USCIS notice saying that your adjustment of status has been denied, it will state the reason and whether you can appeal the denial and how. However, most of the time, there is no appeal of a denial. If you have a legal argument for appealing the decision, your attorney can ask the Administrative Appeals Office of USCIS to look at your case and decide whether the USCIS officer wrongly denied you a green card.
You can file a motion to have your case reconsidered if you think the reason for the denial was wrong or have your case reopened if your situation has changed or new developments have occurred since the decision was made.
Here’s to your approaching permanent residence! Wishing you all the best.
Have a question? Ask it here. We reserve the right to edit your submission for clarity and/or space. The information provided in “Dear Sophie” is general information and not legal advice. For more information on the limitations of “Dear Sophie,” please view our full disclaimer here. You can contact Sophie directly at Alcorn Immigration Law.