Step 3: Consulate Interview and Approval
The interview is the final major step in the green card application process, and it can be the most stressful and intimidating part. Couples can help alleviate this stress by knowing what to expect and putting together an organized file to take to the interview.
Once the NVC has completed its processing of your NVC package, the file is then transferred to the U.S. consulate that processes green card applications in the foreign spouse’s home country. The consulate will then issue an appointment notice informing the foreign spouse that he or she must attend an interview at a certain time, date, and location.
Before the interview
Before attending the green card interview, the spouse seeking a green card must have a medical examination performed by a State Department-approved doctor. The U.S. consulate processing your application will send you a list of these doctors along with your interview notice.
Once the exam is complete, the doctor will give you a sealed envelope containing your exam results and vaccination record, which you must take with you to the interview.
Passport Delivery and Fingerprinting Appointment
Before the interview, the spouse seeking a green card must sign up online with an address to which the passport can be returned after an approved visa stamp is placed in the passport. Instructions to sign up for passport delivery are posted on each consulate’s website.
The spouse seeking a green card must also, in most countries, sign up for a fingerprinting appointment at a visa application support center (this is usually a location different from the consulate). The purpose of this appointment is for the government to take fingerprints of the spouse, in order to conduct background and security checks. These instructions are also posted on each consulate’s website.
The fingerprinting appointment is typically low-stress and can be thought of as more of a procedural step. The spouse seeking a green card will not be asked questions about the marriage or about green card eligibility at this appointment. He or she will simply be fingerprinted.
What to Expect
A spouse living abroad will attend an interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate in his or her home country. The sponsoring spouse does not attend this interview.
The interviewing officer’s primary goal is to assess the authenticity of the marriage. Questions can focus on the history of the couple’s relationship, their daily activities as a married couple, and their future plans as a couple.
The interviewing officer is also looking to assess whether the foreign spouse qualifies for a green card. The officer will address details surrounding the spouse’s previous entries to the United States, any arrests, and previous immigration history. This includes previous statements made at embassies and consulates, and to customs and immigration officers at the airport.
How to Prepare
The following recommendations can help you prepare:
- Schedule an extended phone conversation with your spouse during the week of your interview to refresh your memories together. It’s reasonable for you to have forgotten some specific dates and events in the history of your relationship.
- Prepare the original documents of all the copies you submitted to USCIS and the NVC in your I-130 petition and green card application package (including your passport, birth certificate, marriage certificate, court records, prior divorce documents, and photos and other evidence of the authenticity of your marriage).
- Prepare copies of more documents that help prove the authenticity of your marriage—examples include birth certificates of any children born to the two of you, copies of travel itineraries for vacations you took together (especially to the foreign spouse’s home country) and copies of phone records showing you talk on the phone regularly. For more ideas on what documents you can use to prove that your marriage is authentic, see our article on this topic here.
- Organize all of these documents in a folder.
- Organize any photos in an album.
At the Interview
It’s important to answer the interviewing officer’s questions honestly, directly, and succinctly. Check out this list of common interview questions, which can get very personal.
Often applicants feel pressured to have an answer to every question. It’s better to say “I don’t know” or “I don’t remember” than trying to make something up to answer a question.
If the interviewing officer is sufficiently convinced that the marriage is not fraudulent, he or she will approve the foreign spouse for a green card. The spouse will then receive a visa stamp in his or her passport, allowing for travel to the United States. Typically 2-3 weeks after arrival, the physical green card is then mailed to the couple’s U.S. address.
After the foreign spouse receives the visa stamp in his or her passport, the USCIS Immigrant Fee ($220) can be paid online here. This fee needs to be paid for USCIS to produce and mail the physical green card. It is best to pay this fee online as soon as the visa stamp is received, so that the spouse seeking a green card may receive his or her physical green card soon after they enter the United States.
This whole process, from start to finish, typically takes 11-16 months—first, 7-9 months for USCIS to process the I-130 filing package, then 3-5 months for the NVC to complete pre-processing, and then 1-2 months for the consulate to schedule the interview.