You and your spouse have married, and decided to take the step to file for adjustment of status. You may be excited, nervous, ready, or a mix of all of the above! But what do you REALLY need to know before walking through the doors of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”)? You probably have scoured through many message boards looking for an answer regarding what to expect; but, those are only isolated case examples, and all cases are different. From the perspective of an immigration law specialist, these are the top 5 things to know before your adjustment of status interview.
#1 – Follow the Checklist and Bring the Original Documents
All USCIS offices send a list of documents with their appointment notices. It will list many items, most of which you have already sent to USCIS. However, you must still bring all of those items in original to your appointment with you! The officer will likely wish to compare your original documents to the copies in their file. So be prepared! You should also make sure that all of your identification documents, like a driver’s license, have your current marital address on them. This is important for both you and your spouse. The first thing that the officer will ask for from all individuals is your identification. If you start your interview presenting the officer with an address that you are not living at, you start off on the wrong foot. Be sure that you have original, certified dispositions for any and all encounters with law enforcement that you may have had.
To eliminate your nerves, prepare your documents the week before! Build a file so that on the day of your interview, you are already certain that you have everything prepared. Many have heard of the saying “Poor preparation results in poor performance.” Nothing is more true than with immigration.
#2 – Prove Your Marriage is Real, and Bring the Documents!
You may see a theme developing. USCIS is very paper oriented! They want to see your joint bank account statements, joint credit card bills, all of your joint utilities bills, tickets for vacations you have taken, joint insurance, and all 1,000 photographs you have taken along the way.
…The reality is that while USCIS may want to see that much evidence, many simply don’t have it. But you can make the best of what you have!
Don’t have a joint bank account? List your spouse as your designated beneficiary on your own bank account, demonstrating your intent to care for your spouse if you suddenly passed. Can’t list your spouse on your utilities because the company only will allow one person? Vary your bills so that you are on some and your spouse is on another. Even simply showing your driver’s license with the joint marital address on it is better than nothing.
Maybe money is tight and you are living with family, so there is nothing that you can bring to prove that your marriage is valid. Bring what you can. Have your family member write a lease for you and your spouse. Bring notarized letters from the people you live with.
Even more challenging is if you and your spouse can’t live together full time. Perhaps your spouse is finishing schooling, or frequently works out of town. People in the community likely know that, and are willing to support you! Get notarized letters from friends and family attesting to how you met your spouse, as well as their knowledge of your marriage. But remember: the more detailed, the better. 100 letters that say that you are married is much less persuasive than 10 letters with specific details about how you met, the times you have shared together with friends, and how the community sees you. USCIS is looking to see that you have created a life together – no life is perfect, but everyone can think of something, even it if isn’t the typical documents USCIS looks for.
#3 – Spend Quality Time Together Before the Interview
Nothing can replace an officer’s gut feeling. Not all couples are into PDA, but a general sense of comfort between two people who have spent a lot of time together is something that officer’s pick up on! Spending some purposeful time with your spouse before your interview can help you both feel comfortable. Talk about the interview and reminisce on your first memories together. Discussing privately how you met and the memories you each have will help reinforce the answers to questions the officer will likely ask you.
Discuss memorable events, how you felt during the celebration of your wedding, and little moments that you both remember. This will help you recall special moments to tell to the officer while telling the story of how you met. The little things you remember can make all the different with the officer.
Your knowledge of your spouse’s family, such as where there are and what their names are, is also an important factor to an officer. Be honest about your relationship with your spouse’s family, which may be close or it may be tenuous, but knowing the basic information about who and where they are will go a long way to show that you are interested in your spouse’s family situation – an important characteristic in a marriage. The same goes for any children that you and your spouse may have (together or separate!).
#4 – Save the Dates!
Not everyone is good with dates. But if you are going to remember ANYTHING before your USCIS interview, at least know your spouse’s birthday and your date of marriage. Spend time committing them to memory.
You should also be able to tell the officer the basic timeline for your relationship: when you met, how long you dated, when you decided to get married, etc. Being consistent with this information is a major consideration for the officer who is interviewing you. Even if you can’t recall exact dates, being consistent about the timeframe is imperative.
#5 – Keep It Simple
Keep in mind that the officer is going to be asking you questions. So just answer the question that is asked of you. Continuing on about other things outside of the question that is asked may confuse the officer and cause them to think that you and your spouse may not be on the same page. It also gives away nervousness. Answer the question that is asked of you with relevant details, but keep it simple.
And most importantly, don’t exaggerate. The officer does not care if you bought your spouse an expensive elaborate gift for their birthday, versus took the time to cook a nice meal at home. It is not about the expense or elaborate gestures, but the thought behind them. Exaggerating may cause your recollection to look dissimilar from that of your spouse, and keeping it simple eliminates that from being an issue.
Keeping these 5 simple suggestions in mind will help you and your spouse prepare for that important moment that is coming up soon. Be aware that these are only some broader themes, and that every officer and every couple is different!
Most importantly, if you are worried about your interview, or you think there may be items that will cause an issue with a USCIS officer, call a professional and experienced attorney for advice. The experienced and talented attorneys at The Fogle Law Firm would be happy to assist you with your needs.