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“Uh Oh! I Have A Second Green Card Interview Request.  Help!”

I routinely have calls from people in the Filipino community worried because they have been unexpectedly scheduled for a second green card interview.  The usual circumstance is that a husband and wife have gone to a green card interview without any attorney representation, and at the end of the interview the immigration officer tells them that everything seems okay, and that they will receive something in the mail.  Indeed, they do receive something in the mail, a second interview notice instead of an expected approval notice. 

I have seen many reasons for couples being scheduled for a second, more in depth green card interview, commonly called a marriage fraud interview.  For example, many in the Filipino community may be full-time caregivers, and may only live with their spouse on the weekend, one day per week, or not at all.  Other couples may live in different cities or states because their jobs are in different cities or states.  This situation may concern the interviewing immigration officer because one of the most important indicators of the good faith of a marriage is that the couple lives together. 

Of course, it is not a legal requirement that a couple live together, and there could be many situations where a couple lives apart for very good and practical reasons.  For instance, in the example given above, a husband may have a job in one city or even state, and the wife may have a job in another city or state.  In order to make ends meet and pay all of their bills, they may not be able to quit their jobs and move with the other spouse until they find a new job where their spouse lives.  It will be important in this situation to document that the couple sees each other and communicates with each other as much as possible.

Another reason that a couple may be asked to appear for a second marriage fraud interview might have to do with the length of their courtship.  For instance, if a couple met and married within one to two months, the immigration officer may also have concerns about the good faith of the marriage.  The couple’s verbal explanations for why they married so fast may not be accepted by the officer, and the officer will likely want a more in depth look at the couple’s relationship.  Another reason for a marriage fraud interview is when the petitioning wife is much older than the beneficiary husband.

This in depth look at a couple’s relationship is conducted in the second marriage fraud interview, called an I-130 interview by USCIS.  Couples who are not represented by an immigration attorney often have great difficulty with this interview.  First, they are not prepared for the interview format as it is quite different from the first green card interview.  The first green card interview was conducted with both spouses in the same room at the same time, took about thirty minutes, and the questions asked about the relationship were rather superficial. 

By contrast, in the second marriage fraud interview, the typical length of the interview is approximately 3 to 4 hours, the spouses are interviewed separately, and the testimony given by each spouse is both video taped and audio taped.  The questions can be very personal in nature covering such topics as types of birth control used and frequency of intimate relations, to the clothes that each spouse wore to bed the night before the interview.  The questions also test each spouse’s memory.  For instance, questions might range from what gift one spouse gave the other to what each spouse did minute by minute two days before the interview or the last time both spouses saw a relative together.  These questions regarding memory can be quite challenging for spouses.

It is very important that a couple who has been scheduled for a second green card interview retain an experienced immigration attorney to help them prepare for this type of difficult interview.  There are many opportunities for inconsistent testimony that can hopefully be avoided by practicing with an attorney who has much experience with marriage fraud interviews.  A couple should not rely on the fact that they have a real marriage and that this should be enough to successfully pass the second interview.  Remember, an allegation of marriage fraud by USCIS is a very serious allegation, can possibly lead to deportation proceedings.  Be safe and not sorry later.