EVEN though we are a legitimately married couple who fell in love and decided to get married quickly (by quickly I mean we got engaged in 3 total meetings in 8 months… crazy I know), I still felt nervous about our time line of events. Actually, in my situation (FYI you would normally need to apply for a Fiancé(e) visa before you get married) I was already residing in New York on a L1 work transfer visa, which equals to a 5-year legitimate visa to stay in the U.S.
Another advantage we had was that our immigration file was immaculate. My husband had done a terrific job in organizing each document in a logical order and he had labeled each document that had been requested for at this interview.
However, regardless of all of the above, it’s the formal situation where someone asks you things you already know or is second nature to you (stored in the tiny corner of your brain somewhere) that make you feel uncomfortable, break out into a sweat or twitch your hands in a certain way that could be misinterpreted and ultimately denied a visa!
The Day of the Interview
I woke up in a slight panic. I got up at 6am giving us enough time to make our 9am interview. At the time we lived an hour away from the city, so we had to run a tight ship in the morning. I had read forums on Google and decided that dressing smart would give a good impression to the interviewing officer.
I wore a blue shirt, grey blazer and dark blue trousers. I went down stairs and ate breakfast and knew we were beginning to cut it fine as our train was leaving at 7.15am.
My husband was running late (normally the other way round) and came rushing down the stairs with 2 minutes to spare… wait for it… he was dressed in a blue shirt, a grey blazer and dark blue trousers. Now on a normal day I would have pondered over how cute we were…
However, that morning I looked at him with horror and shouted “What the hell are you wearing? They are going to think we over thought this, by dressing like identical twins in marriage uniform!! You have to change…!”
We were going to miss our train and my husband was stuffing egg in his mouth and running around like a headless chicken.
The stress, tiredness, anxiety, nerves and dressing like identical twins were getting too much. He found another jacket and we left.
The unforgettable train ride
We made our train with just a minute to spare. The relief lasted for about 15 minutes of the journey and then my stomach began to make noises I had never heard before. I started to feel severe stomach cramps, which I guessed, were from eating egg mixed with stress.
Yes, that’s right, my bowels were about to explode. I absolutely hate going to the bathroom (toilet for the British peeps) in any public places. I will hold my bowl movements for hours at a time to avoid such a situation but on this very day I began to break out in cold sweats and pain that I couldn’t control. And so I had to go.
Eggstremely embarrassed by my horrific explosion on the train it was one I would rather erase from my brain. How awkward would it have been to cancel the long-awaited Green Card interview because “sorry I pooped myself just before the interview”….
Anyway, once I was back in my seat my husband and I went through the 100 types of questions we could be asked at the interview. We decided to be honest on the things we didn’t know instead of second guessing and making ourselves look suspicious.
As we approached Grand Central station, we hopped off our over ground train and took the 4,5,6 subway towards Brooklyn Bridge.
When we arrived for our interview
I was nagging my husband about how we shouldn’t be taking our mobile phones and how strict these places are (due to my experience at the US embassy in London where you could not enter the building if you had a phone on you) but to my amusement everyone seemed to be on their phones. People were swiping their iPads and listening to iPods. Maybe they are a little more laid back here? We got to the doors and I had to show my interview page print out and New York State ID card.
My husband in a panic said, “hi she is my wife and I am her husband”. The lady just looked at him and said, “go in“. Gee thanks for stating the obvious dear.
We joined a queue of people walking down into the security check area. The echoes of “coats off belts off” were repeated every 5 seconds and I began to look around.
Fake or real?
I guess I always believed that everyone was legitimately in love and married when applying for a Green Card before I got to the immigration offices. I began to see different couples, which drew my attention. Examples of short and small, different ethnicities, complete opposites, people not talking to each other and old and very young people all made me wonder… How do they know fake from real?
As we reached security area, we took our shoes; coat, belts and bags off put them through the security machine and walked through the security scanner (like at the airport). Once all scanned, we made our way to the 8th floor for green card marriage interviews.
By then it was 9.30am and we joined a small queue to present our interview appointment and get a ticket number 072- just like you do at the DMV or Social Security office. It was much less informal than I had anticipated. Even the dress code, was less formal. I guess as long as you looked presentable, it was fine. There weren’t any suits and ties, from the interviewees or interviewers.
As we finally sat down a call came for “zero…seven…two..”. My husband and I looked at each-other “crap that was quick”. A small smart-looking lady was at the doors and welcomed us in. Although she was small, I kne knew she was going to be a tough cookie. She told us we were her first interview of the day. Gulp! As we entered her office we sat down, and she sat at her desk with our huge file.
The actual interview
The interviewing officer introduced herself and began flicking through her file page by page with one of those rubber finger things. Page after page she looked up and said “oh you are on a L1 work visa… Explain what you do“? A question followed straight away “what is your address?“
Now, as we had just been discussing my job, I got confused and couldn’t figure out if she wanted my address for my a) current residence in New York b) my work address in New York or c) where I used to live in London (of course not c) but my mind was juggling a lot of information and I wanted to answer correctly.
So I asked her to clarify what address she wanted. The interviewing officer looked at me in despair and stated “your address? You know where you live? Apologies am I making you nervous? Is it my accent that you cannot understand? Listen if you are nervous it makes our jobs a little harder”. “No no-no it’s not your accent I just got confused” I said about to crack. Another gulp and silence. The rest of the interview was followed with questions like: (FYI these are just sample questions and not a full list)
- Where did you get married sir?
- How many people at the wedding sir?
- When and where did you meet?
- How quickly did you get engaged?
- Who do you live with ma’am?
- Where is your family ma’am?
- What are the future plans?
- Did you fall for her straight away?
- Can I see pictures of the wedding?
- How did your parents feel when you were meeting each other abroad?
- Do you have any siblings?
As we went along, we provided all the extra documentation that had been requested of us, however the interviewing officer was not that bothered with the extra documents.
She was more interested in hearing and viewing the real life experience of our relationship and seeing the pictures and wedding video trailer we had on our phone. Yes our phone, you are allowed electronic devices!! Once we had shown her our wedding video clip, the interviewing officer was a little more relaxed and we talked about our general life.
Food for thought
I guess looking back, the interview wasn’t as bad as I had thought it was going to be. Don’t get me wrong, I was still nervous, but the answers to the questions began to flow and we were trying to be as natural as possible. It could have been a lot worse, one of us could have answered incorrectly and we could have been pulled into separate rooms for questioning.
In the end, the interviewing officer told us in most cases, the decision has already been made before the couple comes for an interview. The interview is a final check to ask the couple of questions and see if they are really the ‘real’ deal. After much discussion, the interview came to an end and the officer stated “your Green Card is approved’ (Yay! Little dance inside) followed by some final security questions such as
- Have you committed any crimes? NO (I am too little and too scared)
- Have you been a part of any terrorist attacks? NO (Not that I can remember)
- Have you sold any weapons? NO (I can barely hold a kitchen knife)
We left and celebrated with – you got it Afternoon Tea! So if your Green Card interview is coming up, get your ducks in a row and ensure a) your immigration file is complete with no missing documents b) you have extra copies of everything c) dress smart casual d) be on time e) be open and honest and don’t let nerves get the better of you!!
GOOD LUCK in crossing your Green Card Mile!