VIDEO: Are same sex green card interviews all that different?

Are same sex marriage based visa interviews different than non-same sex interviews? Hi, I’m Jim Hacking, immigration attorney practicing law here in St Louis, Missouri. Our offices handle a fair amount of same sex marriage cases since the Supreme Court struck down the Defense Of Marriage Act back in August 2013. We have many cases in the pipeline and people sometimes ask “Are the interviews different in same sex applications than they are in heterosexual applications?” and the answer is generally no. In both situations, the individuals are brought into the immigration office, asked to raise their right hand, put under oath and then the couple is interviewed for 2 reasons.

Remember, the whole shooting match in this kind of a case is getting the non-citizen a Green Card, so the 2 parts of the process are 1, is the marriage valid? And 2, is the person of good moral character so that the United States should issue that person a Green Card? The interview in both same sex and heterosexual cases are the same because the interviewing officer under the law is trying to find out the same things. The first main topic of conversation is whether the couple’s marriage is legitimate. The officer will typically spend a lot of time going into how did the couple meet? What are the kind of things that they do with each other? Do they go on trips? Do they hang out at the movies? Do they go visit friends?

The interviewer wants to make sure that the couple is answering sort of together, that he or she can get a sense that the couple is legitimate and that the marriage is legitimate. Obviously, one topic that is different in the same sex marriage is whether the marriage is valid under the law where it was celebrated. For instance, we live in Missouri. In Missouri, same sex marriages are not recognized, so a same sex couple would have to go to another state, like Iowa or Minnesota, to get that marriage license, so the officer is going to want to look at the circumstances of the marriage itself.

So far, that hasn’t been a problem. Couples are going to the right places to get their marriage licenses and the officers typically spend more time talking to the couple about how they are, who they are, what they do for a living, how they met, who do they like to hang out with. They ask questions of each other’s family, so they’ll ask the non-citizen to talk about the citizen’s family and vice versa. It’s actually pretty typical where the immigration officer just wants to make sure that it’s not a sham marriage. I think that right now in this early part of the process where same sex marriages are recognized in immigration, I think the officers, if anything, are tending to go a little bit easy on the same sex couples.

They understand that these people on the forefront of these visa applications probably went through a whole lot to get their marriage licenses and don’t seem to be, at this particular point in time, too eager to turn these cases down. That pendulum might swing back the other way later, but as of right now I think they’re looking at them with at least the same level of scrutiny, if not a little bit easier level of scrutiny. Then, of course, the second part of the interview is going to be going over whether the immigrant spouse has what it takes to become a Green Card holder.

Are they a good person? Do they have any criminal convictions? Have they ever done anything that suggested that they were US citizens or have they received any government benefits that they weren’t supposed to get? The typical things would happen in any Green Card interview. The immigration officer here is going to be looking at the non-citizen spouse to make sure that they warrant a Green Card. They’ll go over the application carefully. We spend a lot of time before the interview getting our clients ready for the interview itself. We do roleplaying, where we make sure that our clients understand that we’re acting as if we are the immigration officer. We really encourage them to answer the questions on their own. That’s basically it.

The interviews usually take about a half hour. They’re pretty straightforward. We haven’t had any problems related to same sex marriage applications just yet. The interviews that we’ve been on have been pretty typical. The officers spend a lot of time looking at wedding pictures, talking to the couple and we’ve even had rather conservative examining officers approve these applications. If you’re a same sex couple and you’re wondering about whether this particular part of the process is going to be overly difficult, I wouldn’t worry about it. With competent immigration counsel working on your behalf and with a good application that you submit, well-documented in establishing that the marriage is valid, we think that your case should get approved.

If you have any questions about this, feel free to give us a call: 314-961-8200. Or you can email me: jim@hackinglawpractice.com.  Thanks.