When did you first discuss immigration? Hi, I’m Jim Hacking, immigration lawyer practicing law throughout the United States at our offices in St. Louis, Missouri and San Diego, California. In this video, I want to talk about a topic that comes up at many green card interviews. These are green card interviews based on marriage. The officer wants to know, oftentimes, how did the discussion about the non-immigrants immigration status come up? That is because they want to cut down on immigration fraud. They want to make sure that the couple is getting married for legitimate reasons, that they’re getting married for love, and that they’re not getting married solely in order to give the foreign national and immigration benefit. And so, this is a topic that can really cause people to be uncomfortable. We’ve seen lots of instances where officers will ask about this to see what you say.
When you’re thinking about this question, I think the first thing to think about is, what is the immigration status of the foreign national? I think that there’s a very different response at USCIS if the foreign national is in valid immigration status at the time of the interview, versus if they are out of status. I had an immigration officer tell me that one of their number one fraud indicators is when someone comes on a visit visa, or a student visa, or is somehow out of status on a non-immigrant visa, and then gets married to a US citizen or green card holder and hopes to get lawful permanent resident status. When they see that the person was out of status, then they get a little bit more suspicious. That’s when they really dive into, how did you meet each other? When did you start talking about getting an immigration benefit?
Now, if the foreign national is in valid status, that is if they are on a student visa or on optional practical training, if they have valid immigration status and they have valid immigration status for the foreseeable future, then the officer’s not that concerned with it. This really comes up, I think most times, when the foreign national is out of status. And so, when you’re thinking about answering that question, obviously the most important thing is, what’s the truth? When did you first start talking about it? Now, the officer may be interested to see if there was something of value conveyed in order to do that. They’re going to drill down and they’re going to try to see, well, when did you really start talking about it? If you didn’t talk about it until the very end of the relationship, or the very end of getting married, or right before you got married, I should say, then that goes one way. If you talked about it right away, and that was always on the forefront, that can also be a red flag.
Hopefully, your answer sounds natural. Hopefully, your answer sounds believable. To me, the things that sound the most true are when the couple says, “Well, obviously I’m here, I’m a US citizen. I was born here. My foreign national spouse, or fiance, or boyfriend, or girlfriend, the person that I loved, they were either out of status or they were going to have to go back home, and we wanted to stay together, that we didn’t want to be apart. That’s why we started this whole green card process.” So just more that it’s part of the whole wealth of connections between the couple is just one factor in how we got together. Now, if you are going to tell the officer, “Well, we talked about it right away. She made it very clear that she was out of status and that she needed to get married, and that, that was the only way she was going to be able to stay,” then that’s going to be a little bit different.
Hopefully, when you’re having these conversations, they’re just a part of your relationship. They’re not just the sole focus, that getting the green card isn’t the primary objective. It just has to be that, “We were trying to be together. We loved each other. We wanted to spend the rest of our lives together. And we thought to ourselves, why not start sooner rather than later. Why have them go back home and do it all through the consular offices? Why don’t we instead just do it here in the United States where we can be together and we can start our life together? And yeah, it was an important factor. Yeah, we thought about me going to live overseas with them. But at the end of the day, we decided that our best chances for a nice life we’re here in America, that we wanted to be together. That’s why we started this whole immigration process. It wasn’t just to get a green card. It was because we were in love and because we wanted to stay.” To me, those are the best ways to answer that question.
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