Chances Of Getting Interview For 10 Year Green Card
I wrote another article about the I-751 interview and how 67% of applicants are denied. As expected it was met with shock and fear but I did explain why the rates of denial were high. Making it to the removal of conditions stage (to get the 10 year green card) is quite a feat because of the slightly higher divorce rates. It’s not a huge difference when you compare it to the general U.S. public but it’s still higher. The high rates of denials also hide the fact that the vast majority of applicants are not called for an interview. This is important because the pool of applicants that are required to attend an interview skews the statistics.
USCIS may require temporary green card holders to attend removal of conditions interviews if there is a need. What this means is that USCIS wants to ask you additional questions about your relationship. You may be wondering what types of questions will be asked, and you are in luck. I have created a resource list of I-751 interview questions that may be asked.
If you study this list of questions, you have a much better chance of getting your 10 year green card. So, get to studying boys and girls!
The 10 year green card is second only to U.S. citizenship when it comes to immigration status security. I personally did not feel very secure when I had my 2 year conditional green card. It wasn’t because Sean and I had marriage problems, but because immigration laws can change. At any moment, the U.S. government can decide to make it more difficult or expensive to remove the conditions. Now that Trump is in the whitehouse, this may actually become a reality in the next 4 years.
Does Your Case Bring Up Red Flags?
At this stage, USCIS may still have some doubts about your relationship. If there are parts of your case that you think are weak, such as financial commingling, then it’s more likely you will have an interview. Think back to the initial visa interview: were you (or the beneficiary) asked difficult questions? If so, you should prepare to be called in for the removal of conditions interview.
Of course, this isn’t a sure fire way to know whether you will need to attend an interview, but it can help. Many immigrants see the interview as a stressful final event to get what they ultimately want: a visa or a green card. But it may be helpful to see the interview as a way to make your case that you deserve to be approved. In fact, why not use it as a way to answer all the questions that the immigration officer has.
I will say though, if your situation is complicated then it may be better to not be called for an interview. Many couples are able to get through a tough immigration interview even after being questioned separately. If your really concerned, contact a local immigration attorney and let them tell you what they think of your case.
Some couples are required to attend more than one interview and this is sometimes called a Stokes Interview. It is notoriously difficult and I highly recommend that you and your spouse really study the stokes interview questions that I posted to be ready for it.
Have You Lived Separately From Your Spouse?
It’s funny because some couples don’t understand why they must live together to prove their marriage is real. As absurd as this sounds, I’ll answer it anyway. A normal married couple should live together during their entire marriage. Why? Because it shows that you have a life together and are building a future as well. If the separate living arrangements are short term, such as a few weeks to care for a sick relative, you will be fine. I am talking about separations that last for months or years.
Even if you have a valid reason for living apart, such as taking a job in another state, you should figure out a way to live together. If one of you has to quit their job and move to be with the other, so be it. If getting the 10 year green card is important to you then make the effort to show you should get it.
It does gets tricky when kids are involved. To be safe, remember that you will need to show evidence of a life together which normally includes:
- Mortgage/rent documents
- Tax returns
- Bank statements
- Credit card statements
- Utility bills
- Health insurance coverage
- Life insurance coverage
All these documents should have both of your name on them and the same address. If you are living separately, it may cause problem down the road when you’re trying to gather this evidence. If you think you’ll just make up the evidence at the last minute, think again. USCIS is smart and they want to see years of tax returns and years of bank statements showing activity.
Just providing bank statements with no activity is considered a red flag and they will look closer at your case.
Do You Keep Your Finances Separate?
Money: is it the root of all evil? Who knows. But it’s very important to the USCIS in showing that your marriage is real. There are a lot of couples out there that choose not to share a bank account for personal reasons. This may need to be someone that you change just for the immigration process though. It will definitely help your case if you have financial documents in both of your names.
USCIS believes that couples who trust each other with money (think: having access to take it at any time) are in marriage for valid reasons. I can see where they might think this because my Sean and I share all financial accounts and it wasn’t for immigration purposes. To us, it just made things easier. But, if someone was committing immigration fraud, they may not want to give the other person access to their money.
Again, there needs to be activity on the accounts or they are pretty much useless to the USCIS.
Filing joint taxes is another aspect that people differ in. There may be valid reasons to file your taxes alone such as IRS garnishments, which is fine but you need to accept that this will likely cause you to be required to attend an interview. If everything else about your marriage is strong then there really is nothing to worry about. Just prepare for the immigration interview and you should be fine.
Have You Stayed Overseas For Long Periods?
Many green card holders have no idea that if they live outside the United States for extended periods of time, they risk loosing their green card completely. Although this may sound like it has little to do with being called for an interview, it’s actually important. USCIS will want to know why you have chosen a different country as your place of residence instead of the U.S.
Once you become a green card holder you can maintain permanent resident status until you:
- Apply for and complete the naturalization process; or
- Lose or abandon your status.
There are several ways that you can lose your status as a lawful permanent resident but one of them is living abroad for too long. What would be considered abandonment of your green card?
- Move to another country to live there permanently.
- Remain outside of the U.S. for an extended period of time, unless its a temporary absence, evidenced by:
- The reason for your trip;
- How long you intended to be absent from the U.S.;
- Events that may have prolonged your absence.
Note: Getting a re-entry permit from USCIS before you leave may help in showing that you intended the absence to be temporary.
- Fail to file income tax returns while living outside of the United States for any period.
- Declare yourself a “nonimmigrant” on your U.S. tax returns.
So if avoiding the 10 year green card interview is on the top of your to-do list make sure to submit a solid case. This is probably the most important factor when it comes to getting your green card mailed to you without an interview.
I didn’t have to attend an interview and let me tell you, it was a relief. Not because I feared the interview itself, but because it is time consuming and unnecessary in my mind. Having to take a day off work so you can answer questions about your marriage is not my “looking forward” to list.
If you are required to attend an interview, just make sure you are prepared and you should do fine. You can also review my Ultimate Guide to Passing an Immigration Interview eBook below which has helped many couples prepare and pass their interviews.
For those of you that are divorced before you get your 10 year green card, unfortunately it’s almost guaranteed that you will attend an interview. Check out my post on filing a divorce waiver with form I-751.