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NIW and the Green Card Interview: What to Expect and How to Prepare for Potential Challenges

Interview process

It is important to note that getting the EB2 NIW I-140 approved is not the end of the process of getting a green card. The second step of the process is applying for the immigrant visa or adjustment of status (I-485) based on this approval.

For applicants living in a foreign country, the only option is to apply for the immigrant visa through the US consulate in their country where they are residing. Once the applicant obtains the immigrant visa in their passport, they can travel to the United States and have their “landing” as a permanent resident.

For applicants living in the United States in a different status, such as an E-2 or H1B, they can apply for an adjustment status (I-485) if the priority date is current in their category (see here for a detailed breakdown on interpreting priority dates).

In both cases, the applicant will be required to attend an interview with either a consular officer or a USCIS officer. This post will demystify the process and go over what applicants can expect from this interview.

Scheduling the Green Card Interview

Where the applicant processes the immigrant visa through the consulate, the National Visa Center will reach out to the applicant via the email address they submitted, and the applicant will receive instructions on how to pay the fees and submit the DS-260 and supporting documents online. At the end of this process, the consulate will email a letter to the applicant confirming the time and place of the interview.

When applying for an adjustment of status (I-485), once the application has been reviewed and is ready for the interview stage, USCIS will send an Interview Notice letter to the applicant’s mailing address which will contain the date and time of the interview, and where it will be held, most likely the closest USCIS field office to where the applicant is residing.

Purpose of the Green Card Interview

For both immigrant visa and I-485 applicants, the purpose of the interview is not to re-adjudicate the merits of the approved NIW petition. However, the officer may ask questions related to the petition for fact-checking purposes and to make sure there was no fraud or error in that decision. For example, the officer may ask questions about an individual’s work history and compare their answers with what was originally submitted.

In cases where much time has lapsed since the I-140 approval and the interview, especially in the case of I-485 petitions, the officer will likely ask whether there has been any changes to the applicant’s employment situation and whether any progress has been made towards the proposed endeavor. In cases where the applicant is an entrepreneur and the proposed endeavor was tied to the success of their business, the applicant should be prepared to answer questions about the business’s current performance metrics.

In the case of the I-485 interview, the focus will likely be on the individual’s immigration history and personal details. It is likely the officer would ask questions about the applicant’s entire previous immigration history to determine whether the applicant has ever been out of status. The officer will also go over the questions on the I-485 forms with the applicant, including the security questions. This is an important element to expect for the I-485 interview.

In the case of consular processing, the focus of the interview may differ based on the practice of that particular country and also may vary by officer. It is prudent to expect that you may be asked to explain certain basic elements of your NIW petition, such as your previous relevant experience, your proposed endeavor, and the progress you have made (if any) since the I-140 approval.

How to prepare for the interview

Bring original documents. Read the interview notice carefully when you receive it, because it will also contain a list of documents you will be asked to bring. In particular, many of the key documents submitted in the original NIW petition were copies. At the interview stage, it will be necessary to bring the originals so the officer can cross-reference them. For example, Diploma, Certified transcript, U.S. educational equivalency certificate, and civil documents such as your birth certificate, driver licenses, social security cards, and all immigration related notices (I-797 receipt notices, approval notices, etc).

Bring any recent evidence to confirm you are still working in your field of endeavor. If you are an entrepreneur, bring recent business bank statements, recent contracts, most recent tax returns, or payroll summaries showing your business is ongoing. If you are employed, you could bring recent pay stubs and a letter from your employer confirming your position and duties.

Review the I-140 NIW package you submitted and be familiar with the key facts. It may have been a while since you had prepared the materials for the initial I-140 submission, so it will be a good exercise to take some time and read through the entire petition carefully to refresh all the key facts and details. In particular, be prepared to discuss any detail in your Curriculum Vitae, Statement of Endeavor, and the content of expert letters at the interview.

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