Last week we shared the story of Ellen, an American citizen who sponsored her husband to the United States from Venezuela. In Part 2 of our series on the dreaded green card interview, we meet Daniela, an immigrant from Colombia and hear the immigrant’s interview experience:
In the days before the interview, I was obsessive about my paperwork. USCIS requires translated copies of almost every important piece of paper in you and your husband’s (i.e. sponsor’s) life, and forgetting even one can delay your case. And no green card means no work, no driver’s license and no travel outside the country!
It didn’t help that as I was obsessing about the paperwork, my husband and I got into a huge fight. (Rev Note: Pre-interview fights are a common theme in Green Card interview stories!) I now realize that this was all because of nerves, but at the time it was devastating. Most people would ask, well, if you are really married and all, why freak out? But you never know what’s going to happen! I’ve heard so many horror stories about this interview, and couple that with my overall paranoia and having to deal with intimidating immigration officials, I was way too stressed!
That night I didn’t sleep very well, I was anxious and nervous; my husband remained very calm and that was great. I reviewed several times my checklist of documents to bring; I organized and read them several times.
Next day we got there earlier, met with our attorney waited and waited until we got called in. Our immigration official was a very polite Asian gentleman with a heavy accent. He was a little hard for us to understand, both being native Spanish-speakers. Unfortunately, my husband was the American Citizen (he’s from Puerto Rico) but he had just recently moved to States and his English wasn’t great yet. The “immigrant” ended up understanding the immigration officer better than the sponsor. I’m sure if I had been watching that on TV it would have been funny, but at the time I was just nervous and wanted it to be over!
In general it wasn’t as difficult as I thought it was going to be. Our immigration officer asked us several personal questions but nothing out of the ordinary. I do remember he asked us our parents’ names several times and our dates of birth several times. He would do this in a tricky way, saying things like “So he was born in 1978?” making us correct him. When he got to our pictures, he mentioned that we were drinking in most of them. We were all able to laugh and relieve most of the stress that way.
Everything went great until it came time for our paperwork review. After all my obsessing over the paperwork, my husband’s passport and birth certificate were nowhere to be found! Sick, I realized that I had left them on the kitchen table at home! All of my fears about delaying my case were coming true.
Funny enough, I’m positive it helped that my husband got irritated with me and said “Come on? Really?” I think that right there – me being absent-minded and my husband putting up with it for the thousandth time – was proof enough for the immigration officer that we were really married. No fake husband and wife can pull that off! We were so lucky that we lived very nearby the immigration office and our lawyer was able to ask for a continuance. We were able to run home and get it and then quickly return. By then, I knew everything had gone well. And it did!
My story has a happy ending. My husband and I both started businesses and I’m going to become a citizen sometime this year (Just in time to vote in my first Presidential election in 2012)!
My advice to couples before the immigration interview is, of course, to have your paperwork ready. No matter how much you obsess over it, it won’t do you any good if it’s on the kitchen table!