Tips for a Green Card Change of Status Interview: My Experience
I got the letter informing me of my interview five weeks before the scheduled interview. My lawyer got the letter at the same time. She scheduled to prepare me for the interview two weeks before the actual interview.
At the time, the Change of Status interview was fairly new. There weren’t a lot who can share their experience. My lawyer’s preparation for me was then based purely on her professional knowledge of what should be logically and legally asked for such an interview. Her preparation helped steer me towards the right direction, but there were still a lot of things I would have missed had I not been thorough.
In the next 12 months, 7 close friends and 10 other acquaintances of mine had their interviews. I was interviewed for an hour and a half but my friends were all interviewed for 30 minutes. The order of questions for them was also the same. There was a clear pattern and that’s what I am sharing to you.
Be On Time… And Then Some
My interview was in Los Angeles, California. Traffic is bad and I am not just talking automobiles. There are a lot of traffic in USCIS itself. I surveyed the area to determine where is the best place to park, but I still doubled my travel time allotment and also tripled my processing time allotment and I made it only with 10 minutes to spare because of the time it took me to go through security.
Bring a Copy of All Documents Submitted to USCIS
This was probably my biggest mistake. I didn’t bring a copy of all the documents (including pieces of evidence) submitted to USCIS.
Since mine is EB1, I had two boxes of documents. I thought that since they already had a copy, I wouldn’t have to bring mine. Although it is true I didn’t have to bring mine, it would still have been helpful if I did. I only had the main petition letter which also contains the table of contents of all my documents.
In the process of the interview, he extensively asked me about my books, movies, comics, and past works. Whenever I mention any of my past works, he would ask to show me a poster or evidence that those exist. Since I didn’t have it at my disposal to pull it out, he had to do it, and I could see the irritation in his eyes as he had to search through 2 boxes of evidence which has been jumbled around since he apparently already reviewed it prior to the interview. Yes, even if he had already gone through the documents, he still asked me about it.
So, make sure to bring all your documents and know them by heart. When the interviewer asks you for it, you should be able to easily pull it out. Not only will it make the interview faster, but it will also keep your interviewer from getting irritated.
Have a Lawyer Present
My lawyer wasn’t with me because we both felt it was unnecessary, but the first thing the interviewer asked about was my lawyer. I was asked to sign a document stating I am allowing myself to be interviewed without my lawyer. Another friend didn’t bring her lawyer and she was asked the same thing. By the time my third friend had her interview, most lawyers already made it a standard procedure to go with their clients in Change of Status interview.
Lawyers are allowed to answer questions on behalf of the client, but do know that they can throw questions in there that the lawyer cannot answer. More on that below.
Unexpected Questions and Personal Data
The rule of thumb is to never lie. First and foremost, you will be under oath, so you should never ever lie. That is also the best way to ensure there is consistency with your answers because they will do a round robin of questions to ensure that your answers are consistent.
I was also asked questions like names of officemates, addresses of my past employment, names of my professors and classmates in graduate school, birthdates of my family members, and places of residence. The answers should be exact. Of all the questions, I was most confused about the year of birth of my parents because I didn’t really know. I know their ages, which meant I had to compute backwards to get the year of birth, and that didn't didn’t seem to sit well with the interviewer. He asked me how I could not know my parents' year of birth. He was verifying all the information I was providing him in real time. He catches every little inconsistency.
They also asked me questions that didn’t feel like they had anything to do with my petition, such as why I moved to the U.S. when I was doing well back in my country and what would someone who isn’t as immersed in the U.S. culture as a local do or write in America.
I was grilled about my status. The interviewer made sure I was never out of status. I was asked the exact dates of my entry, approval of work permit, and other applications. I had to provide the exact dates. With my other friends, they spent the most time on the status check.
EB1 Interview vs EB2 & EB3 Interviews
I was mostly asked about the movies, books and comics I wrote. I was asked about the concept, story, process of development and sales. I was also asked about my speechwriting experiences and other technical writings. We spent almost an hour on that.
However, my friends who all had EB2 or EB3 petitions were mostly grilled about their status and information on their employers. One of my friends even had to write dates of employment, entry to the US and others. Although they were also asked to discuss their job description including day to day tasks, more time was spent on their status and details about their employers including the size and income of the company.
I was also asked to answer a set of ‘yes or no’ questions which, I assume, were standard to everyone. That was confirmed when my other friends were asked the same questions. It included questions like plans of committing a crime or if I ever endangered the life of anyone in the U.S. These are standard questions. This is the easiest part.
It’s hard not to get nervous, and I don’t easily get nervous. I was completely relaxed when I came to the interview, thinking I knew everything that was on my petition packet. My other friends were so nervous they even had hives leading to the days of the interview, but as more and more of us shared, the rest of our friends got more and more relaxed. So, if there is anything I would advise you to do, it’s two things:
Know your petition packet by heart.
Be on time.
Remember that this is the final stage. Everything that will be asked of you has already been submitted to them. There is no need to get all worked up since the groundwork has already been done.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2019 Fairlane Raymundo