The Interview

I’m from Germany, and I lived the last 10 years of my life in Berlin. My wife, Naemeh, is from New York City. She was born and raised in Jackson Heights, Queens. We met in 2005 in Berlin at a massive techno club called Berghain, in Friedrichshain, East Berlin. It’s now a world famous club. We are quite proud of our chance meeting there.

June 6, 2018, was a nice, warm, sunny day. I woke up early to get ready for the interview that I needed in order to finally receive my green card after a long process of appointments and paperwork. The interview took place in a huge government building in downtown New York City. I was extremely nervous on this day and the day before because the result of this interview would change my life forever.

In the weeks before the interview, I studied as much as I could to prepare for anything the officer might ask us. On the wall by our bed, my wife and I hung large sheets of white butcher paper, where we taped photos and scribbled dates, names, and places that detailed the milestones in our relationship—the summer my parents first met Naemeh, our first Christmas living together in Berlin, Naemeh’s art openings, and, of course, our wedding. It looked like a criminal investigation wall.

Our attorney gave us a lot of helpful information about how we could meet this daunting challenge. We had hired a lawyer because after a year of handling the process on our own, our first application had been incomplete. The Trump administration added more questions to the new forms we had to fill out. Some of the forms went up from five to 15 pages. We quickly realized that it was nearly impossible to handle the paperwork and to understand all the policy changes. On top of everything, we were still living in different countries, Naemeh in the United States and I in Germany.

The interview was scheduled for half past eight in the morning, so my wife and I decided to leave our apartment at seven o’clock. We took the E train from Jackson Heights to the World Trade Center stop to avoid any complications with transfers. In my mind, I was already at the interview. My wife asked me to please sit down next to her in the train car. I told her, “No.” I was too nervous to sit or to explain why I didn’t want to sit. She told me that we were married, and that we should look like a happily married couple today. We argued for a bit, then we didn’t talk for the rest of the ride. Having an argument with my wife was the last thing that I wanted at this time. When the train stopped at the World Trade Center, we stepped onto the platform. I said, “Sorry.” I gave her a kiss as we walked on to our destiny.

On the way over to the Immigration office, our attorney sent us a text message that she would be coming late because her babysitter hadn’t arrived on time. My heart started beating faster. I thought, Oh my God, I hope she can make it in time!

My wife and I arrived at the building, 26 Federal Plaza. We had to go through a security checkpoint before going to the 28th floor. While we waited for our lawyer, we started to organize all the paperwork we needed for the appointment so that we didn’t have to do it when she arrived. I was still so nervous! Luckily, our lawyer arrived just in time, and we signed in so that the officer knew we were ready for the interview.

Five minutes later, the officer picked us up from the waiting area and brought us to the office, where we had the interview. Did I mention that I was totally nervous? It looked like we were lucky because the officer seemed pretty nice. At a quarter to nine, the attorney, my wife, and I finally sat down at a dark brown wooden desk. In front of him, the officer had all the paperwork that we submitted. He started to ask us questions, “How did you meet?” “Where did you meet?” “What is the name of your favorite pet at home?” “Why do you like this pet the most?” “What took you so long to get married? I thought, This is great. These are easy questions. I can answer these questions. My wife and I have already been together for 13 years.

At the end of the interview, he asked me who I thought would win the World Cup. I froze. What type of question was this? I didn’t prepare for this! After an awkward pause, I looked toward my wife and our attorney for help. Everyone could see the confusion written on my face. Then, the officer assured me that this question had nothing to do with the interview. Honestly, I was skeptical. I thought that it might be a trick. He mentioned once again that this question was not part of the interview. (Germany had won the last World Cup in 2014.) I told him finally that the German team wasn’t in good shape this year and, in my opinion, France would have the best chance of winning. We all laughed. I think the officer wanted to finish the interview with a little chit-chat to calm my nerves. FYI, most Germans are not used to having small talk with strangers. (When France won the World Cup two months later, I thought, Why didn’t I bet on them?)

In the end, he told us that I would get my green card within the next two to three weeks. We left the office with smiles on our faces and shook the officer’s hand. It went perfectly. My wife and I took the elevator down to the lobby, hugged our lawyer, and went to celebrate with some New York City bagels and a lot of conversation.



Author portraitMarco Bogumil was born in Greifswald, Germany. In 2005, he met his wife, and after five years in a long-distance relationship, they settled down together in Berlin. An electrical engineer, he traveled the world, working for a company that produces fully automatic optical laser-welding systems for the automotive industry. Now he and his wife live in Jackson Heights, Queens. He studies in a Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act class at the Jackson Heights Adult Learning Center of the Queens Public Library. Tsansiu Chow is the center manager.