Thank you immihelp, and past users, especially USCFFS (USCitizenFilingForSpouse). This thread alone was a diamond mine for me: https://www.immihelp.com/forum/adjustment-of-status-i-485/178298-links-evidence-of-bona-fide-marriage-for-i-130-i-485-filing-interview-tips?p=760990#post760990
I stuck to this thread while preparing for my interview, ended up with 4 folders of evidence, 5lbs each roughly to take to the interview.
I-485/AOS package was prepared by a law firm we hired (***.co), so I only did the interview documents and evidence to take in-person.
Happy to answer any questions for anyone who is going for I-485 interview now and my #1 advice is look at all posts from this member: https://www.immihelp.com/forum/member/806886-uscitizenfilingforspouse
and make sure you follow the advice. This user did a great job of compiling all the excellent instant-approval past users and shared notes on what stood out in each case.
Some notes from my own experience that I wish someone had told me before -
1. Use FedEx Print services, don't rely on a home printer or at least use a laser printer. I wasted a few days printing and compiling stuff at home
before realizing FedEx Print was faster and much more impressive qualify (both paper and the printing). It helped that my local FedEx has amazingly helpful staff and they
rushed to get 10+ separate orders in on the same day.
2. Make a plan for what you need to do and by when. I had 5 days to collect my evidence since my initial interview notice was lost / routed to an incorrect address and there was the 4th July holiday in between. So between getting the notice and the interview, I had like less than 10 days including working weekdays.
This applies especially if your field office isn't local - you'll need to book tickets, find a hotel with a decent printer / business center (for last-minute work) near the field office.
The first document I made outlined what I needed to collect.
3. Get the originals first - I nearly missed instant approval because I did not have the original prior USCIS approval notice for a prior visa.
4. Table of Contents cannot be emphasized enough. I collected all this evidence and still fumbled in front of the interview officer while pulling out the papers they asked for
because I wasn't familiar enough with the layout within my ring binder / expanding file folders. Sure I had tabs and separators and what not, but your table of contents should really be so good that you can get to any document within 5 seconds of consulting it and hitting the right tab separator instantly.
tl;dr - I had tabs, flags, index pages etc but only added the TOC last minute and then struggled to find things. Don't be me.
5. I wish someone gave me a list of stationary or office supplies I would need to compile my evidence binders. I spent a lot of time and here's what worked for me.
I used Pen+Gear for all stationary and FedEx for all printing.
a. Pen+Gear 26-pocket expanding file folder: https://www.walmart.com/ip/Pen-and-Gear-Expanding-File-Legal-Size-Black-Color-26-Pockets/372713294
2x of these for supplemental evidence that was NOT original e.g. copies of tax returns, past visas, receipts of travel together.
b. Pen+Gear 7-pocket expanding file folder: https://www.walmart.com/ip/Pen-Gear-Poly-7-Pocket-Expanding-File-Gray-Letter-Size/715215844
1x of this for originals - limit your originals to find them easily. Birth Certificate, Marriage Certificate, Prior visa approval notices.
c. Pen+Gear 520 sheet 3-ring binder: https://www.walmart.com/ip/Pen-Gear-3-Ring-Durable-View-Binder-2-Inch-Blue-Slant-Ring/252705580
Pair with this 3-hole punch, also from Pen+Gear: https://www.walmart.com/ip/Pen-Gear-3-Hole-Punch-Black/710664952
Note to match up your punch and ring binder when buying, else you are in for a difficult time. I had to go return my punch because it was from a different brand and
didn't fit the spacing in the binders.
Ring binders are great for evidence that you plan to walk through with the interview officer (mine didn't give me much of an opportunity to).
I used up 500+ sheets in here to catalog all evidence for commingling finances, cohabitation, travel, correspondence with each other and family, USPS informed delivery
daily digests, tax returns mentioning each other's SSNs... the list goes on.
Everything in the ring binder matched up with a higher quality copy in the 26-pocket file folder - ring-binder for me to show the office, and the file-folder copy if the officer
asked to keep copies of something. In our case, we were asked for tax returns, lease and utility bills.
Stationary for Indexing and Retrieval: Table of Contents, Flags, Tabs
d. Pen+Gear 8-tab dividers plastic: https://www.walmart.com/ip/Pen-Gear-Vibrant-Color-8-Tab-Dividers-with-Pockets-Regular/622324481
These worked great, I wish I had found them earlier.
My separation was: Foundational documents, Beneficiary Travel History, Beneficiary Immigration History, Cohabitation, Finances and Health, Travel, Couple Photographs,
Wedding Related Events.
I put a separate table of contents page inside each of these plastic tab separator pockets for that specific section (e.g. Under 'cohabitation' I had lease, utility bills, USPS daily digest printouts, correspondence with landlords etc. Under 'wedding related events' I had invitation card copies, RSVPs printed out by the e-invite website, vendor receipts for venue, photography, actual photos with family and friends during the event picked from our wedding album).
e. Pen+Gear ruled index cards: https://www.walmart.com/ip/Pen-Gear-Ruled-Index-Cards-3-x-5-300-Count/800073120
Each time I used a paper clip to group some documents together, I attached an index card to the paperclip mentioning what was in that group.
Super-handy for combining 10+ documents, note at the top "tax returns + W-2s + paystubs" etc. This way I pulled out a group and handed to the interview officer
and they read the index card before discarding it with paper clip. Saves them some time figuring out what document I just gave them.
f. Post-It tabs and flags - didn't really use this in the end, but handy for me to keep my sanity around my 500+ page binder when it was a work in progress.
Will type out more later...
Oh, and do not forget to do a test drive-through of the field office before D-day. Ours had a Starbucks next to it, making getting morning coffee easier.
My timeline -
July 15, 2021 Card Was Picked Up By The United States Postal Service
July 15, 2021 Card ordered.
July 14, 2021 Approval of I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.
July 13, 2021 Card ordered.
July 12, 2021 Interview conducted at San Jose FO.
June 7, 2021 Interview scheduled.
May 5, 2020 Case is ready to schedule an interview
Jan - March 2020 - RFE and response
December 19, 2019 Biometrics appt.
November 19, 2019 I-485 received.