All people applying for a green card from within the United States based on marriage to a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident must attend an interview at a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office with their spouse. The purpose of these interviews is primarily to determine if the marriage was made in good faith, that is was not for the sole purpose of getting a green card for the foreign national spouse. Couples who have married in good faith may assume that this interview will be no problem and that, as the immigration service is supposed to ask them questions any legitimately married couple would know about each other, they will be able to answer with ease. For many couples this is true, and the interview is a routine matter. But for others, the interview is a more difficult experience and the questions asked are better described as things a legitimately married couple might know about each other rather than things they would always know.
There are essentially two types of marriage-based green card interviews that the immigration service conducts. The simpler kind is a short interview of the couple together in which the interviewing officer asks them some basic questions about their relationship such as when and how they met, when they got engaged, etc. The more complicated kind is known as a Stokes interview. In these interviews the couple is questioned separately, and the interviewing officer compares their answers to make sure they are consistent. These interviews are longer, the questions asked are more detailed and demanding, and the couple may be asked to read and sign separate written statements under oath documenting what they have said. Often these written statements are used as a basis to deny the green card application.
When are Stokes interviews conducted?
Stokes interviews are usually conducted when the immigration service is suspicious that the marriage is not bona fide. This can happen because of significant differences in the couple’s background, education, religion, culture, or age. It can also happen because an initial interview or documents given to the immigration service in support of the green card application disclosed discrepancies in a couple’s explanation of their relationship. If a couple is being re-interviewed, there is a high likelihood that the second interview will be a Stokes interview. To prevent a Stokes interview, couples are well advised to hire a good immigration lawyer who will review their supporting documents to make sure they are consistent and who will adequately prepare them for any issues or difficult questions that may come up in an initial interview.
Preparing for a Stokes interview
If a couple suspects that a Stokes interview is likely, they should not assume that they are well-prepared simply because they have a legitimate marriage. Some questions that are asked at a Stokes interview can be surprisingly difficult, even for bona fide couples to answer, if they are not prepared in advance for what might be asked. For example, officers often ask couples what they did the night before the interview. Many people could easily answer this question, but when couples are living busy lives, the activities of one particular evening may slip their mind. Officers also sometimes ask people how many rooms are in their house or to describe particular rooms. This question could easily trip up someone who is uninterested in the interior design of their home and who has lived there for years without thinking in detail about how many rooms it has or what those rooms look like. Other common questions in Stokes interviews are requests to name certain relatives of your spouse (i.e. parents, siblings) and to say where they live or to provide the name and address of the employer of your spouse. In addition to being prepared for the questioning of a Stokes interview, couples anticipating such an interview should be prepared to be asked to sign a written statement under oath. Signing such a statement is a serious business because it is very difficult to later take back something signed to in these statements. Therefore, before signing one, you must read every word of the statement and make sure you understand everything in the statement. If anything in the statement is incorrect, you must insist that it be changed, and, if the officer refuses to change it, you must refuse to sign the statement. Because of the need to prepare carefully for Stokes interviews and the fact that such interviews are evidence that the immigration service is suspicious of the marriage, representation by a good lawyer during Stokes interviews is essential.
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The materials contained in this website have been prepared by Scott D. Pollock & Associates, P.C. for informational purposes only and are not legal advice or counsel.