In nearly all cases, marriage-based adjustment of status cases for permanent residence require an interview at the local district office. The main purpose of the I-130 interview is to verify the "bona fides" of the marriage and whether it was entered into in good faith. In other words, USCIS wants to confirm that the marriage is a real marriage and not a sham (fake) marriage. If the officer is satisfied that the marriage is genuine, he or she will then proceed to adjudicate the I-485 and determine whether the applicant qualifies for the green card here in the United States.
If the couple is fortunate enough to have a lot of joint documents and clearly appear to be genuine, the interview will ordinarily not run that long (assuming there are no legal issues with the adjustment of status). On the other hand, and perhaps more often than not, marriage interviews-if not handled correctly-can turn into difficult and complex affairs. Typical scenarios that people don't realize that raise red flags include the following:
- A lack of joint documents
- Separate residences
- Previous marriages and previous filings
- Large disparity in income
- Different cultural and racial backgrounds
What is a Stokes Interview?
A Stokes interview (also known as a "marriage fraud interview") is an in-depth, extensive interview conducted by an Immigration Services Officer (ISO) to determine whether the marriage was entered into for immigration benefits. It is often (but not always) videotaped. The interview process, at times, can seem more like an interrogation process, as each spouse is questioned separately and thoroughly on very intimate and personal details that the officer would expect only a real, married couple to know. This can obviously be a very nerve-wracking and intrusive experience for both the applicant and his or her spouse. It is nevertheless legal.
The interview can take hours and is often exhausting for all parties involved. At the conclusion of the interview, each spouse's statements will be compared against each other's for consistency and truthfulness. If the answers to each question largely match, it is generally a good indication to the officer that the marital relationship is genuine and legitimate. If not, the officer may be inclined to deny the case. Before a denial may be issued, however, it is usually preceded by a Notice of Intent to Deny, which will lay out the basis of the officer's opinion. The applicant will have a certain period of time to respond to the notice and hopefully persuade the officer that that his/her doubts are misplaced.
What kind of questions will be asked at the marriage fraud interview?
The ISO is accorded a wide amount of discretion to inquire into almost any area of a couple's life. Some of these questions may seem invasive and inapprorpraite, and may be desgined to discover any discrepancies. It would be prudent to assume that nothing is off limits, and couples should be prepared to discuss any aspect of their marriage, both before as well as the present. Contrary to popular belief, there is no magic list of questions. However, some typical questions that have been and may be asked include the following:
- How did your spouse propose to you?
- What is the garbage schedule for your apartment complex?
- Does your spouse have any tattoos?
- How did you get to today's interview together?
- How much is the monthly rent?
- What color is your shower curtain?
- What is your mother-in-law's first name
- When did you last go out to eat at a restaurant?
- What did you eat for dinner last night?
Generally speaking, the less discrepancies there, the more likely it is that the couple will pass the marriage part of the interview. To learn more about the intricacies of the interview process and how to negotiate its potential pitfalls, contact our office for a confidential evaluation.
We hope that you have enjoyed this article and learned at least one new thing or tip that you may not have known. To keep informed about the latest developments in immigration law, please subscribe to our blog feed by clicking on the "Subscribe To This Blog's Feed" button on the left. It is important to understand that the above is only general information and not legal advice. It does not create an attorney-client relationship nor should it be relied upon as legal advice. The law is extremely fact and circumstance sensitive. For an individual legal analysis of your specific legal case, please complete the "Case Evaluation" box to the right of the screen to get in touch with one of our attorneys.