An American flag with the words, "what is a tokes interview?"

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When individuals use marriage as a basis for their green card application to the United States, they may find that their application is under more scrutiny. If you and your spouse find yourself in the uncomfortable situation of your marriage validity being questioned by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), then you may feel hope is lost.

However, the team at the Hernandez Law Group, P.C. knows that there is still a chance that you can appeal and prove that your marriage is real. The high-stakes interview where you will prove yourselves is known as the Stokes interview. This article will go over what you can expect and how to best handle this situation.

Understanding the Initial Interview Process

As with every application for a green card, the I-130 often involves an interview process to go over the information on your application. This is done to ensure that there are no discrepancies in your story and the information you have previously provided. 

This initial interview can take place either before the USCIS approves your I-130 application or during the adjustment of status process. Here is why these interviews might be called for during either one of these times:

Interviews Before the I-130 Application Is Approved

Even though the USCIS hasn’t necessarily approved of the application yet, they can still call an interview with both spouses. This is to ensure that the information presented on the application is accurate and not some made-up arrangement to get an individual lawful permanent residence in the U.S.

When an interview is called this early, it isn’t necessarily a reflection on your green card application but more a chance to prove the authenticity of your marriage before the application is denied. This helps the USCIS weed out potential frauds from the process and can potentially make your case for approval stronger.

Interview During the Adjustment of Status

Even if the I-130 application is approved, the USCIS can still call out potential fraud resulting in an interview during the adjustment period. This is typically the case for immigrants who have already previously held a green card but are filing in the United States under an “adjustment status” instead of returning to their home country to reapply for a visa. In these instances, an interview will be called for you and your spouse to meet in person with an official from the USCIS.

The purpose of this interview is to not only go over the information about your green-card application, but also to discuss your marriage and determine whether or not it is legitimate. Questions will be asked to both the spouse living in the United States and the spouse looking to become a permanent resident. During this interview, the official conducting the interview will be looking for signs or answers that may point to the marriage being fraudulent.

What If a Spouse Is Outside of the U.S.?

If the spouse looking to immigrate is outside of the United States, an interview will still be conducted, though the spouse already living in the U.S. may not be able to join. The visa officer will conduct the interview similar to if it was happening in the United States. They are looking for information that will either point to the marriage being legitimate or fraudulent. During this interview, you and your spouse will need to give an honest account of the development of your relationship. If there are any inconsistencies between either spouse or the application form, then the application will likely be thrown out.

Understanding the Stokes Interview Process

El asesor legal presenta al cliente un contrato firmado con martillo y leyes legales.

If the USCIS has any suspicions as to the legitimacy of your marriage, then they will summon both parties to a second interview which is known as the Stokes interview. This may, as discussed earlier, be either together or separate depending on where the parties currently reside.

If you or your partner are asked to appear before a Stokes interview, you will want to have an experienced immigration attorney with you. While your lawyer will not have the power to answer the questions on your behalf, they can help give you confidence, clarify any information that may be hazy, and handle any matters that come up after the interview.

Sometimes, however, the USCIS will not give individuals any warning when a Stokes interview will be performed. They can even potentially do it on the same day as your initial interview. If this is the case or you suspect this is the case, it is still important that you contact an immigration attorney so that they can help guide you going forward.

What Can I Expect During a Stokes Interview?

Traditionally, Stokes interviews involve both spouses being placed into separate rooms and questioned by USCIS officers. These questions can seem trivial, such as what you gave your spouse for Christmas last year, what kind of birth control you use, the other spouse’s age, or their shoe size. Your spouse’s answers and your answers will then be compared by the USCIS to see if there are any discrepancies in the answers that could suggest that you are lying about your relationship.

There are some ways that you can prove your relationship is legitimate. Here are just a few tips:

  • Make sure you and your spouse bring in your set of house keys if you live together in the United States.
  • Make sure you keep a note about how many times you and your spouse communicate with each other and how throughout the day. (This is important if you and your spouse live in different areas.)
  • Know how many people attended your wedding, when the wedding date was, where it was held, and at what time.
  • Make a note about what holidays you and your spouse celebrate.
  • If you and your spouse live together, make sure you know the address, how many square feet it is, and odd things such as how many TVs you have or how many doors.
  • Make sure you know how to answer questions such as
    • What daily activities do you and your spouse do?
    • Who makes the meals?
    • Who does the laundry?
    • Do you have any children?
    • Who handles the financial matters?
    • Where do you and your spouse work?

Do I Have Rights During a Stokes Interview?

It is important to remember that the individuals conducting the Stokes interview are officers whose main job is to detect marriage fraud. Because of the nature of their job, some interviewers can come across as rude or aggressive during the interview. This is done to try and trip up the individual being interviewed or force the individual to confess that the marriage is fraud.

While this is the purpose of their job, you have a right to not answer questions that you feel are too inappropriate or make you uncomfortable. Always feel free to ask to speak to a supervisor if at any point you feel the interview is becoming toxic, too stressful, or the questions are too personal.

It is also important to note that sometimes officers will falsely claim that your spouse has already confessed to the marriage being a fraud. However, the interviewer will not have already spoken to your spouse and this tactic is just to scare you into confessing. The same can be said with interviewers who remind the individual being interviewed that there are fines and jail time for those convicted of marriage fraud.

If the interviewer asks you to sign something to withdraw your I-130 petition or write a statement confessing your marriage is a fraud, do not sign it! Always ask to stop the interview and reschedule it when you can have an immigration attorney present. If they refuse to do so, do not answer any more questions and ask to speak to a supervisor.

Immigration Attorneys You Can Rely On

The Hernandez Law Group, P.C. is committed to helping individuals achieve their American dream by helping immigrants navigate the United States’ immigration process. If you are looking to get a green card, visa, need representation during a Stokes interview, or are looking to get your citizenship, our team can help! Contact the trusted Dallas, Abilene, and Amarillo immigration attorneys at the Hernandez Law Group, P.C. for more information on our services or to schedule a consultation.

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