Couples who use marriage as the basis to obtain a green card must convince the U.S. immigration authorities that their marriage is real, or "bona fide." If the immigration officer suspects that the marriage was entered into solely for the purpose of obtaining a green card, a second interview will be scheduled to provide the couple with another chance to prove that their marriage is not a sham. This second interview is known as a marriage fraud interview, or "Stokes interview."
How Stokes Interviews Came About
The origins of the Stokes interview can be found in the federal district court decision of Stokes v. INS. Under this case, when an immigration officer questions the validity of a marriage in an I-130 spouse petition, the applicant must be provided with a written notice describing the rights of the parties involved, a separate attachment of the list of rights with the appointment letter, and a list of what documents to submit at the time of the interview.
Generally, the following documents must be brought to a Stokes interview:
Photo identification of the citizen spouse
Proof of the petitioner's citizenship
Immigrant spouse's passport
Employment letters and the last two pay stubs
Bank account information
It's important to note that additional documents may be required depending on the case.
The Stokes Interview Process
During a Stokes interview the immigration officer will question each member of the couple separately as well as together. Because of this, the interview process can take several hours. It's important that each person answers the questions honestly and as openly as possible.
To start off, the immigration officer will bring the couple into his or her office to discuss why the first interview didn't go well. The immigration officer will then go over the Stokes interview procedure, eventually separating the husband and the wife from each other.
During the separate interviews, the immigration officer will ask very personal and invasive questions. Generally, the officer will ask the same questions to each spouse. This process will be recorded to see if there are any discrepancies between the spouses' answers.
After both interviews are completed, the immigration officer will then bring the couple in together and ask them to explain any discrepancies. The couple must convince the immigration officer that their relationship is genuine. If the immigration officer is convinced that the marriage is legitimate, then couple's case will be approved. However, if the immigration officer has reason to believe the marriage was only entered into in order to obtain a green card, he or she will deny the case.
Typical Stokes Interview Questions
An immigration officer may ask a variety of questions during a Stokes interview. While there's no universal set of questions that every immigration officer must use, there are typical questions that tend to show up on a regular basis. Some common questions that are often asked in Stokes interviews are:
Get Legal Help to Prepare for Your Stokes Interview
Immigration is one of the most complicated areas of law in the United States, especially since it also tends to change quite often. For this reason, it's important to consult with an experienced immigration attorney if you have questions about the Stokes interview or need help with the immigration process in general.
Contact a qualified immigration attorney to help you with visa procedures.