One way to obtain a green card is through marriage. If the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services is concerned that your marriage is not real and may have occurred solely to obtain a green card, an interview may be requested. This interview is commonly called a “Stokes interview.”
The interview will take place with both the intending immigrant and the permanent resident or United States citizen spouse. There may also be interviews of each spouse separately. If a Stokes interview has been requested of you and your spouse, it is beneficial to you to hire a Stokes interview lawyer in NYC to help you through the process.
To have a valid marriage under United States immigration law, it is not enough to just have a marriage ceremony and obtain a marriage certificate. The spouses must genuinely intend to live in a true marital relationship. This means that they must want to establish a life together and prove their intentions through their actions. If the couple has no intention of establishing a life together as a unit, the marriage may be fraudulent, pursuant to I.N.A. Section 204(c).
Marriage fraud in the context of immigration law may also be found if the marriage is not legally valid. One example of a marriage that is invalid is a case where one of the spouses was previously married and did not obtain a legal divorce. In this scenario, even if the couple truly intended to establish a life together, the current marriage is not legally valid. If one of the spouses decided to apply for a green card on the basis of the new marriage, then it will be considered fraudulent.
A Stokes interview is not a standard part of the green card application process. If you are being requested to attend this interview, it means that there are concerns about the legitimacy of your marriage. This should be taken very seriously, and if you do not have a lawyer at this point in the process, you should retrain a Stokes interview lawyer in NYC as soon as possible.
Being contacted for a Stokes interview means that your green card application has been singled out. This can happen because you did not give enough evidence to prove that you have a real marriage or because there are inconsistencies within your application. It can also occur because of some other reason that casts suspicion on you and your spouse.
If you have an authentic marriage, you should not worry too much, but you should still take it seriously. The interview will give you an opportunity to show USCIS that you and your spouse got married because you wanted to, and not for the purpose of obtaining a green card.
A Stokes interview may be conducted prior to the approval of an I-130 petition or may be conducted after it has been approved. An I-130 petition is a form that the spouse in the United States files in order to classify their spouse as an intending immigrant and spouse of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.
USCIS has the power to summon the intending immigrant if they are living in the U.S. along with the U.S. spouse for an interview before the I-130 petition is approved. At this stage in the process, the interview is an opportunity for USCIS to ask questions about the marriage to ensure that it is not a fake arrangement designed for one of the spouses to attain lawful permanent residence.
In other cases, marriage fraud interviews may occur after the I-130 petition has been approved. The interview may be scheduled as the intending immigrant is completing the final steps in the application process.
In almost every case, if you are adjusting status, meaning applying for a green card without going back to your home country to obtain a visa, you and your spouse will be called for an interview. This initial interview will be in-person. While the purpose of this initial interview is not necessarily to uncover any fraud, the USCIS office will still be looking for any signs that point to the marriage being fraudulent.
If the immigrant is outside of the United States and applying for an immigrant visa based on marriage at a U.S. consulate, the visa officer will still ask questions about the relationship. The officer will want to hear a realistic account of the development of the relationship and marriage. They will be looking for any inconsistencies between the story they hear from the applicant and the forms and documents filled out by the applicant.
The first thing that you should be aware of is that you may or may not have advance notice of a Stokes interview. If there are suspicions of a fraudulent marriage, USCIS may immediately separate the spouses and question them separately. These separate interviews can go on for several hours and are recorded.
If you do have advance notice of a Stokes interview, it is important to contact a Stokes interview lawyer NYC before you attend. While your lawyer will not have control over the questions you are asked, their presence may be beneficial. Your Stokes interview lawyer NYC will also know what the next steps to take should be after the interview occurs, which is helpful.
During the Stokes interview, a USCIS officer will meet with each spouse in separate rooms. Typically, the officer will ask each spouse an identical set of questions about their marriage and their lives together. The interview may take several hours. After the interviews, the answers to the questions will be compared to see whether they match up.
You should be ready for a wide variety of questions at this interview. You may be asked what you gifted your spouse for their birthday or a recent holiday. You may also be asked about methods of contraception you use and where you spend holidays.
A USCIS officer may also ask you both specific questions regarding how you handle your finances and what the inside of your house looks like. The bottom line is that you should be prepared to answer any type of question about your marital life together.
Keep in mind that it is always best to be truthful. If you do not know an answer to a question you are asked, it is never advisable to just make something up. If there are discrepancies between your answers and your spouse’s answers, it is possible that you may be granted an opportunity to clarify—but that is not guaranteed.
There are some documents that you are required to bring to a Stokes interview. These documents include:
Depending on the particular circumstances of your case, you may be asked to bring additional documentation.
While it is not a requirement to hire a Stokes interview lawyer in NYC in order to attend the interview, it is always a good idea to consult with an attorney. If you and your spouse are required to attend a Stokes interview, the stakes are high as the failure to pass the interview can cause the non-citizen to face removal from the United States, leaving you your spouse to be physically separated.
The best time to hire a lawyer is at the beginning of the application process. With a lawyer handling the initial filing of the application, the correct procedures and timelines will be followed. Another benefit to hiring a lawyer at the early stages of this process is that they can present the necessary evidence in the application in the best light possible for your case.
If you do not yet have a lawyer and you and your spouse are asked to attend a Stokes interview, it is crucial that you hire an experienced Stokes interview lawyer NYC right away. Your Stokes interview lawyer NYC will be able to attend the interview with you and take notes. Having been present at the interview, if anything goes wrong, your lawyer will know the correct steps to take next for your case.
The attorneys at Feiner and Lavy can help you and your family with any immigration-related needs. We have helped many clients through the green card process, including cases involving Stokes interviews.
Hiring a skilled and experienced Stokes interview lawyer in NYC can make all the difference in whether you pass that part of the process and go on to obtain approval of your application. Contact our law office today to learn more about what we can do to help you through the process of obtaining a green card.
**This is general information and is NOT intended to provide legal advice.
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