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THE MARRIAGE FRAUD INVESTIGATION
"The Stokes Interview"


 

"Our office has helped hundreds of couples in this dilemma. Proper preparation can make all the difference in being approved or denied for a Green Card. If you are facing a Stokes Interview" you should hire an experienced immigration lawyer to fight for you. Losing the case would eventually lead to a deportation case; something you should try to avoid."

A young couple came to my immigration office recently with a familiar story. The husband, a United States citizen, sponsored his wife for the Green Card. As she entered the U.S properly, with a visa, she was allowed to " adjust her status" in the United States. Basically this means that she would be receiving her Green Card through her marriage without having to leave the country.

An application for adjustment of status though marriage was filed, and an immigration interview date scheduled.

marriage fraud interview, stokes interviewAt the interview, it is normal for the immigration officer to ask questions of both the husband and the wife, in order to determine ift this marriage is based on love or just for convenience. The couple appeared at the immigration interview without an immigration lawyer. They were nervous and the husband kept on forgetting simple facts about the marriage. In a short while the interview was over. Apparently the immigration official began to suspected that this was marriage not for real, but a "sham" marriage entered into just to get a Green Card. The immigration officer took the passport and stamped it. The stamp read "245 interview." The applicants were escorted out. As a parting word the interviewer said, "You will be notified through the mail

The following may trigger suspicion of fraud:

  • Petitioner and petitioner are of different race or national origin;
  • Petitioner and petitioner have different addresses.
  • The couple do not speak the same language.
  • There is a big difference in age between the Petitioner and petitioner.
  • They have a difference in the cultural and religious background.
  • Great difference in in educational level between the couple
  • The application was not properly prepared and may contain inconsistencies.

As I have said many time, "Understand that it’s not one of these factors that could trigger a marriage fraud
interview, but a combination of factors that leads the immigration examiner to suspect that the marriage is not 'bona fide' making it appear that the couple entered into the marriage to evade the immigration laws, even if this is not the case."

Months passed and finally a letter arrived directing them to appear for a second interview. They show me the notice and asked me what to do, what to say, what is going on. And as an immigration attorney, I explain:

The first interview is the standard interview and should have been their last but obviously the examiner was not satisfied. Instead of denying the application on the spot, which they have been known to do, the case was forwarded to the investigations unit of the United States Citizenship & Immigration Service (USCIS) for a second interview called a "Stokes" interview.

A Stokes interview is recorded and the parties are separated. The USCIS officer will thoroughly scrutinized the husband and wife in an attempt to arrive at the "truth." After all persons, including the attorney states his name and address the examiner asks whether any documents are being submitted in support of the petition.

In a marriage case where marriage fraud is suspected, this interview is a good opportunity to "stuff" the record with documents and affidavits in your favor. Remember that the decision to deny or approve can only be based on the evidence in the record of proceeding.

Examples of appropriate documents are: birth certificate of children, leases for apartments which indicate both names along with rent receipts, life insurance policy showing the spouse as beneficiary, joint bank account, cancelled checks showing both parties use the checkbook, joint credit cards, family medical insurance, letters from the employer (on their letterhead, signed by an official of the firm stating date employment began, marital status, and whom to notify in case of emergency), copy of income taxes (filed jointly if they were married at the time filing is required), and photographs of the wedding and other photographs since marriage.

Once the documents are submitted, the actual interrogation of the couple really begins. First, one is taken into a room with only the immigration examiner and the immigration lawyer present.

The examiner begins by initially asking innocuous and simple questions. Eventually the questions become more detailed, more personal delving into all aspects of the couples relationship. Questions range from who woke up first this morning to what side of the bed you sleep on. Questions about other family members, such as mother, father, sisters and brothers are common. They may even ask to see the keys in your pocket and ask what each key is used for. They may ask that you empty your wallet and look at the papers and documents you carry. They are always searching for discrepancies, such as a driver’s license with a different address.

When the the first person's questioning is completed, the other spouse is questioned in the same fashion. Again, with the lawyer present. The identical questions are asked again. This time to see if the answers are substantially the same. The attorney listens carefully for any inconsistency and if necessary, re-words the question or clarifies it in order to assist his client. The immigration attorney is there to take notes in preparation of a future appeal should it become necessary.

Once the second spouse has been questioned then both people are brought together. If there were discrepancies or inconsistencies in the individual answers the parties are asked to explain. Here again the lawyer may be able to assist in clarifying the questions and answers given.

If all the doubts of the official are satisfied then the petition should be approved.

If the examiner still believes that the couple only got married to get a green card they are sent home without an approval and will eventually get a notice of intent to deny in the mail. The parties have another chance to explain the discrepancies to the USCIS. If they are satisfied with the answers, they may either approve the case or send it back for another interview. If it is denied an appeal can be made, If the appeal is denied, many cases are forwarded to the deportation unit to commence deportation proceeding. During the deportation proceeding the couple has yet another opportunity to present their case to the judge and be granted the Green card.

Marriage fraud interview usually happen on any of the following situation:

• Interview by USCIS on the first notice for interview. Usually this is a brief question and answer.

• Interview by the Consular officer in the home country of the Beneficiary.

• Second notice for interview by USCIS or Consulate Officer. This a is the more detailed interview.

• Interview by USCIS when Petitioner applies for removal of condition on residence under Form I-751.


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    Author
    Moses Apsan and his staff, based in New York City and Newark, NJ provide exceptional legal services throughout the world, in all aspects of immigration to the United States, including non-immigrant (temporary visas), immigrant visa (Green Card) and deportation defense. In addition Mr. Apsan, has been practicing Bankruptcy law and Divorce laws for over 30 years, He was the President of the Federal Bar Association, New Jersey Chapter (1997-2002). He speaks Portuguese and Spanish..
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