Have you seen the movie “Green Card” with Gerard Depardieu and Andie MacDowell? Well…you basically know what a “Stokes” interview is. But Hollywood is rarely an exact reflection of real life.
If USCIS suspects that the marriage is not valid, they can subject the couple to a higher level of scrutiny.
Also, if a non-citizen is in removal proceedings (meaning the Government is seeking to remove them and they are appearing before an Immigration Judge), and during the pendency of those proceedings, the non-citizen gets married to a US citizen and seek to get status through that relationship, there is a presumption that the marriage was entered into only for the purposes of avoiding being removed.
This marital relationship will also be subjected to a higher level of scrutiny.
At the New York Immigration Office, this higher scrutiny interview is a called a “Stokes” interview. The Stokes interview gets its name from a Federal District Court case, Stokes v. I.N.S. (USCIS used to be called I.N.S.)
What is the purpose of the Stokes interview?
The Stokes process adjudicates the good faith of the marriage, and if the couple passes the interview, the I-130 petition is approved. The approval of an I-130 is a prerequisite to going forward on adjustment of status (i.e. getting a “green card.”)
What should my spouse and I expect at the Stokes interview?
At the interview, it is very likely that the couple will be separated.
The interview is recorded, and can last several hours.
The officer will ask one partner many questions about their relationship. This will include things like how the couple met, information about their respective families, detailed descriptions of the home the couple shares, trips taken together, and many other details about the life they share together.
Some of the questions are quite invasive. And then the other partner will be brought in, and the same questions will be asked.
The first partner will not be in the room when the second partner is being questioned. The answers will be compared for inconsistencies. (This is where the movie “Green Card” is inaccurate, because in the film, there were two officers, one for each “spouse.”)
Do I need a lawyer to if my spouse and I have been called in for a Stokes interview?
The importance of legal representation at the Stokes stage cannot be overstated, as the results of the interview are essential for the marriage-case being approved. Without an approved I-130, a couple cannot proceed with the I-485 adjustment of status process. For those couples that were placed into the Stokes process by USCIS, the foreign spouse may be placed into removal proceedings, meaning the Government will seek to deport the non-citizen spouse.
If the couple was subject to Stokes because the non-citizen spouse was already in removal proceedings, those proceedings will continue “full speed ahead.” Ultimately, failure to pass the Stokes interview can lead to the non-citizen facing removal from the United States, and a loving couple being physically separated.
What kind of experience does Lightman Law Firm have with Stokes interviews?
Attorneys at the Lightman Law Firm have been attending Stokes interviews for over a decade.
We are familiar with all the nuances of the process, we know the kinds of questions that will be asked, and we can help you effectively prepare for the interview.
It is essential that a couple have an attorney attend this interview with them, because an attorney can take detailed notes about what happened and can make sure that any improprieties on the part of USCIS are handled immediately and appropriately. Our firm’s attorneys also have experience appealing denials of Stokes interviews.