Renee J. Tello Legal Blog

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The dreaded Stokes interview- How did we get here?

Recently I attended a Stokes interview with one of my clients and thought it would be an excellent topic for my blog.  So I’ve decided to do a three-part blog series on the topic.  In this blog entry, I will attempt to shed some light on why some green card applicants get scheduled for the dreaded Stokes interview.

Many of you may be familiar with the Stokes interview from movies like “Green Card” with Gérard Depardieu or “The Proposal” with Sandra Bullock.  However, I’ll give a brief background to put us all on the same page.  In the family green card process when a U.S. citizen sponsor’s their spouse for a green card while in the U.S., they are required undergo an initial interview to allow the immigration officer to determine if the marriage is bona fide or legitimate.  In New York, if at the initial interview the officer suspects that the marriage is based on fraud for any reason, he/she has the authority to schedule the couple for a more in-depth follow-up interview called a Stokes interview.

Now the burning question is what are the reasons an officer would schedule a couple for a Stokes interview?  First, it’s important to understand that in a marriage-based green card application the sponsor (US citizen spouse) and the beneficiary (foreign national applicant) must prove that they did not enter into the marriage solely for the purpose of obtaining an immigration benefit. Therefore, the Immigration Service has instituted certain requirements to find fraudulent or “scam” marriages.  For instance, applicants must provide joint documents with their initial application (I.e. joint bank statements, joint utility bills, joint health insurance etc.).  So the reason an officer may schedule a Stokes interview is because either the documents or something said in the interview makes them believe that the marriage is not real.  Specifically, officers may schedule a Stokes interview in cases where one or more of the following circumstances apply:

1.  Couple were married shortly after meeting each other;
2. Couple has not been married for very long before filing the green card application;
3. Cultural or large age difference between sponsor and beneficiary;
4. Couple does not have any or has very few joint documents;
5. Couple is not able to answer basic questions about each other or spouse’s relatives;
6. Couple’s story of how they met and fell in love does not seem real.

These are just a few examples of reasons an officer may schedule a Stokes Interview. This list is in no way exhaustive, it is a very subjective process as it really depends on the impression the interviewing couple makes on the officer.  Further, it’s up to each individual officer to determine whether or not to schedule a Stokes interview or not.  In my next blog I will address how to avoid being scheduled for a Stokes interview.

For more information on the green card application process or Stokes interview, contact our firm.



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