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Articles Posted in Stokes interview

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In this post, we will discuss our top ten tips to help you survive the marriage fraud interview also known as the “STOKES” interview. An applicant filing for adjustment of status to permanent residence may be scheduled for a second interview, known as the “STOKES” interview if the immigration officer is not convinced at the initial I-485 interview that the applicant has a bona fide marriage.

  1. Be Honest

Our first tip to avoid being scheduled for a second interview also known as the STOKES interview is simple. Be honest with yourself, with your partner (the U.S. Citizen or LPR spouse), and your attorney if you have one. Before walking into your initial I-485 interview you should be careful not to misrepresent the facts in your relationship and ensure that you and your partner are both being honest and truthful regarding all aspects of your marriage. If you or your spouse misrepresent any facts about your relationship, the immigration officer will presume that you do not have a bona fide/genuine marriage, and it will be very difficult to overcome this presumption at the second interview.

  1. Preparation

The second tip to avoid the STOKES interview is to be well prepared. You and your spouse should prepare all of your documentation proving bona fide marriage well in advance of your I-485 interview, so that you have enough time to review your documentation with your spouse and your attorney in preparation of your interview. This well make you feel more confident and prepared when it comes time to your I-485 interview.

  1. Never Lie, Misrepresent, or Provide False Information

If you do not know the answer to a question asked by an immigration officer, DO NOT under any circumstances LIE, MISREPRESENT, or provide FALSE information. If you do not know the answer, simply tell the officer that you do not know. Always be honest. If you are not honest with an immigration officer this will indicate not only that you are a person of bad moral character, but that you are committing fraud in order to obtain an immigration benefit. Do not under any circumstances, invent facts that are not true. Remember that immigration has various tools to uncover fraud including the ability to visit you and your spouse at your home unexpectedly if they believe that you are lying or are not being honest about your marriage.

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Beginning next year, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will launch a task force located in Los Angeles, designed to identify, detect, and prosecute individuals who have fraudulently gained United States Citizenship, for example by entering into a ‘sham’ marriage to obtain permanent residence, or engaging in other fraudulent activity, such as using a false identity to apply for permanent residence and/or naturalization.

USCIS has already begun to process of hiring lawyers and immigration officers who will review cases of individuals who have been deported, who the agency believes may potentially use a false identity to obtain permanent residence and/or citizenship. Such cases will be referred to the Department of Justice, who will then initiate the removal of individuals who have committed immigration fraud.

Of the denaturalization task force, USCIS Director L. Francis Cissna told reporters, “We finally have a process in place to get to the bottom of all these bad cases and start denaturalizing people who should not have been naturalized in the first place. What we’re looking at, when you boil it all down, is potentially a few thousand cases.”

The denaturalization task force will be funded by immigration application filing fees. The denaturalization task force will be primarily focused on targeting individuals who have used false identities to obtain immigration benefits.

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If you have applied for the I-130/485 based on marriage to your US Citizen spouse, chances are you are anxiously awaiting an interview. In this post we will cover the documentation you need to provide at the I-485 interview to prove the bona fides of your relationship. The most common question clients ask is, what a bona fide marriage is and how do I prove that I have a bona fide marriage.

A bona fide marriage is one that was entered in good faith and not with an intention to deceive. A green card applicant does not have a bona fide marriage if he or she entered the marriage solely to receive an immigration benefit from USCIS. Immigration officers are trained to identify fraudulent or “sham” marriages where either party or both parties have entered the marriage simply for the green card applicant to obtain his or her permanent residence in the United States, without any sincere intention to live together in the same household or form a marital bond.  Immigration officers search for inconsistencies in any answers provided by either party to the marriage, and carefully scrutinize supporting documentation provided by the couple with the initial I-485 filing.

There are various forms of documentation that are strong evidence proving the bona fides of a relationship. Generally speaking, evidence of cohabitation, joint ownership of assets and joint responsibility for liabilities, and birth certificates of children born to the marriage are strong evidence proving that a marriage is genuine.

Cohabitation: One of the most important aspects of proving bona fide marriage is to show cohabitation—that you are living with your spouse. You can show evidence of cohabitation by providing a copy of your lease agreement showing both of your names on the lease if you are renting an apartment. If your spouse maintains ownership of a private residence, your spouse can provide a copy of the deed including both of your names, or if the green card applicant’s name is not yet on the deed, the petitioner can provide a statement as evidence of cohabitation. Other documents that can be shown to prove cohabitation include joint utility bills such for gas and electricity, water, internet bills, phone bills, etc. that contain both of your names. In addition, any mail sent to your residential address containing both of your names may be used as evidence of cohabitation. The strongest evidence showing cohabitation however is a copy of the lease agreement or deed containing both names.

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In this post we discuss the top five most common reasons your adjustment of status application may be denied.

Financial Reasons

One of the requirements to receive adjustment of status in the United States is to prove that the petitioner (the U.S. Citizen or LPR spouse) has sufficient income or assets to support you based on the petitioner’s household size when filing the I-864 Affidavit of Support. The petitioner must meet at least 125% of the U.S. poverty guidelines in order to sponsor the beneficiary of the adjustment of status application. If the petitioner does not meet that income requirement, they may be able to use assets such as properties, a 401(k), mutual investment fund, ownership of stocks, ownership of two or more automobiles to supplement their income. However, if the petitioner will be using the value of their assets to supplement their income, the total value of the assets must be equal to at least three times the difference between the total household income and 125% of the U.S. poverty guidelines for their household size. For an example of how to use assets to supplement income, please review the I-864 affidavit of support instructions.

If the petitioner does not meet the income requirement and cannot supplement the shortage with their assets, they must obtain a joint sponsor who does meet 125% of the U.S. poverty guidelines based on their income. A joint sponsor can be anyone that is a U.S. Citizen or LPR that satisfies the poverty guidelines.

One of the most common reasons for a denial of the adjustment of status application is that the petitioner and/or joint sponsor does not meet the required income requirement. Failure to respond to a request for evidence with satisfactory evidence will mean a denial of the application, even before the couple gets to the interview stage.

Public Charge

If USCIS believes that the beneficiary will likely become dependent on the U.S. government for long-term care or financial support, the green card application will be denied. USCIS reviews the I-864 affidavit of support and income documentation closely to determine whether the beneficiary is likely to become a public charge. Factors that may be considered to make this determination include the total income of the petitioner, the joint sponsor, assets, resources, and general financial status at the time of filing.

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27512994306_54f949109a_zDuring November 2015, a couple came to our office seeking legal assistance, after having filed the adjustment of status application on their own, and attending their initial green card interview without legal representation. The couple visited our office seeking legal representation for their second interview before USCIS, also known as the ‘STOKES’ interview. At the conclusion of their initial interview, the couple were given a request for evidence by the immigration officer.  The Request for Evidence asked the couple to prove that the Beneficiary entered the marriage in good faith, and not for the purposes of evading the immigration laws of the United States. The couple responded to the Request for Evidence, providing documents in support of their bona fide marriage, to establish that they did indeed enter the marriage in good faith. In their response, the couple provided 21 items of evidence including photographs together, lease agreements as proof of cohabitation, and other bona fides such as joint utility bills and affidavits from the Petitioner’s parents, attesting to the couple’s bona fide marriage.

Despite producing such evidence, the immigration officer found the documents provided as evidence of cohabitation and marital union unconvincing. Additionally, the immigration officer found that the testimony given during the initial interview was unconvincing. Due to this, the immigration officer scheduled the couple for a second interview to discuss their relationship in more detail. The couple came to our office seeking guidance and representation at this second interview. The second interview is commonly referred to as the ‘STOKES’ interview. At the time of the second interview or ‘STOKES’ interview, the couple is questioned separately by an immigration officer regarding the details surrounding their marriage and relationship. A ‘STOKES’ interview is typically scheduled when an immigration officer suspects that the marriage is a ‘sham marriage’ entered for the purpose of obtaining an immigration benefit. During the ‘STOKES’ interview the immigration officer probes the couple on the intimate details of their relationship. The ‘STOKES’ interview is very taxing on both the Petitioner and Beneficiary. Some ‘STOKES’ interviews have lasted anywhere form 8-10 hours depending on the complexity of the case. Due to this, it is strongly recommended for an attorney to be present with the couple during a ‘STOKES’ interview.

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charlesFor this month’s staff spotlight, we invite you to learn more about Associate Attorney Charles S. Ward, Esq.

Attorney Ward has been a long time attorney at the Law Offices of Jacob J. Sapochnick. Charles received his Doctorate in Jurisprudence from Southern Methodist University graduating Cum Laude. Prior to attending law school, Mr. Ward worked for Delta Air Lines in the Reservations/Sales Department, where he focused on customer service issues and problems relating to traveling arrangements. He has been a California licensed attorney since 1997 and is also licensed to practice before the Federal Court system. His area of expertise includes Immigration and Family Law.

His Favorite Quote “Time and Tide Wait for No One” 

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What are the most challenging questions for couples at a STOKES/Fraud Interview?

By Attorney Marie Puertollano, Esq.

What happens when a US Citizen Spouse and the intending immigrant spouse fail an interview pending an application for permanent residence?

Normally couples who have failed to provide sufficient documentation to an immigration officer, for the purpose of establishing their bona fide marriage—in other words that the marriage between both parties was entered in good faith and NOT to obtain an immigration benefit—may receive an appointment for a second interview also known as the STOKES or fraud interview. In some cases however a couple may be scheduled for a STOKES or fraud interview the very first time around. There are multiple reasons a couple may be scheduled for a STOKES/fraud interview. Couples should note that the burden of proof always rests on the couple. So what happens at this fraud interview? During the STOKES/fraud interview the couple is separated in different rooms and interrogated by an immigration officer. The officer will first interrogate one of the parties in a separate room. Then, the officer will question the other party asking the same exact questions.

Fraud interviews are lengthy and very complex. Officers ask very detailed questions that are challenging even for couples who have been together for many years. Our attorneys have successfully represented couples at hundreds of fraud interviews. Here are the most challenging questions that almost all couples are unprepared to answer despite having been together for many years. It is important that if a question is unclear or if the context of the question is unclear that the party ask the immigration officer for clarification.

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