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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
Before attending your I-485 interview, make sure that you are comfortable speaking to the immigration officer and answering their questions. If your demeanor shows that you are not comfortable or confident in your answers to the immigration officer, this may signal to the immigration officer that you are lying or hiding something about your marriage or background. If you are not engaged with the immigration officer or you are not making eye contact with the officer, this may also raise concerns in the mind of the officer. Do not interrupt the immigration officer while he or she is asking questions. Always be polite, courteous, and engage with the officer when you are asking a question. If at any time you do not understand the officer’s question, or you are not sure that you heard the question correctly, stop and ask the officer to repeat the question. First, listen to the officer’s question and once you are sure that you understand the question you may answer the question.
It is very important when attending the I-485 interview to acknowledge the formality of your surroundings and behave accordingly. Showing good etiquette can make all of the difference in the outcome of your I-485 interview. It is not appropriate to engage in a chatty or social conversation with the immigration officer at the time of your interview. It is also not appropriate to exaggerate your feelings for your spouse. If your feelings for your spouse appear overexaggerated or not sincere, the immigration officer will think that you are putting on a show for the officer, and that may be alarming to the officer. Simply behave in a way that you would behave under normal circumstances.
- Understand your rights
Remember that you have rights. Immigration officers are human beings. Sometimes their hunch is right, and sometimes their hunch is wrong. If you have a sincere and genuine marriage and you are separated at the time of your interview, do not panic. Immigration officers are trained to use intimidation tactics and to put pressure on individuals so that they can uncover any fraudulent behavior. Do not give in to any intimidation tactics or pressure. If you know that you have a sincere and genuine marriage, then it is important for you to remain composed. Always remain firm and direct in your convictions.
If at any time during the interview, you do not feel comfortable answering an immigration officers’ questions, or you feel that you are being pressured or intimidated during the interview, you can stop the interview at any time and ask to speak to an attorney.
- Be Respectful
Remain professional, respectful, and polite to the immigration officer at all times. Remember, you want the officer to be on your side. If you are disrespectful, aggressive, or defensive toward an immigration officer, this will not help your case even if you feel that the immigration officer is in the wrong. Maintain your composure and remain professional.
- Structure of the Interview
Understand that the structure of a fraud interview will typically remain the same. In order to detect marriage fraud, officers will ask you a series of questions and repeat those questions throughout the interview. During a fraud interview, the officer may ask you what you and your spouse did on the day of the interview, the weekend before the interview, how you met, etc.
If you have additional questions about the I-485 interview please contact our office for a consultation.