Your United States citizen spouse filed a family petition on your behalf together with an application for adjustment of status in order for you to get your green card. You just had your interview with an officer of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, and unfortunately it did not go as well as you had expected. At the end of the interview the officer handed you an appointment notice for a follow-up interview. This interview is better known as a “Stokes” interview, and is infamous for its breadth and depth of questioning. At this interview you can expect to be questioned separately while your spouse waits outside in the waiting room. The answers to the long series of questions which is asked of each spouse separately is then compared by the officer, who will allow the couple an opportunity to explain any discrepancies which may arise. Failure at this level to convince the officer that your marriage is a bona fide and subsisting relationship can result in the denial of your application and place you in removal proceedings.
Prior to appearing for your Stokes interview you are probably wondering what you can do to best prepare for this encounter, in order to give yourself the greatest chance of success. Below are five tips which can make a big difference in the outcome of your Stokes interview.
1. Make sure your documentation is organized -when you are sitting in the room together with the examining officer, one of the first items that they typically address is whether you have additional documentation to submit in support of your application. This documentation could be in the nature of updated tax returns, job letters, bills, joint bank account statements, and the like. A full set of these copied documents should be organized and readily available to hand over to the officer with ease. Applicants who have to rummage through their paperwork and sort through their documents in order to find what the officer is requesting already start off on shaky ground with the officer.
2. Only respond when you are specifically addressed -generally, the officer will issue an instruction to the couple
that the spouse who is being addressed and only that spouse should answer the questions being posed. However, even in the absence of such an instruction, if it is clear that the officer is making eye contact with one specific spouse then the officer is expecting that particular spouse to respond. Having the officer issue a warning with regard to this protocol is another way to prejudice the officer against you.
3. Respond with the truth, not with what you think your spouse will say -all too often applicants believe they can outsmart the system by over thinking the questions that are being asked of them. Rather than responding with what they know to be correct, they choose to say things that they believe their spouse will say even though it is not based in reality. This obviously creates a greater chance for discrepancies, and also makes any discrepancies which arise more difficult to explain away when the couple is reunited before the officer and offered an opportunity to explain the differences in their answers.
4. Pay greater attention to the lesser details in your marital life – while this tip may seem somewhat unfair, nevertheless in order to be successful at the “Stokes Game” you really have to pay close attention to such things as the layout of your residence, and in particular your bedroom as well as the number and nature of tattoos and scars your spouse may have on their body.
5. Consult with an experienced attorney who can offer you a list of sample questions with which to prepare -this may be your last chance to get a green card, so it would be prudent to invest wisely and properly in an attorney who has represented such clients before, and can offer you a sampling of the kind of questions that have been asked at Stokes interviews in the past. While these questions are not guaranteed to arise during the course of your Stokes interview, nevertheless just having a battery of questions to consider with your spouse will make you better equipped to handle the variety of questions which may be asked. Considering that the questions are taken from life itself, the possibilities are literally endless. However, experienced attorneys can tell you that certain questions tend to appear more routinely than others, and that can give you quite an advantage.
Keeping these 5 tips in mind will help you meet with success in spite of the Stokes interview process. However, significant preparation is well advised in order to ensure that the end result of your Stokes interview will be the attainment of the coveted green card.
For most people trying to meet with success at their Stokes Interview, hiring a lawyer is the best thing they can do to improve their chances of an approval. However, you need to have the lawyer who is right for you. Taking the time to review the information outlined above will help you to make the right decision.
This article supplies information about the law and legal processes designed to help readers deal with their own specific legal needs. However, legal information is not the same as legal advice, to wit, the application of the law to one’s particular circumstances. While the author has taken care to make sure the information provided is accurate and useful, it is recommended you consult a lawyer if you need legal advice appropriate to your particular situation.