March 15, 2010: What to Expect during a “Stokes” interview

What to Expect during a “Stokes” Interview

What kind of questions will they ask my wife and me? I have been living with my wife for 11 months and we have been married for over 9 months, and our marriage is GENIUNE. If I fail the Stokes Interview will they deport me?

Should I hire a lawyer or should we prepare with a list of the 500+ questions provided by my friend who had a Stokes interview? How can a lawyer help us in a Stokes interview? Please let me know as we are pretty depressed about the way they treated us at our first interview.
— Anonymous

A “Stokes interview” is conducted by an adjudications officer on behalf of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), where the Petitioner and Beneficiary in a marriage-based I-130 visa petition are questioned separately about their marital life and shared experiences. The officer’s goal is to gather information to determine whether the Beneficiary is eligible for lawful permanent residency based on a bona fide marriage to a United States citizen. The officer may use this time to clarify discrepancies in previous oral testimony and/or documentary evidence.

This interview is non-adversarial in nature. It may be videotaped. The officer should take copious notes of the interviewee’s answers to all of the questions. A Stokes interview should not be viewed like a test in school. Rather, it should be viewed as a question and answer session about the Petitioner’s and Beneficiary’s lives. It is impossible to predict with any amount certainty the exact questions that will be asked. For example, the first question during the Stokes interview may be “where did you meet your spouse.” Depending on your answer, the adjudications officer will ask you a follow-up question and depending on that answer, you may be asked another follow-up question, and so on.

The adjudication officer’s main goal is to find out about your life and s/he is entitled to asked reasonable questions to elicit satisfactory information. The Petitioner and Beneficiary have a legal right to counsel during the Stokes interview. The attorney should prepare the Petitioner and Beneficiary before the I-130 interview by explaining the process and gathering supporting documentation. During the interview, the attorney’s role is not to answer the questions being asked, but is to answer any questions of law, to ensure that the adjudications officer does not ask inappropriate questions, and that the interview is non-adversarial, among other things.

Many individuals become very nervous around government and/or authoritative figures and the presence of an attorney calms their nerves. If the I-130 visa petition is denied, you may want to appeal the Decision with the Board of Immigration Appeals or re-file the I-130 petition. It is possible that the Beneficiary will be placed in removal proceedings if the I-130 is denied and depending on the specific facts of the case.

Before your scheduled interview, it may be wise to consult with an experienced immigration attorney to prepare you for and to attend the interview.

Michael Shane and Evan Shane, Immigration Attorneys