How To Pass A Stokes Interview
Author: US Visa Attorney Alena Shautsova
If your green card application is based on marriage to a U.S. citizen, you will be called for an interview with a USCIS officer. During your initial interview with USCIS you may ask you to come back for a second interview, also known in New York as a Stokes Interview. It is important to remember that this is not considered a failure to be remanded back for a Stokes Interview, however, make no mistake this interview is far more intense than the initial interview. USCIS reserves a rights to call you for the Stokes interview. The main reason for it would be lack of the preparation and lack of documents proving a bona fide marriage.
The difference between a Stokes Interview and an Initial Interview:
1. Time Frame – Your Initial Interview will last no more than one hour, typically if all goes well it is usually around 30 minutes for the actual interview ,once you are called, and those with attorneys have a separate and shorter wait time. Stokes Interviews start on-time and are conducted with each spouse separately. The average Stokes interview can range from 2-4 hours for each spouse.
2. Answering of questions – At your initial interview, if for example the officer asks what your spouse’s favorite food is and you answer Pizza, however your spouse’s favorite food is really French Fries, it is not made to be a big deal, if your spouse decides to correct you or not. At your Stokes Interview, if the answers do not match it can present a problem, although this seems like a minor mistake (and it is) if too many answers do not match up, you will fail your interview.
a. You should prepare with your spouse regarding the following areas of life:
- Family members, both immediate and distant.
- The details of your home, i.e. how many rooms, where each room is located, where various household items are located in the house.
- Different events throughout your relationship, such as your first date, what your spouse was wearing, if you went to dinner what he or she ate, etc.
b. You need to bring as many supporting documents as possible, including affidavits from friends and family who can confirm the validity of your relationship.
At the time of the interview:
a. Be confident (not to be mistaken with confrontational) when answering the questions asked. One of the “flags” is the lack of confidence. Remember : you are proving a bona fide marriage at this interview that USCIS was previously unsure of. It is difficult to feel confident in this situation, set your mind as much at ease as possible: with a good preparation and a competent attorney you will pass.
b. Answer only the questions you are asked. Do not deviate from the point or you risk the appearance of trying to avoid the question and open the room for mismatched answers. For example, if an officer were to ask you where you went for your first date and you are to deviate to the song that was playing on your first date your spouse may recall a different song. Under normal circumstances this would be O’K: maybe both songs answered were playing that night and your spouse was more impartial to a different one then you were. During a Stokes Interview, it will count against you so answer only what you are asked.
c. If you don’t know the answer, you don’t know, do not answer just to answer. This is not a multiple choice exam. Questions like what did your spouse ordered on your third date and you answered that your spouse had the “Special Catch of the Day, Tilapia with a lemon drizzle consisting of 2 parts lemon 1 part oil with capers sprinkled on top and a side of garlic mashed potatoes” is not the typical answered, nor is an officer expecting such answers. “Fish” is a good enough answer, or, “I don’t remember” is too. You should remember your spouse’s birthday of course, but something of this specific recollection is normal to forget.
The bottom line, if you are called for the Stokes interview, it is time to find an attorney who will prepare you and who will be there for you. I would not recommend anybody to appear at USCIS without an attorney, even after you read this blog, or read any other material online. Nothing can substitute attorney’s knowledge and experience, and ability to advocate on your behalf.