New York Lawyer's Legal Updates

How to Pass Immigration Marriage Interview

Author: Family Visas Lawyer Alena Shautsova

An Immigration interview is required in every case of adjustment based on marriage filing. That is every time a US citizen or a lawful permanent resident (a green card holder) would like “to file” for their spouse who is in the United States, the couple will be called to appear before an Immigration officer and answer questions about many aspects of their lives.

Do you believe that because your marriage is real you will be able to pass the Immigration interview without preparation? Let’s practice. Can you, without thinking more than 2-5 seconds about the answer, give answers to the following questions, and then ask your spouse if you got it right:

  • Date and place of your marriage?
  • Where did your spouse live when you guys met and prior to the meeting with you?
  • How many sleeping places do you have in your residence? (Be prepared that an Immigration officer will expect a definite answer without your questions as to what a sleeping place actually means…)?
  • Names of your spouse’s parents and their location?
  • What is our spouse’s favorite food? Favorite color?
  • How much money does your spouse make?
  • How much is the cell phone bill?
  • What side of the bed your spouse sleeps on?
  • How many times your spouse goes to gym?
  • When was the last time you guys went out?
  • What color are the window treatments in your bedroom?

Those are simple questions that often asked at the time of the interview, but there are more advanced ones that are being asked if an officer suspects marriage fraud. Usually, a couple interviewed will be in the same room and the interview will look more like a conversation between the officer and the spouses. Both spouses must know each other’s biographical information; the place where they met; the date of the marriage and each other’s day-to-day activities. For interracial spouses, it is important to be prepared for "uncomfortable" questions regarding differences in race, religion, and cultural preferences. Be prepared to demonstrate photos of your life, including wedding pictures; cell phone records and evidence of common residence.

It is expected nowadays that the couple will start proving their “real” marriage at the time of filing. It means that by the time the couple is ready with their initial filing, they already should have at least some of the paper evidence of their relationship. One can refer to the instructions to the form I 130 to find out what those are, but in general, those are photos of the couple at various moments of their lives, joint utility bills, lease agreements, insurance policies, tax returns, and so on. By the time the interview takes place, the couple should bring even more evidence: travel itineraries, more bills, notes, tax returns, and photos… Living together and living together and going through an Immigration purpose are two separate things nowadays. If previously, you can misplace a receipt and throw out the paid utility bill, now, you have to carefully save it and be sure not to lose it, as this bill, check, photo, may help you to avoid trouble and unnecessary expenses...

Another important aspect of the interview: the couple will be questioned about the previous spouses and relationship, and the applicant for adjustment of status will be questioned about his/her eligibility to adjust such as the manger of entry, criminal arrests and convictions, participation in various organizations, use of controlled substances in certain situations, and so on.

The situation gets really tricky when an officer believes that the couple is engaged in a fraudulent marriage. The couple will be called for another interview. In New York, the interview is called a Stokes interview. During this procedure, the spouses are questioned separately, for several hours and the questions get more detailed such as: how many birthmarks does your spouse have and their places?; what is the location of the laundry bin in your house/apartment?; how many steps does your porch have?; what are the garbage pickup dates? Later, the answers by both spouses are compared and if there are too many discrepancies, the case is denied, and the non-citizen can be placed in removal proceedings.

The problem is that only USCIS has authority over the I 130 form. So, technically, even if a couple is accused of marriage fraud, they will need to deal with USCIS to clear their name so-called. A denial of I 130 form can be appealed to the Board of Immigration Appeals; if the BIA issues a negative decision, a couple may pursue the case further in a Federal court. But once a person is placed in removal proceedings, only an Immigration judge will have jurisdiction over hie/she adjustment of status application. The current Immigration court's policy not to wait for the adjudication of the USCIS filings may cause a person to be deported prior to his/her ability to go through all these steps. The moral: due to the job once, and do it well. Do not leave it up to a chance, prepare to the fullest.

Regardless of the procedure, an Immigration interview is quite a stressful event. It is important to take it seriously, as its success determines the couple’s future in the United States. It is advisable to bring an attorney with you, or at least to consult with one prior to attending the interview. It will help to vent any legal and/or factual issues and obtain the confidence necessary to pass the first step towards the citizen. For a consultation regarding the adjustment of status based on marriage and marriage-based adjustment interview, please call 917-885-2261.

04 June 2014
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