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Convincing immigration officials that your marriage is legitimate

Emigrating from another country of origin to New Jersey may have been one of the most challenging things you've ever done in life. The fact that you were marrying the love of your life and making plans to build your dreams together in the United States may have outweighed any anxiety or fear you had about coming here. Perhaps you had a simple wedding, surrounded by a few close loved ones and even some new friends you met through your spouse.  

Everything may have been going well until you received a written notice in the mail that said you must appear at a Stokes interview. You may have been shocked to learn that it means the U.S. government suspects you of scheming to marry a U.S. citizen, not for love, but to obtain permanent resident status. Your ability to stay in the U.S. may hinge on how your interview goes; that's why others in similar situations asked immigrant advocates to accompany them to their meetings.  

What was the red flag that called your marriage into question? 

Although the details leading up to your Stokes interview may not be as crucial as whether you can convince immigration officers that your marriage is bona fide, it may help you better understand the process if you know what it was about your relationship with your spouse that raised the government's concerns. The following list includes common issues that prompt Stokes interviews: 

  • Spouses living in separate residences
  • Married couples filing separate tax returns for no apparent reason
  • Answers that conflict between multiple interviews
  • Prior visa application that was denied 

Any of these circumstances is enough to raise the U.S. government's suspicions, resulting in a Stokes interview. If you do not pass your interview, you may be at risk for immediate deportation. If you have an idea ahead of time of what types of questions you'll have to answer and how you can prepare for your interview, you may be able to obtain a positive outcome.  

The process               

You may be surprised at how personal some of the questions immigration officials ask you at a Stokes interview might be. No matter how uncomfortable the questions make you feel, you are required to provide as honest and accurate of answers as possible. Your interview might include the following topics: 

  • What color your bedroom is
  • Your spouse's favorite breakfast
  • The location of your first date
  • Your mother-in-law's name and where she lives
  • How many bathrooms are in your house
  • Your next-door neighbor's name
  • Where your spouse works 

These topics are just the tip of the iceberg as to what types of questions your interviewer may ask you. You might be in the same room as your spouse at the time or they may separate you to ask you the same questions independently so they can compare your answers. If you learn as much about the Stokes interview process as you can ahead of time, and take advantage of available support resources, you may be able to avoid removal and prove that your marriage is legitimate.  

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