Recently a potential client entered our office distraught. She had just received notice that her completely lawful marriage had raised a number of red flags and that immigration had called her back for a 2nd interview or what is called a Stokes Interview.
A Stokes interview occurs where immigration suspects the marriage is not a good faith marriage and that it was just arranged for immigration purposes. The Stokes interview takes each party into separate rooms and asks a series of questions to determine if they are lying or telling the truth. At the end the parties are brought together to explain and discrepancies.
After briefly discussing her case with her we quickly realized that she had a bona fide marriage and that her main issue was she had tried to save a few dollars by not having an attorney prepare her application for her. She simply wanted to save some money so she and her husband decided to try to do it themselves. Now she was on the verge of a nervous breakdown thinking her application would certainly be denied at the Stokes interview and that she would separated from her family and deported.
We assured her we could help her and at this point she realized it was well worth the money, as it was obvious to her she should have hired us from the beginning. After asking her a few questions we determined the interviewer had been highly inappropriate with her. He had attempted to intimidate her and even asked her questions about how her husband could have “loved her."
This often happens when immigrants attempt to navigate immigration laws alone, the officers attempt to intimidate them and push them around. We decided to take her case and prepare her and her husband for the upcoming Stokes interview.
We gave her a list of potential questions immigration officers would ask, not because we really thought the officers would ask these questions but to give her examples of the types of questions that will be asked. It is impossible to predict exactly what questions will be asked at a Stokes interview. This is to prevent people who intend to commit fraud from “practicing" for the interview.
We also went through the application she had submitted on her own because although USCIS does randomly flag some applications for a 2nd interview, often they are referred to Stokes interviews because of “red flags." In her application we determined that there were a number of inconsistent dates for her employment and past residences. We discussed this with her and apparently she was just careless in filling out the forms because she didn’t think that they were that important. This was a huge mistake. All of the forms must be meticulously prepared to make sure there are no inconsistencies and a good attorney would have known this.
The most important thing our firm did was to restore her confidence in herself and the system. We discussed with her that we would not let her be bullied and pushed around by immigration officers and that as long as she told the truth we would do everything we could to protect her and to get her application approved. We explained to her that she had a lawful marriage and that as long as she told the truth immigration would understand this.
This was important because the officer immediately tried to intimidate her and to trick her into lying. We immediately corrected him and told him if it happened again we would like to discuss it with his supervisor. From that point the rest of the interview was smooth sailing and her application was approved a short time later.
As can be imagined, she was so happy and thankful. She stated she wished she had hired us from the beginning and how it would have saved her so much time and stress.