What Happens at an Immigration Marriage Fraud Interview

Prepare yourself for intense questioning about your marriage during a fraud interview that's required by the USCIS.

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If the U.S. immigration authorities have serious doubts about whether the marriage that you're using as the basis to apply for a green card is a real one, they will summon the immigrant and his or her fiancé or spouse for what's called a fraud interview (or a Stokes interview). The purpose is to provide them an opportunity to ask probing and intense questions about your marriage, to make sure it's not just a fake arrangement to get you lawful permanent residence.

Such interviews are usually held only in the United States. If you, the immigrant, are overseas, your U.S. fiancé or spouse will have to attend the interview alone. If you are applying within the United States, however, USCIS will no doubt call both of you in for the fraud interview.

Get detailed information about Marriage Fraud in the U.S., see What is Marriage Fraud Under U.S. Immigration Law?

There are various times during the application process when USCIS may require a fraud interview. These include after the petitioning spouse files the initial visa petition (Form I-129F for fiancés or Form I-130 for spouses) and after your USCIS or consular interview for a green card or visa.

If you are a fiance, click here, to learn how to prepare your Form I-129F. If you are the immigranting spouse of a U.S. Citizen, click here, to learn how to prepare your Form I-130.

If you have not reached your second wedding anniversary by the time you are approved for a green card or enter the U.S. on an immigrant visa, you will receive what's called conditional residency, which lasts for two years. A fraud interview can be scheduled during or at the expiration of that time, as well.

Being called for a fraud interview is definitely not a good sign. It means that your application has been singled out because it misses facts that would prove a real marriage, contains some inconsistencies, or presents grounds for suspicion. But if your marriage really is authentic, now’s the time to show them.

Applicants often get advance notice of a fraud interview. This is a good time to hire a lawyer, who should attend the interview with you. The lawyer does not really have a lot of power over the questions that you are required to answer, but can be a calming influence on everyone. Also, if the lawyer attends the interview, he or she will be better prepared to deal with any follow-up matters.

In the classic fraud interview, a USCIS officer puts you and your spouse in separate rooms and asks each of you an identical set of questions. Later, the officer compares your answers to see whether they match up. If you are called for a fraud interview in the United States, you can count on experiencing this type of format.

If you are applying from overseas, the USCIS officer in the United States will probably not be able to interview you -- and will have to settle for speaking to your fiancé or spouse alone. In that case, the officer will want to hear your fiancé or spouse give a realistic account of the development of your relationship. The officer will also try to spot any inconsistencies within your U.S. fiancé or spouse’s story or between his or her story and the application forms and documents.

The person who attends the interview should be ready for any and all types of questions, from what you gave each other for recent holiday gifts to the form of contraceptive (birth control) you use, if any. The questions vary among different officers and different years.

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TIP

Bring matching sets of house keys if you live in the United States. USCIS officers have been known to ask husband and wife to produce their house keys. The officer then compares them to make sure that they would fit the same locks.

If your fiancé or spouse lives with you now, try going over the important facts of your relationship, and noticing the details of your daily routine, in order to make sure you remember and agree on things like:

• how often and what time you call, text, or email each other

• how many people attended your wedding (if you are married)

• which holidays you celebrate together

• your activities the last time one of you visited the other, and

• which of your financial matters are shared, or who (if either) supports the other financially.

If you have not yet married, and are applying for a fiancé visa, the questions might also cover things like:

• how your families feel about your plans

• whether the families have met you or your fiancé

• how much time you have spent together, and where, and

• whether you held an engagement party or made a formal announcement of your engagement to family and friends.

There are no limits to the possible questions.

Once you or your spouse gets to a fraud interview, you will have to meet with an officer whose main job is try to detect wrongdoers, not grant visas or green cards. The interviewer will not be trying to make you feel comfortable. His or her job is to push a person with questions until the person trips himself up, confesses to marriage fraud, or finally convinces the interviewer that the marriage is real.

Usually, straightforward, hard questioning is enough. Couples perpetrating a fraudulent marriage can do all the homework in the world, but when one of them forgets or does not know the answer to an obvious question -- like where they went right after their wedding -- that applicant often crumbles and confesses.

Occasionally, a hard-nosed USCIS officer will engage in harsher tactics, such as falsely telling someone that their spouse has already confessed that the marriage is bogus, in order to push the interviewee into confessing. Or, the officer may use flat-out intimidation, reminding the interviewee about the jail time and money fines a person faces if caught committing marriage fraud.

Sensing that the interviewee is feeling low, the officer may ask him or her to sign something withdrawing the visa petition or stating that the marriage is a fraud. If your marriage really is an honest one, do NOT agree to or sign anything. Ask to stop the interview and to reschedule with a lawyer present.

by: , J.D.

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