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Stokes Attorney

Much of the documentation required to be supplied in support of visa petitions in which a marriage relationship is claimed, essentially centers on one question, ie. establishing the bona-fides (genuineness) of a marriage at its inception. Therefore, the USCIS investigatory procedures are directed at the discovery of such marriage relationships that are sham or fraudulent. The Marriage Fraud Act was enacted by congress and designed to ferret out cases of sham marriages. An example of marriage fraud is a "gigolo" marriage. This refers to the situation in which a foreign national marries a U.S.citizen solely to procure an immigration benefit such as a green card, usually without the knowledge of the U.S.citizen. Often in such cases the matter is discovered when the U.S.citizen spouse discovers that the foreign national is not interested in maintaining the marital relationship, but has rather used the marriage for the purpose of obtaining the immigration benefit.

The law provides that an alien "shall be deported as having procured a visa or other documentation by fraud" if he or she seeks to or obtains lawful resident status on the basis of a marriage. Typically, in an immediate relative petition where both the applicant and his/her US citizen spouse live in the U.S., the procedure is for a USCIS officer to interview both parties in person. At this interview, the burden is on the parties to prove that the marriage is genuine, by providing wedding photographs, joint tax returns, joint bank statements, Apartment lease, utility bills, medical insurance etc. and answering basic questions concerning their marriage. If the interviewer is not satisfied with the documents provided, or with the answers given, then the interviewer will schedule a further interview, known as a "stokes' interview during which the spouses will be interviewed separately and audio taped.

At the interview, the couple will be separated and exactly the same questions will be asked of each one on various specific personal issues about their relationship. The questions are normally diverse enough as to preclude the possibility that the spouse could anticipate or prepare the answer in advance of the interview, and except for questions of a sexual nature concerning the sexual habits of the couple, virtually every area of the couple’s marital relationship could be probed. The questions asked will basically relate to matters which spouses who actually live together should normally know about each other and that perhaps no one else should know. Typical questions will relate to matters such as the division of household chores, the food preferences of the spouses, what type of food was eaten by the couple on a particular day or occasion, the nature and setting of the couple’s living room, questions about where things are kept, the number of rooms in the couple’s marital residence, on which side of the living room or on which chair the respective spouses sit, the color preference of the parties, on which side of the bed the respective spouses sleep, what time of the day each spouse typically wakes to prepare for work or goes to sleep or returns from work, the kind of sports programs or T.V. programs or movies preferred by each, the number of keys needed to enter the marital residence, the color of the paint on the walls, the number of closets in the bedrooms, the position of the the living room, and much more.

Then, following the separate questioning, the interviewer compares the answers of both spouses to determine that there are no serious inconsistencies between the two sets of answers. If the examiner has serious doubts as to the legitimacy of the marriage, due to inconsistent answers to the questions posed, he can deny the visa application outright and refer the matter to an Immigration Judge for final determination. The petitioner spouse is permitted to appeal the immigration examiner’s decision within 30 days of the denial.