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What is the most Consequential Mistake Made During a Stokes Interview?

Couple looking at each other and smiling after successful stokes interview

A Stokes interview is a second marriage green card interview. Typically, there is only one final interview with a U.S. Adjudications officer at the end of the green card application process.

A Stokes interview is scheduled when the officer suspects fraud or does not believe that your marriage is genuine and authentic. The purpose is to uncover couples who married for the sole motive of obtaining permanent residency.

What Types of Problems Lead to a Stokes Interview?

Generally, a Stokes interview is scheduled when something occurs during your initial interview that makes the adjudications officer believe your marriage is not real. Some specific things that could make the officer suspicious include:

  • a short marriage,
  • you and your spouse have different addresses in paperwork or online,
  • a large age gap between you and your spouse, or
  • you have vastly different cultural backgrounds.

While it is unlikely that anyone of these issues standing alone would trigger a Stokes interview, it will be a red flag during your initial interview if you are also missing paperwork, have inconsistencies in the documents you do submit, or lack confidence in answering basic questions about your marital life.

What Happens During Stokes Interview? 

The Stokes interview is a more intense interview in which the adjudications officer asks questions of the married couple and looks for inconsistencies in their answers. 

 During a Stokes interview:

  • the married couple is separated in private rooms,
  • the adjudications officer asks one spouse about 50-100 questions,
  • the officer takes detailed notes on the answers,
  • the officer asks the other spouse the exact same questions,
  • the answers to the questions are compared, and the
  • married couple is questioned about any discrepancies.
USCIS officer interviewing a woman during stokes interview

In general, the questions asked by the adjudications officer will be more probing than those asked during the initial marriage visa interview. The questions can include such things as:

  • What side of the bed do you sleep on?
  • What color is the rug in your entryway?
  • Where do you keep your toothbrush?
  • What is the closest grocery store? 

Asking you specific questions like the color of the rug in a certain room of your house might seem extreme and unfair. But you need to anticipate these types of questions because the adjudications officer is suspicious and will be looking for proof that your marriage is not real.

While one inconsistent answer may not result in your visa application being denied, it is important to be as prepared as possible for as many questions as you can be. See our article on the most common Stokes interview questions.

The Biggest Mistake to Avoid

The most consequential mistake you can make during a Stokes interview is guessing at the answer to a question. Once you guess at an answer to a question, you increase the chance that your spouse will provide an inconsistent answer. 

Ethnic woman looking away and trying to guess the right answer during stokes interview

EXAMPLE: Suppose the adjudications officer asks you the color of the bathroom rug? You believe its blue or brown, but you do not know. You now have a choice to make:

  1. Be honest and admit you are not sure of the rug’s color. 
  2. Take more of a risk and say you think its blue or brown. 
  3. Guess at the color of the rug. 

The worst possible choice is guessing at the color of the rug. If your spouse provides a different color when answering the question, it will be a clear discrepancy that the adjudications officer will hold against you. You have essentially created an inconsistency that would have not existed had you just answered the question honestly.

Remember, it is doubtful that being unable to answer one or two questions, especially when it comes to the color of a rug, will result in your application being denied. Inconsistent statements, on the other hand, can create an inference that you and your spouse are being untruthful, and this will always count against you.

Similarly, do not be pressured into committing to an answer when you are not sure of the answer. Being honest is always your best strategy.

EXAMPLE: Suppose the adjudications officer asks you the color of the bathroom rug. You say that you are not certain of the color but believe that it is blue or brown. The officer, however, persists and asks whether it is more likely that the color is blue. Do not fall into this trap. If you are genuinely unsure of the rug’s color, simply state that you are sorry but that you cannot remember the specific color of the rug. 

Do not hold back, however, if you can provide a partial answer to the question, so long as you are not guessing. A little information, if accurate, is better than no information at all. 

EXAMPLE: Suppose the adjudications officer asks you when your spouse last spoke to his parents. You cannot remember when the conversation occurred, but you do remember that your spouse last spoke to his parents on his mobile phone using the Whats App Messenger. If you are certain of this, there is nothing wrong with sharing it with the adjudications officer. If your spouse gives an answer that involves the WhatsApp Messenger, the officer will recognize you have some recollection of your spouse calling his parents, which is something that married couples normally know about each other.

Do not lose sight of your overall goal: you are simply trying to prove that your marriage is genuine and authenticate and that you are a bona fide married couple. Often, providing some accurate information to a question is better than nothing at all.

Other Tips for a Successful Stokes Interview

Couple sitting and discussing important points preparing for their stokes interview

Being honest and never guessing at the answer to a question are the most important things you can do. Other than that, you should:

  • prepare in advance with your spouse by discussing your marital life in detail,
  • review the positive points and shortcomings of your initial interview,
  • only answer the question asked during your Stokes interview, and
  • try to relax and be as confident as possible.

At the end of the day, the Stokes interview does not have to be the end of the road when it comes to becoming a permanent U.S. resident. Look at it as another opportunity to show the adjudications officer that your application should be accepted. With a little preparation, the Stokes interview will just be another hurdle that you overcome on the way to your life in the United States.

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