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What happens in a green card marriage interview?

Marriage-based green cards can be issued to people from other countries living in the U.S. based on the fact that they're married to a U.S. citizen. Spouses who are citizens can apply for such a green card for their husband or wife through the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

While most people with marriage-based green cards are in genuine marriages, some couples enter into marriage solely so that the foreign spouse can remain in the country. Many of our readers may recall the 1991 romantic-comedy Green Card in which a Frenchman and American woman enter into such a union, only to actually fall in love as they strive (unsuccessfully) to convince immigration officials that they are a real couple.

While that film may not completely mirror real life, couples really do have to undergo green card marriage interviews so that the USCIS can determine the legitimacy of their marriage. In addition to answering questions, couples will need to provide evidence of their relationship and marriage. Besides your marriage certificate, birth certificates, passports, visas and other immigration documents, you should be able to show photos, emails, letters, joint bank and tax statements and bills as evidence of a genuine marriage.

It's essential to be completely honest both on your application and during any interviews. If you are determined to be lying, you may be subject to penalties and fines and possibly permanently banned from the U.S.

If you aren't able to convince customs officials of the legitimacy of your union during the interview, you may have a second chance via something called a Stokes interview. It's named after a plaintiff in a 1975 case against the Immigration and Naturalization Service. During Stokes interviews, immigration officials question the spouses separately, with detailed and personal inquiries, to see how their answers compare.

If you are going to be undergoing a Stokes interview, it's wise to contact a Georgia immigration attorney. This will likely be your last opportunity to get a marriage green card. Further, as noted, the ramifications of being charged with immigration fraud can be serious. Therefore, the stakes are high.

Source: Findlaw, "Green Card Marriage Interview FAQ's," accessed Jan. 13, 2017

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