Fiance Visas

What is a Stokes Interview?

By Peek & Toland on October 15, 2018

Immigrants who enter the U.S. on a visa to marry a U.S. citizen often must prove to immigration officials that the intended marriage is not a sham or fraudulent in any way. Especially due to the increased attention that the federal government is paying to immigrants who are entering the country, legally or otherwise, you and your spouse should prepare yourselves for a so-called Stokes interview.


What is a Stokes Interview?

Immigration officials will schedule a Stokes interview for immigrants and their spouses if they have reason to believe that the marriage is simply a ploy to get the immigrant spouse a green card, legal permanent residency in the U.S. If the information that they receive during the interview indicates any signs of fraud, immigration officials can detain the spouse and place him or her in removal proceedings. In order to avoid this outcome, some preparation is highly recommended.

For example, immigration officials will expect you to furnish written documentation that points to the validity of your marriage. These documents, which should contain both spouses’ names, or at least the immigrant spouse’s name and the shared U.S. address, might include:

·         Marriage license

·         Passports

·         Federal and state income tax returns

·         Bank account statements

·         Utility bills

You also may want to bring personal or sentimental items that document your marriage. For instance, photo albums with pictures of both of you, along with your family members and friends, are good evidence of a bona fide marriage. Family videos or Facebook posts of you and your spouse attending various events also may be helpful.

Finally, you should expect that while both spouses may be present in the same room for at least a portion of the interview, immigration officials also may speak with each spouse separately for a portion of the interview. Therefore, you and your spouse will need to coordinate your answers to basic questions. They may ask each of you the color of your house, your address, where you shop, and your spouse’s favorite color.

If you or your family is facing a visa problem or another type of immigration law issue, we may be able to help. As experienced Texas immigration attorneys, we have the knowledge needed to help you navigate through the often-complex process of immigration proceedings. Call us today at (512) 474-4445 and schedule an appointment with one of our immigration lawyers and learn how we can assist you.

Posted in Fiance Visas

Court Extends the Liability for Family Immigration Sponsors

By Peek & Toland on August 9, 2016

When you sponsor someone to immigrate to this country you have to make a binding promise that they won’t end up being a burden on the state.

But what happens if the sponsor separates from the immigrant? This thorny issue came before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in June.

The case of Erler v Erler looked at the responsibility of sponsors

In the case of Erler v Erler, Yashar Erler, a wealthy realtor, sponsored his future wife, Ayla Erler. The sponsor must be able to show an income 125 percent above the federal poverty line on Form I-864 of the INA. Erler was worth more than $4.5 million, so the test was not an issue.

However, the Erlers later divorced. Under the terms of a prenuptial agreement, the wife received no support at all. She ended up living off the charity of her son who was earning less than $40,000 a year.

The court considered whether Mr. Erler was violating his support obligations. He argued he was not because the household his former wife was in was making about $40,000 which is above the poverty line.

However, the former wife argued she was alone in a “household of one” and living off hand-outs.

The district court ruled that the adult son constituted part of Ayla Erler’s household. However, the Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s ruling, holding that Ayla’s household size comprised her alone. The justices said it could be problematic if other people were counted in the household.

The court decided that in the event of a separation or divorce between the sponsor and the immigrant, the sponsor’s duty of support is based on a household size equivalent to the number of sponsored immigrants who reside in the household rather than the total number of people living in it. In other words, the financial resources of Ayla Erler were the only factor to be taken into consideration and her son’s income did not count in the calculations.

The Ninth Circuit made it clear that under federal law neither a premarital agreement nor a divorce judgment may terminate an obligation of support contained in a Form I-864.  When a sponsor signs an affidavit to support a single intending immigrant, the sponsor would reasonably expect that, in the case of separation, that the obligation of support would be based on a household size of one.

However, if a sponsor agrees to support multiple immigrants his or her obligation of support would extend to all of them following a separation.

At Peek and Toland, PLLC, we advise and help those who are sponsoring spouses to come to the United States and the spouses themselves. You can see our green card resources here.

If you need help on issues about permanent residency contact us here, or call us at (512) 474-4445.

Posted in Fiance Visas, Immigration

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Green Cards Are Being Sent to the Wrong Addresses

By Peek & Toland on May 17, 2016

Green cards are granted to permanent residents. You have to meet strict criteria to obtain a card which allows you to live and work in the United States, and they are highly valued.

It was, therefore, disturbing to read a recent report that detailed how large numbers of cards are being sent to the wrong addresses. Although new electronic systems were put in place in 2012, the problem appears to be getting worse.

Findings from the Office of Inspector General in the Department of Homeland Security revealed the number of green cards that are going to the wrong places increased since U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) installed its Electronic Immigration System four years ago.

Green cards are being sent to the wrong addresses

Green cards are still being sent to incorrect locations

Alarmingly, the report said there is “no accurate means” of identifying exactly how many cards were sent to incorrect addresses after they were processed through the Electronic Immigration System (ELIS). Limitations in the system meant operators were unable to update addresses, even when green card holders requested an address change.

Applying for a green card can be a tortuous and nerve-wracking process. Automation was meant to improve the system but the audit published on March 9 this year found the new system “remains ineffective.” The notion that your permanent resident card may be sent to the wrong address, adds another layer of uncertainty.

How to Apply for Green Cards

The four main ways of applying to obtain a green card are set out by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. They are:

1 Family Based

Immediate relatives who include parents of a U.S. citizen, spouses and unmarried children of a U.S. citizen under 21-years-old do not have to wait for a visa to become available. There are also categories of “qualified relatives” who have to wait for a visa to become available.

2 Employment or Job Based

If you are seeking permanent residency based on a job offer you have received, you can apply for a green card or an immigrant visa abroad, when an immigrant visa number is available. It’s based on a preference system.

3 Refugee or Asylum Status

A refugee or the qualifying spouse or child of a refugee is required to apply for a green card, a year after entering the United States. If you were granted asylum or are a qualified child or spouse of someone who was granted asylum, you are not required to apply for a green card after a year but have the ability to do so, and it may be in your best interests to do so.

Although these are the three main routes to obtaining a green card, CIS sets out other ways. If you have entered the USA without documentation, we highlight here how consular process could be available for you.

If you are considering applying for a green card or are experiencing difficulties with the process, our experienced Austin family immigration attorneys can advise and help you. Contact us at (512) 474-4445 or view our immigration resources here.

Posted in Fiance Visas, Immigration

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Fiancé Visas and Permanent Resident Status

By Peek & Toland on March 11, 2015

Even if you have never had any direct interaction with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), you probably know one of the quickest ways to become a United States citizen is through marriage. We’ve all seen it before on television, in the movies or somewhere similar – a foreign national meets a U.S. citizen, they fall in love, marry, and move back to the States and live happily (or maybe not so happily) ever after. The end.

Of course, in reality the process can be considerably less romantic, with piles of legal paperwork and authorizations to deal with. Foreign nationals who marry in such a fashion must apply for their green card after the ceremony and have their permanent status granted by the USCIS after they receive the application. Depending on their particular situation and background, this could take some time. In practice and in theory, however, the process remains one the quickest paths to U.S. citizenship. Read the rest »

Posted in Fiance Visas

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