Immigrants who are married to US citizens or permanent residents may apply for a green card. The process is known as adjustment of status. If the immigrant is already in the United States, they may file an I-485 form. If they’re outside the United States, they must go through consular processing. One of the requirements for both of these processes is to prove that the marriage is bona fide or real.
Proving a bona fide marriage can be difficult, but an immigration lawyer can help increase the chances of success. An experienced immigration lawyer can help immigrants collect evidence and prepare for an interview with USCIS officers. This may include collecting documents such as wedding photos, joint bank statements, and leases.
What Exactly is a Bona Fide Marriage?
According to the USCIS, a bona fide (which is Spanish for “good faith”) marriage is “a legally valid marriage.” This means that the couple must have obtained a marriage license from a government authority and that the marriage must be recognized as legal in the country where it took place. In addition, the couple must have the intention to remain married for the long term and demonstrate this through things like joint bank accounts, shared living arrangements, and children.
If you are considering marriage for immigration purposes, it’s important to ensure that your relationship meets all of the requirements of a bona fide marriage. You don’t want to end up needing a divorce lawyer because you married simply to get to the US. An immigration lawyer can help you understand the requirements and guide how to best demonstrate your relationship to the USCIS.
Marriage Fraud Under US Immigration Law
Under US immigration law, marriage fraud is defined as knowingly entering into a marriage to evade immigration laws. (See INA Section 204(c).) This can involve marrying a US citizen or permanent resident to obtain a green card or other immigration benefits. Marriage fraud is considered a serious offense and can result in deportation, 5 years in prison, and/or a fine of up to $250,000.
Immigrants who are found to have committed marriage fraud may also be barred from ever applying for US citizenship. It’s, therefore, a good idea to consult with an experienced immigration attorney to ensure that you’re doing everything within the bounds of the law.
A Case Will Likely Get More Scrutiny If:
- The couple has only recently met or become engaged.
- One or both partners have significant age differences.
- The couple does not have many close friends or family members who can attest to their relationship.
- The couple lives apart or has very little contact with each other.
Proving a Bona Fide Marriage for US Immigration Purposes
Immigrants who wish to obtain a green card or other immigration benefits through marriage must be able to prove that their marriage is bona fide. While there is no definitive list of what qualifies as evidence of a bona fide marriage, immigrants should include as much documentation as possible to show that their relationship is genuine. This may include photos, texts, emails, social media messages, and financial documents showing joint ownership of property or shared accounts. In addition, couples may also need to provide affidavits from friends or family members attesting to the authenticity of the relationship.
Example Evidence of Bona Fide Marriage to Support a Spousal I-130 Petition
- Joint Ownership or Lease of Property: You and your spouse may submit a copy of your lease or mortgage agreement showing that you live together. If you own property together, you may submit a copy of the deed.
- Joint Bank Accounts: You may submit bank statements or other financial documents showing that you have joint accounts. This can help show that you share finances and are committed to supporting each other financially.
- Shared Living Arrangements: If you live together, you may submit utility bills or other documents showing your shared address. You may also submit photos of your home to show that you live together.
- Children: If you have children together, you may submit their birth certificates as evidence of your relationship. You can also provide evidence of raising children together.
- Proof of Relationship and Shared Activities: You may submit photo albums, text messages, social media messages, and other documentation showing that you have a genuine relationship. This can help show that you spend time together and are supportive of each other.
- Affidavits from Friends or Family Members: Friends or family members may submit affidavits attesting to the authenticity of your relationship. They can provide personal anecdotes about your relationship and explain why they believe you are in a bona fide marriage.
An immigration lawyer can help you to understand what evidence is most likely to be persuasive.
Work With an Immigration Lawyer
Applying for a green card or other immigration benefits can be complex. An experienced immigration lawyer can help you to understand the requirements and ensure that you can meet them. A lawyer can also help you to gather evidence to prove that your marriage is bona fide and represent you in court if necessary. Don’t go it alone – contact an immigration lawyer today.
Frequently Asked Questions
How to Organize Your Evidence
When you’re gathering evidence to show that your marriage is bona fide, it’s important to be organized. Try not to overwhelm the USCIS officials with documents- If the documents are voluminous, offer a representative sample. Also, USCIS weighs some evidence more heavily than others. For example, shared bank accounts, joint tax returns, and life insurance will outweigh love letters, photos, affidavits, and travel.
What are Some of the Questions they Ask at a Green Card Interview?
The questions asked during an interview for a green card can vary depending on the couple’s situation. However, some common questions that USCIS officials may ask include:
- How did you meet?
- What attracted you to each other?
- When did you start dating?
- Have you met your spouse’s family?
- Do the two of you attend religious services regularly? If yes, when and where?
- What did you serve at your wedding
Can I Represent Myself, or Do I Need an Immigration Lawyer?
Although you have the right to represent yourself in immigration proceedings, it’s generally not advisable. The immigration process is complex, and the stakes are high. An experienced immigration lawyer can help you to navigate the process and give you the best chance of success.