How to Prove Your Marriage Is Bona Fide
The process to obtain lawful residence in the U.S. can be a long and complex road for many immigrants. For those who wish to obtain a green card through marriage, the process can be all the more daunting.
To be eligible for a marriage-based green card, applicants must first prove that their marriage is bona fide—a Latin term that means “good faith.”
Essentially, a bona fide marriage is a valid, genuine partnership that both spouses entered into for legitimate reasons. In other words, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) wants to prevent non-citizens from entering into a fraudulent or “sham” marriage for the sake of obtaining citizenship or evading the U.S. immigration system.
While the burden to prove that your marriage is authentic can be nerve-racking and emotionally taxing, success is possible for couples who adequately prepare for their interview and comply with USCIS procedures.
Do I Qualify for a Marriage-Based Green Card?
A green card is an official form of U.S. citizenship that allows immigrants to live and work in the United States as lawful permanent residents (LPR). Green cards can be obtained in one of the following ways:
- Through family. Immigrants may obtain a green card through a relative, such as a spouse, parent, or sibling.
- Through employment. Non-citizens may become green card holders through their employer as 1) a first, second, or third preference immigrant worker; 2) a full-time physician; or 3) an investor in a new U.S. commercial enterprise.
- As a special immigrant. Eligible immigrants may apply as a religious worker, special immigrant juvenile, Afghanistan or Iraq national, international broadcaster, or employee of an international organization.
- Through refugee or asylee status. Immigrants who were granted asylum or refugee status at least 1 year prior may be eligible for a green card.
- As a crime victim. To qualify, immigrants must agree to help with the investigation or prosecution of the criminal activity. Eligible crimes include human trafficking and other crimes that entail substantial physical or mental abuse.
- As a victim of abuse. Eligible applicants include 1) VAWA self-petitioners; 2) juveniles with SIJ status who were abused, neglected, or abandoned by a parent; 3) abused spouses and children under the Cuban Adjustment Act; or 4) abused spouses and children under the Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act (HRIFA).
A marriage-based green card is one of the most heavily scrutinized forms of citizenship. To successfully obtain a green card through marriage, it’s imperative for non-citizens to follow U.S. immigration procedures meticulously and correctly.
Eligibility Requirements for Marriage-Based Green Cards
If you’re an immigrant wishing to obtain a green card through your spouse, you must first prove to USCIS that the following 4 things are true:
- Your marriage is legal. The marriage must be formally recognized by the governing body of the country where the union took place.
- You are married to a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (LPR). If your spouse is a U.S. citizen, evidence may include your spouse’s birth certificate, U.S. passport, naturalization certificate, ad certificate of citizenship. If your spouse is a green card holder, a copy of your spouse’s green card is required to meet eligibility.
- Your marriage is bona fide. Applicants must show that their marriage is legitimate and was entered into for the right reasons.
- Neither you nor your spouse is married to someone else. While this may sound straightforward, it’s especially applicable for immigrants who may have been divorced or widowed in the past, as evidence is required to prove that all past marriages have ended. Proof may include a divorce decree or death certificate.
How to Prove a Bona Fide Marriage without Children
Proving that your marriage is authentic can be stressful. Even couples in longstanding and well-established marriages can feel anxious about starting the green card application process.
You may be wondering what evidence can effectively prove that you are not only in a genuine and loving partnership, but that you and your spouse have every intention of staying in it.
While a valid marriage certificate is the foundation of a successful green card application, additional evidence is required to support the union. Generally, the more evidence you provide, the better.
Evidence of a Bona Fide Marriage
Because every marriage is unique, the process of proving a bona fide marriage can be more challenging for some couples than it is for others.
For example, spouses that live apart for extended amounts of time, are childfree, and/or prefer to keep their finances separate may find it more challenging to prove the partnership is bona fide. Fortunately, there is a wide range of documents, records, and other types of proof that spouses can provide to prove a legitimate marriage.
Consider these common forms of evidence to prove a bona fide marriage without children:
Proof of Joint Finances, Assets, & Welfare
While joint bank accounts are an excellent means to prove a bona fide relationship. However, for couples who prefer to retain their financial independence or simply never got around to merging their accounts, there's no need to panic, as there are other options to demonstrate financial unity in the partnership.
In addition to providing evidence of joint bank accounts, couples may also provide:
- Evidence that one spouse made the other their beneficiary (examples include a 401(k), pension, or other retirement account)
- Investment accounts (such as stocks or mutual funds)
- Joint income tax returns
- Credit card statements that include both spouses’ names
- Loans or lines of credit for a major purchase (such as a home or vehicle)
- Wire or bank transfers between spouses
- Life, auto, home, or renter’s insurance statements
- Evidence that one spouse is listed as the other’s emergency contact (for example, at either spouse’s place of work)
- Valid documentation indicating wills, trusts, or power of attorney that names both spouses
Proof of Joint Ownership of Property & Assets
Joint ownership of property is strong evidence to include in a green card application. Put simply, any proof that you and your spouse share an address can be useful to get approved for a marriage-based green card.
Common examples of acceptable evidence include:
- Lease agreements with both spouses’ names
- Mortgages in both spouses’ names
- Property deeds
- A letter from a landlord confirming that you and your partner cohabitate
- Copies of gas, electric, internet, phone, or utility bills
- Auto registrations that show a shared address
- Postmarked letters addressed to one or both spouses that were mailed to a shared address
- Driver’s licenses that show a matching address
Proof of Relationship & Shared Activities
Joint finances and property ownership aren’t the only pillar stones of marriage. Evidence of your actual relationship—from date nights to vacations to love notes—can effectively show that your relationship is genuine and rooted in love.
While proof of raising children with your spouse is compelling evidence to include on your application, some couples don’t have or want kids—and that’s okay. There are other means to show that your marriage is bona fide.
When it comes to proving your love for your spouse, it’s best to get creative and avoid ruling anything out. Even seemingly insignificant items can be valuable evidence on your petition. Consider including the following types of evidence to prove that your relationship is genuine:
- Evidence of trips or vacations. Proof of hotel stays, vehicle rentals, plane tickets, or photographs may be worth including.
- Evidence of your wedding. Ideally, forms of proof will be dated and timestamped with your wedding day. Bills, invoices, photographs, invitations, and other relevant items may be useful to include on a green card petition.
- Gift receipts. Consider including receipts from gifts you’ve given and received from your spouse.
- Correspondence between spouses. This may include birthday cards, holiday cards, emails, and even social media account activity.
- Photos reflecting different stages of your relationship. Photographs should ideally depict your relationship at various stages. For example, a scrapbook, iPhone photo album, or pictures on social media can illustrate a timestamped progression of your partnership (courtship/dating, engagement, and wedding) to show that the union developed organically and genuinely at a reasonable pace.
Passionate About Making Your American Dream a Reality
Our compassionate team at Hubbs Law, P.A. understands how tiring and confusing it can be to navigate the U.S. immigration process on your own. If you find yourself struggling to resolve an immigration issue, our experienced immigration attorneys are here to help.
From removal defense to immigration bond hearings to sponsoring a relative for a green card, our firm possesses the extensive legal knowledge, skills, and passion you need to be successful in court. Our award-winning immigration lawyers have a proven track record of providing exceptional legal representation tailored to each client’s unique needs. Reach out today to learn how we can help restore the American freedom you deserve.
The U.S. immigration system can be tedious and confusing. You don’t have to muddle through the process alone. Call (305) 570-4802 or contact us online to discuss your case with a skilled Florida immigration attorney.