How Do We Prove Our Marriage Is Real?
Establishing that your marriage is bona fide is essential for a successful marriage Green Card application process. Although a certified certificate of marriage might be sufficient to prove the marriage was real, USCIS looks closely at the living situation, documentation, and other evidence surrounding the marriage in the marriage Green Card application process. Check this article to know how to prove your marriage is real and bona fide.
I. What does bona fide marriage mean?
A bona fide marriage means a real, genuine marriage in good faith. While processing the marriage Green Card application, USCIS will review submitted documents and ask questions during the Green Card interview to determine whether the marriage is bona fide. USCIS understands that numerous marriages are easily accomplished for the sole reason to obtain Green Cards or change in immigration status. As such, it is crucial that all documents clearly document that the marriage is real, and that you prepare for the Green Card interview questions in order to have a successful outcome for your marriage Green Card application.
II. What documents need to be submitted to prove our marriage is real?
The first step is to provide sufficient documentation during the initial filing of Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative) and Form I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status).
It is important that applicants must establish the existence of a valid marriage. The validity is determined according to the law of the country and place where the marriage was performed. This is referred to as the “Place-of-celebration rule.” This rule looks into the jurisdiction and law of where the marriage was performed, and ensures that the marriage was indeed valid. A certified certificate of marriage might be sufficient to prove the marriage was real, but USCIS looks closely at all evidence surrounding the marriage to establish that the marriage was genuine and not solely for the purpose of obtaining immigration related benefits. The following documents submitted during the marriage Green Card application for the Form I-130 and Form I-485 will assist in proving that the marriage was real, or bona fide. The list of documents is not an exhaustive list, but a guideline of examples of acceptable documents to prove that the marriage is real.
- The marriage must be legally valid and recognized by the government body of where the marriage was performed
- Any prior marriages must be disclosed along with certified copies of a final divorce, death of a prior spouse, or annulment
Documentation showing joint residence or joint ownership of property
- Copies of joint lease agreements from rented residence, or joint mortgage documents showing both names of the spouses
- Copies of property deeds or other asset related titles showing both names of the spouses
- Copies of utility bills showing both names of the spouses
- Copies of other documents showing both names of the spouses with the same shared address
Documentation showing the commingling or combining of financial resources
- Copies of documentation showing joint bank statements showing both names of the spouses
- Copies of documentation showing joint credit card statements showing both names of the spouses
- Copies of joint investment accounts (stocks, mutual funds, etc.) showing both names of the spouses
- Copies of insurance coverages showing both names of the spouses, under the same policy
- Copies of loan documents, including mortgage documents, showing both names of the spouses as responsible parties
Third party affidavits from family members, friends, neighbors, or community members
- Individuals must have personal knowledge of the marital relationship and must affirm and acknowledge such knowledge, and their basis of the belief that the marriage is bona fide
- Individuals may be required to testify, if USCIS deems it necessary
Birth Certificates of children born to the applicant spouse and the beneficiary spouse
- Supplemental documents from medical records, school records, or other insurance documents can be helpful
- If children are adopted, certified copies of final adoption records will need to be submitted
Copies of other documentation showing proof that the marriage is real and was not entered into in order to manipulate the immigration law of the United States.
- Personal communication documentation between the spouses such as letters, text messages, email communication, etc.
- Photo documentation of the wedding and reception, including other family and community members
- Documentation of gifts exchanged for birthdays, anniversary, or days of remembrance consistent with a bona fide marital relationship
III. How can I prove our marriage is real during the Green Card interview?
The marital couple will have further chances to prove that their marital relationship is real during the marriage Green Card interview. Depending on whether the spouse seeking a marriage Green Card is living within the United States, or living abroad outside of the United States, the interview process will slightly differ. Typically, if the spouse seeking a marriage Green Card lives within the United States, the interview will be conducted with both spouses present. However, typically, through consular processing, the spouse seeking a marriage Green Card will interview without the sponsoring spouse at the interview. But there may be circumstances where both spouses are interviewed separately even when the spouse seeking a marriage Green Card lives within the United States.
Initial basic questions will be about the other spouse, the initial stages of the relationship prior to marriage, and will require basic details surrounding the marriage. The interview will continue on to deep personal questions which will further test your knowledge about the other spouse, including personal habits, birthmarks, sleeping accommodations to list a few. The details in the answers are crucial during the interview process to establish that the marriage is bona fide. It is essential that both spouses practice and prepare for the interview questions. The questions cover various aspects and details about the marital relationship over the course of time, making it essential that you and your spouse practice and rehearse your responses so they are accurate and not purely recalled from memory during the interview.
IV. How many years do you have to live together to establish common law marriage?
Although USCIS recognizes common law marriage for the purposes of establishing bona fide marriages, it is essential to understand that common law marriage laws vary from different States and jurisdictions within the United States. The spouses must review the laws and requirements of the State and jurisdiction where they are claiming to have established the common law marriage. The marital relationship must meet each requirement of the state and jurisdictional laws of where the marital relationship was established, and sufficient proof must be provided to USCIS. If the common law marriage is successfully established in one State and jurisdiction, it may be accepted as a bona fide marriage even if the marriage Green Card application is filed in a State and jurisdiction that does not recognize the legal concept and principle of common law marriage.
V. I lost my marriage certificate. What should I do? Can I get an online certificate of marriage?
The marriage certificate is an essential document for marriage Green Card application. For a certified copy of your marriage certificate, contact the vital records office in the state where you were married. Even though the guidelines vary by state, all requests should include:
- Full names of both spouses at the time of marriage
- Month, day, and year of the marriage
- Place of the marriage (city or town, county, and state)
- Purpose for requesting the copy of the marriage certificate
- Relationship to the people whose marriage certificate is being requested
- Your daytime telephone number (include area code)