One of the most common ways to immigrate to the United States is through marriage to a US citizen or permanent resident.
For individuals seeking to immigrate to the United States through marriage, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) requires that the marriage be bona fide or genuine. This means that the marriage is not entered into solely for immigration purposes, but is rather a legitimate relationship based on love and commitment.
What is a bona fide marriage?
A bona fide marriage is one that is entered into for love and companionship rather than for the sole purpose of obtaining immigration benefits. It is the responsibility of the couple to provide evidence of the genuineness of their relationship to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
Demonstrating a bona fide marriage can be a challenging process, and it is important to understand what the USCIS is looking for in order to successfully navigate the process.
Here are suggestions gathered from our experienced immigration attorneys at the Costas Network on how to demonstrate a bona fide marriage for immigration purposes:
First and foremost: Be Honest
It is essential to be honest throughout the application process. Any misrepresentation or fraud can lead to serious consequences, including deportation and criminal charges. The USCIS will investigate the relationship thoroughly and may request additional evidence if they have any doubts about the genuineness of the marriage. It is important to be truthful and provide accurate information at all times.
In order to prove that your marriage is real and genuine consider the below tips:
Build a Strong Relationship
The foundation of demonstrating a bona fide marriage is a genuine relationship between the spouses. This means that the relationship is based on love and commitment rather than simply seeking immigration benefits. . This means that the couple should spend time together, communicate frequently, and share experiences and interests. The USCIS will look for evidence that the couple has a real and enduring relationship, so it is important to show that the couple is committed to each other for the long term.
Keep Records of the Relationship
The USCIS will require evidence of the couple’s relationship, including photographs, letters, emails, and other documentation. It is important to keep a record of all communications and activities that demonstrate the genuineness of the relationship. This can include photos of the couple together, proof of joint travel, and evidence of joint financial accounts or property ownership.
Provide Evidence of Joint Residency
Providing evidence of joint residency is also important in demonstrating a bona fide marriage. If you leased property together, gather evidence of the rental agreement, rent receipts, utility bills, and any correspondence between you and the landlord.
Examples of documents to prove a bona fide marriage may include:
- Lease agreements or mortgages in both spouses’ names that shows you lived together and/or have leased or bought property together.
- When a joint lease or property deed is not possible, ask your landlord to write a letter that both spouses live at the apartment. Or provide rent receipts showing both spouses’ names.
- Copies of gas, electric, telephone, internet and other utility bills.
- Auto registrations showing joint ownership or addresses.
- Copies of both spouses’ drivers licenses showing a matching address
Proof That You Have Children Together
Proof that you are raising children together as a couple is very strong evidence that your marriage is real. These children can be from your current or previous marriage.
Here are some documents you can provide:
- Copies of:
- Birth certificates of children (listing one of the spouses’ names if from a previous marriage)
- Adoption certificates
- School or medical records that document the stepparent as an emergency contact for the stepchildren
- Original copies of:
- A letter from a medical provider that confirms current pregnancy or fertility treatments
- Family photos from vacations or other events showing both spouses with children or stepchildren
Provide Evidence of Joint Financial Resources and Assets
One of the most important factors in demonstrating a bona fide marriage is evidence of joint financial resources. This can include joint bank accounts, joint tax returns, and joint ownership of property. The USCIS will look for evidence that the couple is financially interdependent and shares responsibility for their finances.
Examples of such documents include copies of:
- Joint bank account statements showing the names of both spouses
- Titles or deeds for jointly owned property (real estate or vehicles)
- Mortgage or loan documents showing joint responsibility for payments
- Joint credit card statements showing the name of each spouse as either account holder or authorized user
- Joint auto, health, and/or home insurance policies showing coverage for both spouses under the same plan or policy
- Life insurance policies listing each other as your primary beneficiary
Provide Affidavits from Third-Party Witnesses
Affidavits from third-party witnesses can also be useful in demonstrating a bona fide marriage. These witnesses can include family members, friends, coworkers, or others who have observed the couple’s relationship. These affidavits should provide specific examples of the couple’s relationship and their commitment to each other.
Be Prepared for the Interview
The USCIS requires an interview with both spouses to assess the genuineness of the marriage. It is important to prepare for the interview by reviewing the application and supporting documents and practicing answering questions with an experienced immigration attorney. The couple should be prepared to answer questions about their relationship, living arrangements, and daily routines.
Seek Professional Help
Navigating the immigration system can be complex and overwhelming, particularly when it comes to demonstrating a bona fide marriage. Seeking the assistance of an experienced immigration attorney can make the process easier and increase the chances of success. An attorney can provide guidance on the types of evidence needed, help prepare for the interview, and assist in responding to any requests for additional evidence.
What are the consequences if your marriage is deemed fake or fraudulent?
Having a fake marriage, also known as a sham marriage or a marriage of convenience, can have serious legal consequences. The consequences can vary depending on the circumstances and the laws of the country in which the marriage took place.
In the context of immigration, a fake marriage is one entered into solely for the purpose of obtaining immigration benefits.
In the United States, the USCIS takes the issue of fake marriages very seriously, and if a marriage is found to be fraudulent, it can result in serious consequences for both parties, including:
- Denial of Immigration Benefits: If a marriage is found to be fraudulent, the USCIS can deny the immigration benefits sought by the foreign national, including a green card, visa, or citizenship.
- Permanent Ban on Immigration: A foreign national who has participated in a sham marriage can be permanently barred from entering the United States, even for legitimate purposes.
- Criminal Charges: In some cases, the parties involved in a fake marriage can face criminal charges. This can include charges for marriage fraud, which is a federal crime that can result in fines and imprisonment.
- Deportation: If a foreign national is found to have entered into a sham marriage, he or she can be deported from the United States. The US government takes a dim view of fraudulent marriages, and it can result in an adverse impact on the individual’s immigration status.
- Civil Fines: In addition to criminal penalties, individuals who have engaged in fake marriages can be subject to civil fines. These fines can be significant and can impact the individuals’ finances and ability to obtain other legal benefits.
- Loss of Other Benefits: Engaging in a fake marriage can also result in the loss of other benefits, including social security benefits, tax benefits, and the ability to sponsor other family members for immigration.
Having a fake marriage can have serious legal consequences. The penalties can be severe and can impact the individual’s ability to obtain immigration benefits, lead to criminal charges, and even result in deportation. It is important for individuals to understand the risks and consequences of a sham marriage and to pursue legitimate means of obtaining immigration benefits.
If you have a bona fide marriage but are denied, can you appeal?
If a couple has a bona fide marriage and their immigration application is denied, they may be able to appeal the decision. However, the availability of an appeal and the procedures for appealing a denial depend on the specific circumstances of the case and the immigration law of the country in which the application was filed.
In the United States, for example, a couple can appeal a denial of their immigration application to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). The BIA is a part of the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) and is responsible for hearing appeals from immigration judges and certain immigration officers.
To appeal a denial, the couple must file a Notice of Appeal with the EOIR within 30 days of the denial. They must also pay a filing fee and provide a written brief explaining why they believe the decision was incorrect. The government will have an opportunity to respond to the brief, and the BIA will then review the case and issue a decision.
If the BIA upholds the denial, the couple may have additional options for appeal, such as filing a petition for review with a federal court. However, the availability and success of these options can depend on the specific circumstances of the case.
It is important to note that the appeal process can be complex and time-consuming, and it is highly recommended that individuals seeking to appeal a denial of their immigration application work with an experienced immigration attorney who can guide them through the process and ensure that their rights are protected.
In conclusion, demonstrating a bona fide marriage for immigration purposes requires a strong and genuine relationship, careful documentation of the relationship, and preparation for the interview. Providing witnesses, evidence of joint financial resources, and being honest throughout the process are also crucial. Seeking the help of an experienced immigration attorney can make the process easier and increase the chances of success. With these tips and the right assistance, couples can successfully navigate the immigration system and build a future together in the United States.
At the Costas Network, we have helped numerous families navigate through this complex process of obtaining their green card through a bona fide marriage. Don’t gamble with your future and let us help you ensure a favorable outcome so you can change your life.