Good Faith Marriage

Evidence of Bona Fide Marriage

One of the most common green card marriage questions is about evidence of bona fide marriage. What evidence do you use to show that your marriage to a US citizen or permanent resident is real and genuine?

It is not enough that you are in love and you believe the marriage is real; you must prove it to an immigration officer who may be skeptical. A legal marriage to a United States citizen or permanent resident alone does not entitle foreign nationals to get or keep permanent residence. The marriage must be a bona fide marriage. A bona fide marriage for immigration simply is a marriage for love and a shared life together.

There are several ways to prove a bona fide marriage. In addition to a wedding certificate, the following documents are examples of what an immigrant spouse or petitioner may offer as proof of a good faith marriage. The list is just a general guide. The list is not legal advice about documents for green card marriage that you should use or whether your case has any legal merit. Even a good faith marriage alone may not be enough if you are inadmissible and an immigration waiver is unavailable.

Failure to prove that your marriage is in good faith can have serious immigration consequences for you; we firmly recommend that you consult an immigration attorney for legal advice about your case to avoid a denial or delay of your spousal petition or green card.

Bona fide marriage

Documents for a green card through marriage

The documents you can offer as evidence of a bona fide marriage include but are not limited to:

1. Wedding pictures – showing the couple together and with family and friends. You may also use wedding invitations as well. It is a common mistake to include only photos of the wedding.
2. Notices and pictures for the wedding shower, if any.
3. Photos of you together and with family and friends (holidays, vacation, in a hospital, etc.). Chose pictures that show proper body language between the two of you and from family and friends.
4. Birth Certificate of each child born to the marriage. A child is strong, irrefutable evidence of a shared life. Pictures of the couple with their children (births, birthdays, baptism, or other traditional celebrations )
5. Personal statements in which petitioning spouse describe, in great detail, how you met, why you got married, and the feelings that you had or still have towards each other and why.
6. Bona Fide Marriage Affidavits (statements signed before a notary public) from people with personal knowledge of the marriage and who can give details of the relationship between the immigrant spouse and the U.S. citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident petitioner. You should accompany the affidavit with a photo ID of the person making the statement.
7. Letters received from spouse while dating, apart, or during any other stage of the relationship.
8. Letters, cards, and invitations to the couple from family and friends. Even letters received at the same residence may be used. The letter does not always have to be addressed to both spouses.
9. A rental agreement for house or apartment with the names of the couple on it, or a letter from the building manager or owner proving that the couple occupies the premises.
10. Tax returns that show taxes filed jointly.
11. Papers with the names of both immigrant and spouse that show joint ownership of a car, a house, furniture, or other assets together.
12. Insurance documents that show coverage of each other by spouse’s insurance plan.
13. Bills, such as cable TV, internet, electricity, water, gas, cell phone, or others that show both names on it.
14. For women, a government-issued ID card that indicates the use of spouse’s last name. A woman does not however have to use her husband last name.
15. Joint bank statements – as with having a child, having shared bank accounts is strong, evidence of a bona fide marriage because it indicates trust between the couple. The bank account statement (the entire statement, not just the first page) should have activity relating to bother parties. A joint checking account with no funds, no activity or activity that merely relates to one spouse may not be persuasive.
16. Email and phone records showing the frequency and duration of  communication between the couple before or after the marriage
17. Any other documents that show trust, a shared life and burden of living.

Get legal advice before the marriage

Again this is just a general guide. For legal advice in your marriage immigration case, please consult an experienced immigration attorney before your marriage. If you have any questions contact Goodin Law P.A., immigration lawyers in Las Vegas at 702-423-2721 or via the Contact Us form to request a confidential immigration consultation.

Form i751 and divorce

I751 and the conditional permanent resident

Form I751 applies to conditional permanent residents. Conditional permanent resident (CPR) status is the immigration status that you get upon entering the United States with an immigrant visa or adjusting status to permanent resident unless the marriage is more than two years old. You can be granted conditional resident status as an original immigrant spouse of a US citizen or permanent resident. The immigrant spouse’s children may also obtain CPR status when the qualifying marriage of their parent is under two years old.

Conditional residents have the same rights, privileges, and responsibilities as lawful permanent residents. They have the right to file petitions on behalf of qualifying relatives and the privilege of residing permanently in the United States in agreement with the immigration laws. CPRs have a duty to register with the Selective Service System when required, and to comply with all laws and regulations of the United States including an obligation to file taxes on  income inside and outside the United States. See 8 C.F.R. 216.1.

Removal of Conditions by Joint Petition

To preserve permanent resident status a conditional resident must fulfill his obligation to file i751 conditions form for removing conditions on residence under INA section 216(c)(1). The filing is due within 90 days of the second anniversary of residence. The petition must be filed jointly with the petitioner who filed an immigration petition or fiance visa petition for you.

However, in certain cases, it is possible to file i751 alone without the petitioner in when the petitioner is dead, abusive or the qualifying marriage is legally terminated.

How are the conditions on residence removed using form i-751?

A conditional permanent resident (CPR) must file an i-751 removal of conditions form with supporting evidence and the correct filing fee within the 90-day period before the two-year green card expires. USCIS may allow late filing of form I751 under certain exceptional circumstances.

The conditional resident and the person who filed the original immigrant visa petition or fiancé(é) petition will file the I-751 form with USCIS. Both parties must sign the form.

The CPR will get an appointment notice with a specific time, date and place to capture his fingerprints, photo and  signature at a local USCIS Application Support Center. In practice a conditional resident will not have to surrender the 2-year Conditional Resident Card previously issued by the USCIS.

The conditional resident must establish that:

  1. The marriage was legal where it took place;
  2. The marriage has not been terminated;
  3. The marriage was not for the purpose of obtaining residency, and
  4. No fee (other than an attorney’s fee to assist filing) was paid.

If the USCIS Service Center Director finds that the marriage was in good faith and not to get around U.S. immigration laws, he may waive an interview. If not, the Director may ask for a marriage immigration interview or start a marriage fraud investigation. With some form i-751 petitions the USCIS may interview couples more than once. If the director approves the joint petition he or she will give written notice of the decision (I-797C, Notice of Action).

conditions i-751 - file forms i-751

Conditional permanent resident divorce

What if my petitioner refuses to sign the i751 petition?

When the marriage relationship is dysfunctional i-751 petitions may need extra care. A divorced or legally separated CPR may ask for a waiver of the joint filing requirement. To do so, the CPR must establish any one or more of the following:

  1. She entered the marriage in good faith, but the marriage was terminated (other than through death);
  2. She entered the marriage in good faith, but she or her child was battered and or suffered extreme mental cruelty;
  3. Termination of status and removal from the United States would cause  extreme hardship.

A conditional  resident who is unable to file a joint petition because divorce or annulment proceedings have started, may not apply for a waiver under the good faith marriage exception until the marriage is legally terminated.

If the couple is separated and has started divorce or annulment proceedings, the USCIS may still approve an I751 petition. The USCIS Service Director may not deny your I751 petition just because you are separated or have started divorce proceedings. However separation or the start of divorce proceedings may suggest that you entered into the marriage to get a green card.

Can I get a waiver if I am separated but not divorced?

There is no waiver of the joint filing requirement if you entered into a good faith marriage but are separated or in divorce proceedings. However, if you are in divorce proceedings and cannot get your U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse to file jointly, you may still ask for the waiver based on termination of the marriage.

A conditional resident who does this will get a USCIS Request for Evidence (RFE) for a decree with a response time of 87 days. The conditional resident gets the opportunity to prove eligibility for the waiver by submitting a copy of a final divorce decree or annulment.

It is a good idea to seek legal advice during the breakdown of the marriage before pursuing a waiver based upon divorce. You should also consider that obtaining a final divorce decree may take longer than the RFE response time.

What if divorce proceedings start after we filed the joint I751 petition? Do I have to re-file?

If the CPR filed an I-751 petition jointly but later become separated or have a pending divorce the USCIS will issue the CPR a Request for Evidence (RFE) with an 87-day response period. In the RFE, the USCIS will ask the CPR to send a copy of the final divorce decree. It will also request a written statement from the CPR that the jointly filed petition be treated as a waiver petition.

Avoiding-i-751-interview – Bona fide marriage evidence

To avoid an I-751 interview, you must demonstrate to the USCIS that your marriage was in good faith marriage and not just for a green card. You can prove a good faith marriage by showing that you lived together and mixed your finances by having joint assets and liabilities.

Bona fide marriage evidence may include tax returns showing that you filed taxes as married even if one of you made no income. You must show shared experiences – you vacationed together, were together at social outings and spent time together with family and friends.  Evidence of bona fide marriage may also include birth certificate of children together, proof of pregnancy, fertility treatment or even medical records related to a miscarriage.

Conclusion

As each person has a different immigration and marriage situation you should seek specific legal advice on how to file forms i-751 from an experienced immigration attorney. If you have any questions about removing conditions on residency or other immigration through marriage concerns contact us at 702-423-2721 to book an initial consultation. We also offer consultations for complex marriage immigration interview matters.