A bona fide relationship is one where both parties share a true and genuine romantic connection. When you’re applying for a marriage green card, you need to prove to the U.S. government that you and your spouse share genuine romantic affection and that your marriage is real and not a sham for immigration purposes. You will have two opportunities to prove you’re in a bona fide marriage - your I-130 petition and your green card interview. This article explains evidence that may help demonstrate that your marriage is real.
Written by Jonathan Petts.
Written April 27, 2022
Proving a Bona Fide Marriage With Your Application’s Supporting Documents
When applying to become a lawful permanent resident based on marriage, you must prove your wedding is in good faith and not for immigration benefits. A marriage certificate is not enough to prove your marriage is genuine. If you can give evidence of your relationship over time, you will have a stronger case to prove to the immigration officers.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) considers some documents more convincing proof than others. For USCIS, strong evidence includes joint bank accounts, life insurance, wills, joint lease agreements, joint utility bills, and joint ownership of property.
Medium quality evidence includes joint travel itineraries, split utilities, text messages, phone logs, and social media conversations. Cards, affidavits from friends or family members, single travel itineraries, and tickets to shows are considered the weakest type of evidence but can still be helpful.
Here are some additional supporting documents you can use to prove you are not in a sham marriage.
Proof That You Live Together
USCIS expects married couples to live together. Living together is called cohabitation. Here are some documents that can prove you and your spouse live together:
Copies of these documents that show both of the spouses’ names:
Joint mortgage or lease documents, including a copy of the entire mortgage or lease
Utility bills or other bills with both spouses’ names
Copies of these documents that show the same address for both spouses:
Credit card statements
Original copies of these documents that show the same address for both spouses:
Letters from friends, family members, or employers
If you and your spouse do not live together, that may raise a red flag to the USCIS officer that your marriage may not be bona fide. You will have to give a robust explanation of why you live apart. You should provide a letter addressed to “USCIS” or “To Whom It May Concern” and signed by both spouses that explains why you live apart. For example, you may live apart for work or school. You should also provide the date when you plan to live together and where you plan to move.
If you explain your living situation honestly and provide alternative evidence of a valid marriage, you should be able to complete the green card application process. However, you can also consider seeking legal advice from an immigration lawyer about your situation.
Proof That You Have Children Together
Some of the most substantial evidence is proof you and your spouse are raising children together. These children can be from your current or previous marriage. Here are some documents you can provide:
Birth certificates of children (listing one of the spouses’ names if from a previous marriage)
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
Proof That You Have Combined Finances
Documents showing that you and your spouse have combined your financial assets and liabilities are a great way to prove you are not committing marriage fraud. Here are some documents you can provide USCIS with copies of:
Joint bank account statements with the names of both spouses
Titles or deeds for jointly owned property such as real estate or vehicles
Mortgage or loan documents showing joint responsibility for payments
Joint credit card statements that show the name of both spouses as an account holder or authorized user
Joint insurance policies, such as home or health insurance, that show coverage for both spouses under the same plan or policy
Life insurance policies listing each other as your primary beneficiary
Joint income tax returns
Other Helpful Proof
USCIS officers also want to see that you and your spouse have a genuine relationship. You can prove you and your spouse spend a lot of time communicating and participating in activities together through documents such as these:
Travel itineraries for vacations you took together, especially to the home country of the spouse who is a foreign national
Phone or text records that show you and your spouse talk regularly
Original copies of:
Photos from trips and events across the course of your relationship and during significant life events
Letters, emails, and cards you sent one another
Receipts for gifts you purchased for each other, such as jewelry or flowers, not groceries
Receipts that show one spouse as the person to bill and one spouse as the person to ship to
Proving a Bona Fide Marriage at Your Green Card Interview
At the green card interview, you will continue to prove your marriage is real. The process of setting up the interview depends on where you, as the spouse seeking a green card, currently live. If you currently live abroad, you’ll apply for a green card via consular processing. You will attend your interview at the U.S. embassy or consulate in your home country without your U.S. citizen or green card holding spouse. A consular officer will conduct your interview.
If you currently live in the United States, you will apply for your green card via adjustment of status. You will attend your interview at a local USCIS field office, along with your spouse. A USCIS officer will conduct your interview. Some officers will interview you both together, and some might interview you separately. Sometimes, if the officer interviews you individually, they suspect the marriage is fraudulent.
Proving you’re in a “bona fide” marriage can be complicated, but help is available. If you are eligible, our free web app will walk you through the marriage green card application process and help you prepare and file your application with the U.S. government. If our app isn’t a good fit, we may be able to refer you to an experienced immigration attorney to help. Click "Get Started" to see how we can help make your American dream come true!