There are a lot of complex elements that go into applying for any kind of green card to gain permanent residency within the United States. Marriage green cards are no exception and are arguably even more complicated because they come with one extra hurdle for couples to contend with: proving to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that a marriage is valid. While this may seem strange, it’s a critical component of successfully applying for a marriage green card. Below, our immigration experts from Brudner Law will explore everything you should know about how the USCIS verifies marriage for these green card applications.
How To Prove You Are Legally Married
As part of filing a Form I-130 petition package for a marriage green card, USCIS will require various documents, including marriage records and other evidence. These documents will help USCIS ensure that your marriage is legally valid before approving your application and providing the requested green cards. They may also conduct an investigation- typically involving interviews and asking a range of detailed questions about your relationship- to help ensure that the marriage wasn’t done only to gain a green card. We’ll discuss that issue in more detail later in this article.
Does USCIS Check Marriage Records?
To ensure that a marriage between a United States citizen and a non-U.S. citizen or two non-U.S. citizens is valid, USCIS will first examine the marriage certificate that the couple submits with their green card application. However, that document alone won’t be enough to prove the validity of the marriage to USCIS.
Other Documents to Include With Your Application
Aside from your marriage certificate, there are several other documents that you can submit with your green card application that make a strong case that your marriage is genuine. While you’re not required to include all of the following documents, USCIS prefers to see a range of forms that fall under as many categories as possible to help verify your relationship.
Proof Of Your Combined Finances
Submitting various financial documents that show two parties’ combined assets and liabilities is an excellent way to establish that your marriage is genuine. Common examples of these documents include copies of;
- Joint bank account statements (that show the names of each spouse)
- Joint credit card statements that show the names of both spouses as either authorized account users or account holders
- Joint health, home, and auto insurance policies showing coverage for both spouses under the same policy or plan
- Loan or mortgage documents showing the joint responsibility of both spouses for payments
- Titles and deeds of jointly owned property (including vehicles and real estate)
- Life insurance policies listing each other as the primary benefactor
Proof You Live In the Same Household
USCIS expects married individuals to live together, and providing proof of your cohabitation can help them validate your marriage. Some documents you can submit to prove you live in the same household include;
- Joint lease or mortgage documents listing both spouse’s names
- Property deeds showing the names of both spouses
- Utility bills showing the names of both spouses
- Drivers licenses, joint bank statements, insurance statements, and other documents showing the same address for each spouse
- Letters from family members, friends, and employers that list the same address for both spouses (these must be original copies)
Proof You Have Children Together
Providing evidnece that a couple has children together is another good way to prove the validity of their marriage. Some documents that can provide evidence of children include;
- The children’s birth certificate listing both spouses
- Adoption certificates listing both spouses
- School or medical records detailing each spouse as an emergency contact
- Letters from a medical provider attesting to a current pregnancy
- Family photos showing the couple with their children
Additional Ways to Prove Your Relationship to Immigration
When proving the legitimacy of your marriage to the USCIS, it’s essential to paint a picture of your relationship over time, which often goes beyond submitting the various documents noted in the section above.
One piece of evidence that can help paint this picture of your relationship is photos, primarily if you can provide several images taken over an extended period. For example, giving several photos (especially wedding photos) taken over the past five to ten years is considered more substantial evidence of a valid marriage than providing only a few photos taken over the past few months. Submitting a selection of photos taken over multiple years with your application is a great way to demonstrate the long-standing nature of your marriage.
Another way to prove your relationship is to submit other evidence from social media, such as relationship statuses and public communications. While this isn’t required, and the USCIS no longer collects information from social media accounts automatically when assessing green card petitions, submitting the information yourself can help prove the validity of your marriage.
Additional pieces of evidence can include;
- Phone or chat records showing regular communications
- Travel itineraries for vacations taken together
- Letters, emails, cards, and other correspondences between the couple
- Receipts for gifts given to one another
Immigrating to the U.S. is a long, complicated, and highly technical process that involves mountains of paperwork, intensive interviews, long wait times, and much more. Do yourself a favor and work with an experienced immigration lawyer from Brudner Law.
How Does USCIS Investigate Marriage?
USCIS will investigate the marriage of those seeking marriage green cards, and investigations will typically involve interviews to help establish the authenticity of the relationship. Interviews may be conducted separately or together with both spouses present and may involve multiple interviews. Questions will typically start relatively simple and delve into the deeply personal to help ensure the marriage’s legitimacy. Some questions may cover topics like;
- How both parties met
- When the relationship began
- When the marriage occurred
- When each spouse’s birthday is
- Whether a spouse has tattoos or birthmarks, and what they look like
- Which spouse sleeps on which side of the bed
- Detailed about where both parties live
- Division of labor within the household
How Does USCIS Conduct a Background Check?
USCIS conducts background checks to investigate green card applications, including marriage green cards. This process involves several elements, including fingerprinting and name-checks, to see if applicants have committed any crimes or are listed on an abuse registry.
What Happens if You Get Caught Faking a Marriage For Green Card?
If USCIS determines that a couple got married in an attempt to evade any provision of U.S. immigration laws or only to acquire a green card. This could be classified as a fraud or sham marriage, and the couple in question could potentially be charged with a felony that can lead to imprisonment for up to five years, a fine of up to $250,000, or both.
Additional Questions to Consider When Applying For a Marriage Green Card
- Does the USCIS Recognize Online Marriage?
An online or “proxy marriage” is considered legally valid according to U.S. immigration law. However, the U.S. government won’t recognize it as a basis for granting a green card unless the union is consummated after the marriage takes place. Couples can provide an affidavit or personal statement attesting to the consummation. This can be paired with other evidence to indicate the couple was together at a single place and time (including plane tickets, hotel bills, and photos).
- What if You And Your Spouse Don’t Live Together?
Again, USCIS expects married couples to live together, so living apart can raise some red flags that can impact your ability to prove your marriage’s validity. If a couple lives apart, they most likely will need to provide a solid explanation of why they don’t live together. The l should be prepared to state when they intend to move in together and where they plan to move.
Not living together takes away the opportunity to present particular types of evidence to help make a case for a valid marriage. However, it doesn’t mean a union can’t still be proven valid using other evidence noted above, primarily if there is a robust explanation of the circumstances.
Final Factors to Consider
Proving the validity of your marriage is a critical step in applying for and being approved to receive a marriage green card within the United States. To help ensure you can sufficiently prove your marriage to USCIS, please consider working with a highly trained immigration lawyer from Brudner Law, who can help you navigate the process with the best chance for success. Contact us online today, or call 714-794-9366 to learn about our services. Also, please feel free to read through our wide selection of other expertly written immigration resources.
Are you trying to tackle the process of legally immigrating into the United States all by yourself but are struggling to overcome the various hurdles involved? Consider contacting our team of expert immigration lawyers at Brudner Law today to learn about our range of services and how we can help you navigate the immigration process.