What is a Bona Fide Marriage?
In honor of Valentine’s day, attorney, Raluca Hanea, talks about what a bona fide marriage is. Who has the burden of proof? What are some common ways to prove you have a bona fide marriage? What might cause USCIS to question if you truly do?
Below is the transcript of the video. Due to the nature of it being a live video the transcript may vary from what you hear.
Today we are going to talk about something very important in immigration for most of my clients. That is: what a bona fide marriage is. If your spouse is sponsoring you for a green card or citizenship you must prove you have a bona fide marriage.
I’m Raluca Hanea. I provide immigration, estate planning, and family law services for my clients.
Nina Cleere, my marketing and office manager, is here with me.
Thank you for helping many people see our videos with all your likes, shares, and comments.
Nina: Will you first define what a bona fide marriage is?
Raluca: Sure, it means that you have a genuine marriage.
Nina: Why is this important in immigration?
Raluca: Because you have to show that you married because you wanted to be married not just for immigration purposes. IF you did it only for immigration purposes it is considered fraud and a sham marriage.
Nina: And the burden is on you to prove it, right?
Raluca: Yes, we talked about this in another video but it is really important for people to understand. USCIS starts with the presumption that your marriage is only for immigration purposes. Therefore, you have to show the immigration officer that is not true.
Nina: And you don’t show that, or you are found to have entered into a marriage fraudulently, there are a number of penalties, right?
Raluca: Yes. If you are an immigrant you can be banned from ever entering the US. If you are the US citizen you can be fined and/or imprisoned.
Nina: In fact, that is why there is a “conditional green card” right?
Raluca: Exactly. When you receive a green card by marriage, unless you meet certain criteria including having been married and lived in the US for specific lengths of time, your initial green card is “conditional” so that you show USCIS you truly have a valid marriage.
Nina: How do you show that your marriage is valid?
Raluca: 1st you should start gathering supporting evidence before or immediately when you get married. Don’t wait until USCIS schedules an interview to realize you haven’t taken any pictures together.
Nina: So that is one thing you should have is pictures together?
Raluca: Yes. You need to show you’ve been together, that you live together, that you have financial responsibilities together. If you have children together, that may be used as proof, as well.
Nina: And do you need to have the same things when you want to remove conditions from your green card?
Raluca: Absolutely. USCIS still wants to know that this marriage is bona fide and not entered into for immigration purposes only.
Nina: What are some things that might raise a red flag to USCIS?
Raluca: If you don’t speak each other’s language. If you have no picture together, don’t live together, or have nothing to show you have a life together.
Nina: Is that an automatic denial if you don’t live together?
Raluca: No. I have helped clients who don’t live together to obtain their green cards and citizenship but you have to show you have valid reasons for not living together like one spouse works out of state, or you are going to school, and you need to show other evidence that proves you have a relationship.
Nina: What about if you marry someone in a valid marriage, but things don’t work out, can you still get a green card?
Raluca: It really depends on individual circumstances. I’ve helped clients who have had this happen and been successful in helping them obtain their legal permanent residence. I would recommend they talk to an attorney sooner rather than later and above all, do not lie about your situation or ignore requests for evidence sent by USCIS.
Nina: Besides sending in paperwork is there another way to prove you have a bona fide marriage?
Raluca: Yes, you will have an interview. You will be asked questions about how you met, about each other, and about your relationship.
Nina: Is it a good idea to practice your answers together?
Raluca: Sure. If you remember that you met walking your dogs and your husband remembers seeing you across a crowded dance floor, that might raise a red flag for the officer.
Nina: What are unusual questions you think people should be prepared for?
Raluca: Well, I have heard them ask things like if your spouse has any tattoos. Or about favorite or least favorite types of food. They might ask who sleeps on which side of the bed.
Nina: Can you have anyone else support the fact that you are married?
Raluca: Yes, you can add affidavits from family or friends who know about your relationship to the evidence that you send.
Nina: So we’ve had people call and ask if they don’t live in the same state due to work and school, if this is going to be a problem. I know we talked about it before but can you address that?
Raluca: Sure. It may cause a red flag so you need to show by other evidence that you have a bona find relationship.
Nina: How can you do that?
Raluca: You may have records of your communication. Or you’ve have visited each other frequently, keep records of that.
Nina: Is there anything that would keep you from being approved 100% of the time?
Raluca: Yes. If you were married to someone else and aren’t divorced or can’t prove you were divorced. Or if you have been found guilty of immigration fraud previously. But even with the previous fraud finding, there may be remedies if you talk to an immigration attorney. They can review your record and determine if you have any chance of being approved.
Nina: So if you’ve been found guilty of fraud, you recommend they hire an attorney?
Raluca: Absolutely. Right away. Because there is a limited time frame to answer to that finding.
Nina: Does a couple need to file joint tax returns?
Raluca: They don’t need to but it is recommended. Again, USCIS is looking for proof that your life is together, so filing joint returns can help to prove that.
I hope this helps people understand the most important parts of proving you have a bona fide marriage. That the burden of proof is on the couple. USCIS presumes every marriage is entered into for fraudulent reasons. If you keep records throughout your relationship and provide them, this will really help them to see you are married for the long term.
Thank you for watching. If you have any questions, please drop us a private message, post it here, or call our office. We are always here to help.