Question: I have applied for a green card based on my marriage to a U.S. citizen. We went to an interview at USCIS, but it did not go well. We do not have a lot of documentation, and the interviewer did not seem impressed by our answers. Now USCIS has requested we return for a second interview. We are definitely not a “sham” marriage, so why would USCIS doubt that we have a genuine marriage?
Answer: When you apply for a marriage green card, you must prove that you and your spouse have a “bona fide” marriage. A “bona fide” marriage is a marriage that two people enter with the expectation that they are creating a life together, sharing the responsibilities of daily life, and preparing for their future. In other words, a bona fide marriage is a genuine marriage — not a marriage that is entered solely for the purpose of obtaining a green card.
To prove that your marriage is bona fide, you must provide the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) with as much evidence as possible that you and your spouse have a genuine marital relationship. You also must participate in an interview and answer questions regarding your relationship.
Even if your marriage is in fact bona fide, USCIS may conclude that you have failed to prove the genuineness of your marriage. Below are 5 common reasons that USCIS might doubt your marriage is genuine.
1. Lack of evidence of commingled assets: When submitting an application for a marriage green card, it is important to provide USCIS with evidence of commingled assets. This is strong proof that your marriage is genuine. People who enter into sham marriages are reluctant to add the other person to their bank accounts, real estate, or car title. By adding your spouse to your accounts and property, you are showing USCIS that you trust your spouse enough to have a shared financial life with them. Therefore, if you have not already done so, you should open a joint bank account with your spouse as soon as possible. You and your spouse should both use this account to deposit your income and pay for your shared household expenses. If you have a joint account that you never use or that only one person uses, this has no value for immigration purposes.
2. Lack of evidence of cohabitation: It is extremely important to prove that you and your spouse live together. Ideally, you can provide a deed or lease in both of your names. It is also helpful to provide utility bills in both of your names. Without these items, proving cohabitation can be difficult. USCIS will be suspicious of applicants who do not have a written lease. If you do not have any other written proof that you live together, you should ask your landlord to sign an affidavit stating when you and your spouse started living together in the residence.
3. Language barriers: Proficiency in English is not a requirement to obtain a green card. However, at a bare minimum, the spouse applying for a green card must be able to spell the other spouse’s full name. You must also be able to provide your current and past residential address. If you cannot provide your spouse’s full name or your own address, USCIS will not accept a “language barrier” as an excuse.
4. Lack of knowledge about your spouse: If you don’t know basic facts about your spouse, USCIS views this as a serious red flag that your marriage isn’t genuine. At a bare minimum, you must know the following information about your spouse:
- whether your spouse has been married before,
- whether your spouse has children or grandchildren,
- the names of your spouse’s children or grandchildren,
- your spouse’s birthday,
- where your spouse works,
- the place and date where you and your spouse got engaged, and
- the place and date where you married your spouse.
It is imperative that you and your spouse be knowledgeable about one another.
5. Inconsistencies in interview answers: During the marriage green card application process, you and your spouse must participate in an in-person interview. During this interview, the USCIS interviewer will ask you and your spouse questions about your relationship, including how you first met and details about your engagement, your marriage, and day-to-day life. If you and your spouse provide inconsistent responses to these questions, USCIS will doubt the genuineness of your marital relationship.
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ImmiFree.Law is The Harrison Law Firm P.C.’s online platform to make the family immigration and naturalization process more efficient, accurate, and affordable. Baya Harrison, Esq. is an attorney licensed in New York, Florida, and California. Attorney Harrison has helped numerous individuals and families navigate the U.S. immigration process, specifically family-based petitions and naturalization.