Question: I’m in the U.S. and married to a U.S. citizen. We are preparing to apply for my green card. Right now we have separate bank accounts. Do we need to open a joint account?
Answer: Yes. Although immigration law does not require you to open a joint account with your spouse during the green card application process, you should strongly consider doing so. A joint account helps demonstrate to USCIS that your marriage is legitimate.
A Joint Account Can Help Your Adjustment of Status Application
When reviewing marriage green card applications, one of USCIS’s primary goals is to detect immigration fraud, specifically marriages entered into for the sole purpose of obtaining a green card. USCIS knows that a person who enters into a fake marriage will probably not give the other person access to his/her bank account. USCIS also knows that people who enter into a fake marriage might open a joint account just to show an immigration officer, but they will not actually use this account.
As the applicant, you have the burden of proving to USCIS that your marriage was entered in good faith. Providing evidence that you have a joint account and actually use it is good evidence that you trust each other and are willing to commingle your finances.
Using Your Joint Account
A joint account with your spouse has no value to your immigration application if you don’t use it or if only one of you uses it. Therefore, to strengthen your green card application, both you and your spouse’s income should be deposited into the account. In addition, you should use the account to pay for common shared living expenses, such as:
- Rent or mortgage,
- Groceries, and
- Phone bills.
Submitting Your Joint Account Statements
When you submit your green card application, you should also submit monthly statements for your joint account. You should submit statements from the date you opened the joint account to the month before you submit your application. After you submit your application, you should bring all new monthly account statements with you to your interview.
During your interview, the USCIS officer might review the statements. If your statements contain any large transactions or any unusual transactions, the officer might ask you about these transactions. If one of you has no idea about the transaction, this will be a red flag to USCIS. Therefore, you and your spouse must make sure that both of you are aware of all account activity in your shared account.
In addition to opening and using a joint bank account, you can also consider the following steps to demonstrate the legitimacy of your marriage:
- Open a joint credit card with your spouse,
- Make your spouse a beneficiary on your retirement accounts,
- Add your spouse to your health insurance policy, and
- If you live together, add your spouse’s name to your utility, garbage, cable, and other bills.
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.