U.S. immigration law permits a U.S. citizen or permanent resident (green card holder) to file an immigrant petition to bring their spouse to live in the United States as a green card holder. Many of our clients ask what type of documentation they need to show the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to prove their family relationship. They often think, "Well, ours is a real marriage, the officer should be able to see that." The fact is, proving the bona fides of one's marriage can be more challenging than people expect.
We have provided a non-exhaustive list of documents we recommend our clients to include with their marriage-based petition:
- Proof of family relationship. Include a copy of your marriage certificate and if you were or your spouse was previously married, also include proof that these previous marriages were legally terminated (e.g. divorce judgment, death certificate).
- Documentation showing joint ownership of property. If you and your spouse jointly own a residence or other real estate, provide a deed with both your names. Proof of other jointly-owned property may also be included (e.g. car, time-share contract).
- Proof of joint residence. If you are renting, provide a copy of your lease with both spouses names. You may also include copies of utility bills with both names or other relevant correspondence such as health club family memberships, etc.
- Documentation showing commingling of finances. We recommend that spouses include copies of their joint bank account statements, joint tax returns, joint credit card statements, and evidence of joint investments. We also ask that our clients provide documentation that shows spouses are in each other's life/health insurance or pension/retirement account as beneficiaries.
- Birth certificates of children in common. If you have children in common, make sure to provide copies of their birth or adoption certificates.
- Affidavits of people who can attest to the bona fides of the marriage. USCIS expects to see a number of affidavits from third parties who can affirm that they have personal knowledge of your marital relationship and can provide details in the form of a sworn affidavit. Each affidavit must contain the full name and address of the person making the affidavit; date and place of birth of the person making the affidavit; and complete information and details explaining how the person acquired his or her knowledge of your marriage. Ideally, these individuals are U.S. citizens or permanent residents.
- Any other relevant documentation to establish that there is an ongoing marital union. This includes photos of the spouses before and during the marriage, tracing the progress of the relationship from courtship to present. If the spouses do not have children but have pets together, provide photos and documentation showing joint caregiving (e.g. vet documents, pet registration, etc). We also ask each spouse to include their own affidavits stating in their own voice how they met and how they intend to share their life together. For couples currently not living together, we recommend also providing emails, texts, and letters between spouses, as well as other relevant and persuasive evidence showing their intent to eventually live together at the soonest feasible opportunity.
We advise our clients to keep gathering proof of the bona fides of their marriage while their green card application is pending. USCIS expects to see a progression of the relationship from the submission of the application to the time of the interview, which is proven through the documentation we have listed above.
Remember, every marriage, and every case is different. If you are filing for a marriage-based green card, we recommend that you consult with an immigration attorney to help you determine how to present your case to USCIS in the best possible light. The green card process is a lengthy process and could get complicated depending on your circumstances. If your marriage was less than two years old when you filed your application, the immigrant spouse is given conditional resident status. A separate application must be filed to remove the conditions on the immigrant spouse's green card.
Rasoulpour Torregoza is the law firm for immigrants, by immigrants. We are founded on the motto of LegalEase: we do away with the legal jargon and make law easy to understand, so you can focus on what’s important to you – going for your American Dream.
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