Summer usually means many marriages are taking place. Before someone walks down the aisle, though, if one of the individuals getting married is not from the United States, several forms and other processes will need to be completed after the union takes place.
While some may think it’s unnecessary to prove that a marriage is “real” or legitimate, U.S. Citizenship Immigration Services (USCIS) makes this a priority as too many couples have gotten married only to separate a short time later with no intention of staying together at all.
Bona Fide Marriage
The term “bona fide” marriage is frequently used in immigration law as many countries have requirements that a couple must meet to be eligible for a spousal visa. In order to obtain a spousal visa, the couple must generally prove that their marriage is bona fide and not a sham. This can be done by providing evidence of their relationship.
Proving a Bona Fide Marriage
Officials with USCIS may deem a marriage is bona fide if the couple can prove that:
- An official marriage took place and there is a valid marriage license completed;
- The marriage is a union between two people (it is not a bigamous relationship);
- There is an intent to live together;
- Both parties are entering into the marriage willingly and without being coerced; and,
- If the couple has children together, the names of both parents are on the child’s birth certificate.
Additionally, USCIS is more likely to deem a marriage as bona fide if there are joint responsibilities between the couple or the couple has joint ownership of assets. These can include:
- Housing (examples like a rental agreement, mortgage statements, etc.);
- Utilities (including water, electric, heating, internet, and more);
- Additional bills (such as cable or other streaming services and phone services);
- Financial documents (bank statements, credit card statements, joint credit cards, joint debit cards, joint tax returns, and other bank loans);
- Joint ownership of finances (including retirement funds, investment accounts, checking accounts, and more); and,
- Estate planning documents (such as wills, trusts, prenuptial or postnuptial agreements, and more).
There are a few ways to prove that a relationship is the “real” deal. Some common methods include providing evidence of your relationship, such as photos, letters, emails, or other documentation.
Another factor can be the length of time the couple has been together. If a couple married within a few weeks of one party arriving within the U.S., it may be more difficult to prove that the relationship was ongoing prior to the one person’s arrival. However, in this scenario, a couple’s case could be helped if phone or email records show the pair had communicated and talked about getting married prior to the one party’s arrival in the U.S.
What if a Marriage Is Not Deemed Bona Fide?
Couples who are unable to provide sufficient evidence of their relationship may still be able to obtain a spousal visa if they can prove that their marriage is in good faith and not circumvent immigration laws. Fraudulent marriages are punishable by law in many countries and can result in the annulment of the marriage, as well as deportation of one or both parties involved.
Hollywood, Florida Immigration Attorneys
If you are considering entering into a marriage for the purpose of obtaining a spousal visa, it is important to consult with a knowledgeable immigration attorney to ensure that your marriage meets all the requirements of a bona fide marriage. Failure to do so could result in serious consequences, including denying your visa application and possible deportation.
The attorneys at Magilligan Law are here for you whether you’re considering marriage or ready to update your visa after marriage. Contact our dedicated team to see how we can assist. (954) 883-9122