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    How to Prove a Marriage is “Real” to USCIS

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    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.

    Joint Responsibilities

    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).

    Real Relationship

    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.


    When you say, “I do,” you hope that you are in a relationship that is committed for a lifetime. That isn’t the scenario for thousands of couples each year though. While divorce is life-changing for many, it can be even more impactful for those who got married and are not U.S. citizens.

    If you are worried about your immigration status after a divorce contact the team at Magilligan Law. Our experienced attorneys are here to talk with you and see how we can best help your situation.


    Most non-residents can be given a conditional resident status if they marry a U.S. citizen. Immigration law, however, has caught on to people getting married to a U.S. citizen for the sole purpose of becoming a U.S. resident themselves, only to divorce a short time later. That’s why most non-residents who marry a U.S. citizen have to wait two years before they can apply for permanent residency. Additionally, most need to show that the marriage was in good faith by doing things such as making large purchases together, taking out loans together, and living together. If USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) believes that your marriage was a sham then you most likely won’t receive permanent residency if you file for divorce.

    If after your divorce you still want to file for a green card while you’re a conditional resident you will need to file several pieces of paperwork. The first set of paperwork is Form I-751 (the form where you are petitioning to change the conditions of your resident status) and then a waiver of the usual requirement. These documents not only need to be signed by you but also your ex-spouse.

    While USCIS is reviewing your paperwork, you may be issued a Form I-797. This would allow you to live and work in the U.S. while a final decision is being made about your status.


    If you already have a green card, filing for divorce should not impact your residential status. However, you will have to wait five years instead of three to become a naturalized citizen.


    Having to go through a divorce and then worry about your immigration status can be scary to do alone. That’s why the team at Magilligan Law is here to help. Our attorneys know the ins and outs of the immigration process and will be there to guide you. Contact us today to get started with a free consultation.

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