Marriage is one of the basis upon which the United States issues the green card, albeit conditional. However, before bestowing the green card, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services will conduct tests and investigations to ensure its legitimacy.
You, as the applicant, have to provide sufficient evidence to ensure your marriage isn’t an attempt to defraud the US government. The most important thing when applying for the marriage green card is to prove that you are legitimately married.
To get the permanent resident card, you have to prove that you’re not just legitimately married, but also that it is bona fide. “Bona fide” means you and your spouse do want to have and build a future together. The USCIS conducts these investigations because there are some who get married only for immigration purposes to obtain the permanent green card.
If you’re not in this category, then you have nothing to worry about – other than to supply the proper documentation.
If you want to apply for the marriage green card but aren’t certain of your eligibility, you can keep reading. We will take you through the eligibility requirements and answer other questions regarding the application for the marriage-based green card.
How Can I Prove My Marriage Is Legitimate?
To prove that your marriage is legitimate, you first need to supply your marriage certificate when you submit the application. However, a certificate alone is not enough to show that your marital union is legitimate, especially when it is a common law marriage. Thus, in addition to the certificate under common law marriage, you will need to provide documents in your I-130 petition package painting your relationship’s picture over time.
The I-130 petition is the first step of the marriage-based green card application process and insufficient or lack of evidence results in denial.
Additionally, once you’ve submitted the application, you will be invited for an interview. During the naturalization interview, the consular officer will ask you a series of questions about sensitive, personal, and confidential details about your marital union.
The USCIS does this because it understands how easy getting married as a legal transaction is. Thus, it requests as much proof as possible to ensure the applicants aren’t defrauding the government through a marital union.
What Proof Do I Need to Supply to Show My Marriage Is Bona Fide?
Whatever document you supply with your marriage green card application form should paint a clear picture of your relationship over time. For example, you may provide different photos taken over a period of years; this is stronger evidence than most. It reassures the USCIS that your marital union is authentic; five pictures in five years are better than twenty in three months.
Thus, the documents you need to supply to prove your marriage is bona fide include:
- Financial documents to prove that you and your citizen spouse have combined your assets and liabilities. These documents may include titles or deeds for properties you jointly own or joint bank accounts showing both your names.
- Proof that you and your spouse live together, including joint lease or mortgage documents, property deed, or utility bills showing both your names. You can also supply copies of your driver’s licenses and insurance statements showing the same addresses for both of you.
- Finally, provide original documents of letters from friends, family members, or employers witnessing the legitimacy of your union. You can also include details of the ministerial or priestly functions that took place at the wedding.
What Are Your Chances If You and Your Spouse Live Apart?
Under common law marriage, if you and your spouse don’t live together, it complicates things and lowers your chances of getting approved. A good example is where you as a U.S citizen have a spouse who wants to reside abroad after the marital union and because they want to find employment abroad. However, it isn’t an irredeemable situation; you’ll just have more convincing to do than if you live together.
First off, you’ll need to provide a detailed and convincing explanation of why you had to live apart. You and your spouse will write a letter, signed by both of you, explaining why you live apart and when you’ll start living together, if applicable.
If you have genuine reasons for the living situation and you explain well, not living together won’t be a hindrance. Nevertheless, you will need to supply more pieces of evidence to assure the USCIS that your marital union is legitimate. These include proof that there are children between you, either from your current or previous marriage(s).
The proof may include the children’s birth certificates listing at least one of the spouse’s names and adoption certificates where applicable. If you’re a stepmom or stepdad, you’ll need to provide school or medical records listing you as an emergency contact.
Does Immigration Check Your Marital Status?
Oftentimes, two people enter into a legal arrangement to get married for the purpose of acquiring citizenship. The USCIS is aware of this, and it knows how easy it is to get a green card through a marital union. That’s why immigration checks your marital and relationship status to ensure you didn’t get married just to get the green card.
Marriage-based green card petitions are especially highly scrutinized because of the high rate of immigration fraud involved.
Thus, the application process also involves attending a one-on-one interview with the immigration officer with substantial evidence that you’re legally married. Couples who are found guilty of immigration fraud will have the green card application denied and worse.
The immigrant spouse will be deployed immediately and the citizen spouse will be facing some real jail time. The level of punishment depends on the gravity of the offense and the discretion of the USCIS.
What Determines the Legal Validity of a Marriage?
The law of the place where you got married determines the legal validity of your marriage. That is, your marriage is valid for immigration purposes provided it is valid under the law of the jurisdiction it was held in.
The applicant is saddled with the responsibility of establishing that their marriage with their US citizen spouse is valid for the specified period. A certificate is the most common piece of evidence to prove that a marriage was legally and properly conducted.
However, the proof of the validity of a marriage is only one of the criteria for obtaining the green card. The USCIS understands that documents like this can be forged, and even obtained legally under false pretenses.
Thus, for a higher chance of getting your naturalization application approved, you need to supply the secondary evidence we’ve listed and will still list.
How Do We Prove Our Marriage Is Real?
Certificates and bank statements are great for proving a marriage is legitimate, but the USCIS is more interested in your relationship. The governing body wants to be assured that the relationship between you and your spouse is real – and loving. It wants proof that you’re communicating and engaging in activities as a couple and family.
Thus, to prove your marriage is real, you’ll need to provide:
- Phone or chat records to prove you and your citizen spouse talk regularly,
- Travel itineraries for trips, vacations, and journeys you took together,
- Wedding photos and pictures of you celebrating with your family,
- Parties, events, and trips photos together and with family and friends over the course of your relationship,
- Receipts of gifts you bought for each other – whether of candies, jewelry, clothing, or flowers.
Does the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services Recognize All Types of Relationships as Marriages?
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services don’t accept all types of relationships as marriages, even if their jurisdiction does. Such marriages relationships include polygamous marriages and some marriages that violate the state policy where the couple resides.
The state policy is always an off-shoot of the USCIS policy manual. The USCIS policy manual is a detailed guide for individuals who are after acquiring citizenship or those who want to get married to a U.S. citizen spouse. The lady or her spouse who wants to be a U.S. citizen must prove that he is in compliance with the USCIS policy manual and the Nationality Act.
Additionally, it doesn’t recognize relationships not recognized as marriages in the celebration place, including civil unions, domestic partnerships, and others. Also, the USCIS doesn’t recognize proxy marriages, where one party is absent during the marriage ceremony, unless it’s been consummated.
Finally, the USCIS doesn’t recognize or accept relationships that start so that the immigrant spouse can evade the US immigration laws. The USCIS determines the validity of a marriage between two people of the same sex by the rule of its celebration place.
That is, if the marriage isn’t recognized in the jurisdiction where it was held, it won’t be recognized by the USCIS, except if after marriage the citizen employed abroad decides to stay there. That’s because the Section 3 of the DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) limits the terms “spouse” and “marriage” to opposite-sex marriages.
Even if the same-sex couple now lives in a jurisdiction that acknowledges the marriage, it won’t change the verdict. Conversely, if the place of celebration supports the marriage but the new jurisdiction doesn’t, the USCIS will decide based on the former.
Can You Accelerate the Process of Citizenship Marriage and Naturalization in France?
Oftentimes, naturalization systems grant the immigrant spouses of citizens with accelerated access to full citizenship. A study recently conducted pointed to a certain unique feature of French naturalization policy, which fast-tracks the naturalization process.
The policy includes a dual track system, one for standard naturalization and the other to make it right for immigrants to marry citizens. The study concluded that, overall, the family-level factors have the greatest influence on the naturalization application decisions.
Meanwhile, out of all the marriages, marriage to a French citizen tends to yield the highest effects on naturalization in both tracks. Marriage to a French citizen fosters marriage-based citizenship while getting married to naturalized US citizens promotes standard naturalization.
Women, in particular, who marry French citizens, are more likely to get their marriage-based naturalization application approved. This is because a French citizen employed abroad who wants to get married to a U.S citizen spouse will be considered faster.
What Are the General Eligibility Requirements for Spouses of Abroad-Employed US Citizens?
Immigrants who are married US citizens employed abroad may obtain their naturalization based on their marriage. Spouses eligible for this provision are exempted from the physical presence and continuous residence requirements for approval of the naturalization application. What this means is that if you are not one of those who fall under this category, your physical presence will be necessary.
However, such spouse needs to supply proof that she meets the following criteria to be eligible for the provision:
- That they are at least eighteen years old as at the time they filed the petition,
- That they remained a lawful permanent resident at the time of filing the application for naturalization,
- That their employment remains intact and can be analyzed on a case by case basis.
- That they remain married to the United States citizen until the time they take the Oath of Allegiance,
- That they have good faith intent to live abroad with the U.S. citizen after the naturalization application has been approved. Also, they have to prove that they intend to reside in the US immediately if their employment abroad is terminated,
- That the partner of the citizen spouse will join the former within thirty to forty-five days after they’ve been naturalized,
- That they understand, can read, and write basic English,
- That they have good knowledge of basic details in the U.S. history and government,
- They demonstrate good moral character for at least three years before they applied for the naturalization until its approval.
Worthy of mention is that failure to demonstrate good moral character can affect your application and even your continuous residence as a U.S citizen or U.S citizen spouse. To ensure your continuous residence as a U.S citizen is not threatened when applying, it is best to seek the services of an experienced immigration lawyer whose physical presence can make up for your absence.
When Does the “Live in Marital Union” Not Apply to a U.S. Citizen Spouse?
The “live in marital union” clause in the requirements for naturalization doesn’t apply to spouses whose U.S. citizen spouse works abroad. That is, you’re not required to have lived in marital union with the citizens employed abroad.
In this case, all you need is to prove that you are legally married to the citizen spouse. That is, you must be legally married from the application filing date until when you take your Oath of Allegiance.
Additionally, the spouse has to show their good faith intent to go and live with the U.S. citizen spouse abroad. They’ll also show their intent to return to the United States immediately after the termination of the citizen spouse’s employment abroad. “Qualifying employment abroad” refers to being under an employment contract to perform some employment duties.
The following are classified as qualifying employment by the USCIS:
- Employment with the United States Government, for example, the military or US armed forces,
- Employment with the American institution of research which is recognized by the Attorney General,
- Engaged by a religious denomination solely as a missionary or an interdenominational mission organization with an official organization in the U.S.,
- Employed with an American corporation or official government organization engaged or a subsidiary in the development of the US foreign trade and commerce in whole or in part,
- Authorization to perform ministerial or priestly responsibilities of a religious setting with a bona fide organization,
- Employed in a public international organization where the United States participates by both the statute and treaty.
How Does the USCIS Calculate the Period “Regularly Stationed Abroad?”
There is no information on when to begin calculating the statutory period regularly stationed abroad. Nevertheless, the period calculation for such employment abroad starts from the period the applicant spouse properly files for naturalization.
The marriage-based naturalization applicant first needs to provide evidence that his or her spouse is regularly stationed abroad. “Regularly stationed abroad” means the citizen spouse is engaged in a qualifying employment for at least one year.
Meanwhile, the policy of counting the period of qualifying employment doesn’t change the requirement of citizenship acquisition. That includes the intent that the immigrant spouse intends to reside abroad with their citizen spouse after naturalization approval.
Furthermore, the applicant spouse of the citizen abroad can naturalize if their qualifying employment abroad will last for a year at least at the filing time. They can naturalize even if it is less than one year provided the spouse remains employed abroad at the time of naturalization.
The applicant is responsible for establishing the duration of their U.S. citizen spouse’s employment in a foreign country. That is, they must prove that the employment will last for one year from the time of filing.
Immigrant spouses whose citizen spouses are regularly stationed abroad under qualifying employment can file for naturalization immediately after the LPR citizenship status is issued.
What Do I Need to Apply for Naturalization with Form N-400?
The Form N-400 is the Application for Naturalization form; you will need to fill it to apply for naturalization. You may want to hire a law firm or immigration lawyer to know the process and how to go about filling it. That’s because there are instructions involved, which if flouted can result in the outright denial of your application.
You will also pay legal fees, including fees for the processing and biometrics services.
You’ll need to fill out and submit the naturalization form in accordance with the instructions and required legal fees. You may want to check the “other” eligibility option to indicate that you’re applying for the United States pursuant to the Immigration and Nationality Act 319(b).
The proof should be on the basis of a marriage to a citizen regularly stationed abroad. As the applicant, the burden is on you to prove that you’re indeed married to the U.S. citizen.
In addition to the application evidence, you’ll also need to provide evidence to establish the U.S. citizenship of your spouse. The pieces of evidence include certificates of birth in the U.S, citizenship, and naturalization.
Also, you’ll provide FS-240 (Department of State Consular Report of Birth Abroad) and a valid U.S. passport.
Hire Herman Legal Group Today!
Do you want to get married to a U.S. citizen spouse and don’t seem to know how to provide evidence of a viable marriage? Have you tried submitting your application but it hasn’t been attended to or is taking longer than expected? Then, you need the services of an experienced immigration attorney who understands the USCIS policy manual relating to evidence of a viable marriage.
At Herman Legal Group, we have seasoned immigration attorneys who are always available to help you out. All you need is to schedule a consultation with us today via +1-800-808-4013 or +1-216-696-6170. We can have these consultations in-office or virtually using Zoom, Skype, Google Meet, Facetime, or WhatsApp. If you want to speak to the best immigration attorney in the U.S. – Richard Herman, you can book online now!
The USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) is responsible for awarding the naturalization certificate to applicants. With good knowledge of how easy it is to obtain naturalization through marriage, it takes cautious measures before approving.
The USCIS policy manual lists a number of requirements on gov. websites for applicants seeking to remove the conditions on the marriage-based permanent green card. While there are many documents to be submitted, the essence of all of them is to prove your marriage is valid.
Sometimes, applicants get married or enter into a relationship with the intent to get married just to get the green card. Hence, the USCIS, after receiving all the pieces of evidence, still schedules a physical interview with couples.
However, at its discretion and under certain conditions, the USCIS may decide to waive the naturalization examination. For example, a couple can avoid the interview if they’ve proved the validity of their marriage beyond reasonable doubt.