In this article, we discuss how USCIS evaluates marriage green card applications to expose fraud and answer the following questions:
Many non-U.S. citizens will attempt to immigrate to the United States each year through marriage. It is one of the simplest ways to immigrate to the United States and obtain a green card, that does not already require some kind of family relationship. Thus, immigration applications based on marriage are scrutinized heavily by USCIS. Each year, the U.S. government expects to receive a large number of fraudulent applications involving a marriage that exists solely for the sake of obtaining U.S. residence. This is why applicants must be able to show more than the mere fact that they are legally married.
There are several documents and photos that you can use to prove your marriage is legitimate. Some of these USCIS or the U.S. State Department will expect to see, and some are extra evidence that can strengthen your application.
Documents showing combined finances:
Showing that you and your spouse share certain accounts and have access to each other’s accounts can go a long way in proving your marriage is authentic.
Documents proving that you live together:
USCIS expects married couples to live together or to show proof as to why they are not currently living together. Not having a good reason for living apart is a glaring red flag for immigration officials. If the couple has a legitimate reason for living apart, such as work or school, the couple should draft a letter signed by both that explains in detail their reason for living apart.
Documents that prove you have children together:
Having documentation showing proof of children, joint financial accounts and responsibilities, and shared residence are all strong ways to prove that a marriage is legitimate. Other forms of proof include photos of the married couple together over the last few years (20 pictures from the last month will hold very little weight compared to a few pictures over the last few years). Good photos include wedding photos, pictures of parents with children, photos from vacations together, etc.
Applicants seeking legal U.S. residence through marriage must complete a green card interview. The applicant may be interviewed with his or her spouse or separately. The sponsor (that would normally be the legal U.S. resident spouse) should also expect to be interviewed and be able to answer questions. The interviewing officer can ask any number of questions and the couple should expect the questions to probe into personal or private topics. Examples of common questions are:
Spouses should be able to give similar answers without much thought.
Couples aren’t expected to have every single thing in common and may even have very different opinions on topics such as religious beliefs and child-rearing. However, there are many factors, which if true, will send up a red flag to immigration officials, such as:
Some of these factors can be present in a perfectly normal and healthy marriage. Nevertheless, the immigration official must make a tough decision in a short period, and the more an applicant can do to provide clear and supportive evidence of the legitimacy of his or her marriage, the less likely the application will be denied.
Marriage fraud is a serious crime. If convicted, individuals may face up to five years in prison and $250,000 in fines. Immigration courts may also bring other charges against marriage fraud offenders, such as harboring an alien, visa fraud, conspiracy, and many others.
Immigration officials can also place a marriage fraud bar on an individual blocking them from getting a green card even if a later marriage is legitimate.
Couples with an authentic marriage with nothing to hide shouldn’t fear the immigration process. However, it never hurts to be over-prepared when going through the green card application process. Give us a call if you have any questions about marriage-based green card applications or the immigration process in general.
O'Flaherty Law is happy to meet with you by phone or at our office locations in: