Do I Have Enough Evidence Of Bona Fide Marriage For Removal Of Conditions?
I really hate the term “evidence of bona fide marriage”. It almost assumes that your marriage is fake until proven otherwise. Even the most genuine relationships must prove that they are in it for love and not a green card. USCIS doesn’t care that you have been together forever or have 9 children, all they want to see evidence of bona fide marriage that include documents showing ongoing marital relationship.
The process to remove the conditions (I-751) on your 2 year green card is very similar to applying to adjust your status. In both cases, the USCIS wants to see is strong evidence of a genuine marriage. So what exactly is considered evidence of bona fide marriage? USCIS does provide some information of what they are looking for but it isn’t a detailed list. I recommend sending everything that has both of your names and your address.
Begin gathering evidence from the day you and your spouse get married and continue to gather documents until you get citizenship. That is truly when you’re done playing with USCIS. These documents will be used to show that you both reside in the same residence throughout your marriage.
Strong Evidence of Bona Fide Marriage
The most important type of evidence that shows a genuine marriage is co-mingling of finances. This is very important to the USCIS adjudicators because it shows that you and your spouse trust each other with money. Many cases that are flagged and denied do not provide any co-mingling of finances.
Include the following to show co-mingling of finances:
- Bank statements
- Joint tax transcripts
- Joint credit cards
- Life insurance policies
- Investment accounts
- Joint mortgage/deed to home
- Joint health insurance
Other types of good evidence that you should include:
- Joint apartment lease
- Joint car ownership
- Joint car insurance
- Joint loans/debt
- Utility bills in both names
- Cell phone family plans
- Family photos together
- Itineraries for trips together
My Spouse And I Don’t Share Bank Accounts
You will need to provide even more evidence if you and your spouse do not share a bank account. Include an additional sheet with your ROC application to explain why you do not have any joint bank accounts.
Some people do not share bank accounts because their partner has a lot of debt and do not want their shared bank account garnished. In this case, just explain your situation and provide other evidence such as joint credit cards, life insurance and joint tax returns.
Many couples prefer to keep their finances separate and that is okay as long as you know that you will have a little more trouble with the Removal of Conditions process. You can definitely still get approved but you may need to provide more evidence than someone who submits joint financial accounts. USCIS likes to see that you both trust each other with your money.
Think about it: if someone is trying to commit immigration fraud, do you think they will give access to their money? Heck no! USCIS knows this and wants to see who is sharing their finances and which couples are keeping them separate without a good reason.
My Spouse And I Don’t File Taxes Jointly
They say money is the number one thing that causes many marriages to fail but what about the IRS? Filing your taxes can be quite stressful, especially if you owe the IRS money. If your expecting a refund, hooray! It’s like Christmas all over again. A good number of couples decide to file “married filing separately” and think they will be okay when it comes time to file for adjustment of status.
Good news is that if the rest of your evidence is VERY strong, you have nothing to worry about. However, if you have okay evidence then the joint tax returns are extremely important. Even if you have to file jointly until you have completed the entire immigration process (gotten citizenship), that’s what I recommend. Now, having a good reason to file separately is okay as long as you can explain why.
So let’s say that your spouse’s income is being garnished, you can attached an additional sheet explaining this. USCIS understand that in some cases, couples must file separately and keep their own bank accounts. Here are a few situations that can occur where couples keep their finances separate.
- One spouse as a business that is in bankruptcy
- One spouse owe child support that is garnished
- One spouse owes back taxes to the IRS
Basically, USCIS is looking for evidence that you share a home together and pay bills together. If that’s not marriage, what is right? Some couples tend to file separately when they no longer live together, so USCIS will need to know that you are still living together but choosing to file your taxes separately. You can show this by including bills that have both of your name on them.
I personally provided stacks of evidence from tax returns, bank statements, insurance, all the way to vet bills. Why? Because I’d rather provide too much evidence than too little. My motto is “if you have the evidence, include the evidence”. Once your removal of conditions petition is complete, remember to make a copy of it before sending it. This is because USCIS looses a lot petitions with so many hands touching them and it’ll make it easier for you to respond if they request a specific document.
This process will definitely make you very organized, if nothing else.
Ayan is the founder of the Migrant Academy community, the My Path To Citizenship Blog and Podcast.
After successfully navigating the hurdles of US immigration. She now dedicates her time to helping other couples achieve their goals of starting their new life together in the US.