I-130 How To Prove Bona Fide Marriage To USCIS

Getting married is a serious decision, right? Well, USCIS wants to know whether you thought long and hard before you married your foreign spouse. Why? Because they know that marrying a U.S. citizen can mean immigration benefits that the rest of the world values. When it comes to proving a bona fide marriage for the I-130 petition, it’s best to go the extreme route.

The definition of “bona fide” means in good faith; sincere; without deception or ulterior motive. Basically, you should have married for love and not for a green card. This is common sense, right?

The main job of USCIS is to protect the U.S. from unauthorized entry. This can include legal entry based on fraud and misrepresentation.

In this post, I’ve provided the types of evidence that can help them make a determination. If you follow the guidelines below, I promise that you will successfully prove your marriage is real. But, you have to submit as much of the evidence listed below as possible.

You can’t do this half right, okay?

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I know I personally was worried about providing enough evidence of my relationship. I didn’t know what the heck they wanted to see so I printed a lot of chats, phone records, letters, cards etc. Guess what? It was enough and I worried for nothing.

I’m hoping that’s the case for you too. I always recommend that you send too much evidence rather than too little.

Joint Finances To Prove You Have A Bona Fide Marriage

One question I get often is “why are joint finances so important to show a bona fide marriage?

Well, think of it this way. Would you share your bank account with someone that paid you to file your I-130 petition? If you truly just wanted to help someone get a green card in exchange for money, the answer is NO!

USCIS knows this which is why they want to see joint finances for all applicants applying for a spouse. Getting married is so easy and divorce so common that it’s no longer enough to show a marriage certificate.

Of course you need to prove that you are legally married with a marriage certificate. But, more importantly, you need to show that your marriage is real.

Case Example:

Liz and Dom recently got married in Nigeria and Liz quickly filed the I-130 petition for her new husband. But because Dom is not good with money, she didn’t want to put him on any bank accounts or credit cards. When it was time to submit evidence of a bona fide marriage, they included their marriage certificate, pictures, emails and letters. Unfortunately, USCIS sent them a request for evidence (RFE) asking for more evidence of bona fide marriage.

In the case above, Liz should have submitted documents showing they share financial accounts. This can mean bank accounts, credit cards, tax returns, life insurance, loans, investments, etc.

Try your best to include as much of these documents as possible. If you don’t have any shared financial accounts, start adding your foreign spouse to them. This is no considered “making up evidence” and USCIS expects you to do this.

sample bank statement

Keep Records Of Your Life Together And Ongoing Communication

Most of us keep lots of photos and videos of our children and pets but when it comes to our relationship, we fall short. Every single visit you make overseas should be an opportunity to document it.

This can include taking photos and videos as well as keeping a journal. Consider keeping other things such as:

  • boarding passes
  • train tickets
  • hotel receipts
  • restaurant receipts

Instead of throwing these items away, try to keep them in a shoe box until you are ready to submit the I-130 petition. That’s exactly what I did and we sent these receipts together on 1-2 page scanned document with our petition. Trust me, it’s not too much and it shows that you and your spouse enjoy time together.

One major thing that USCIS likes to see is ongoing communication between you and your spouse.

Case Example:

Casey and Janet have been married for 6 months. Janet currently lives in the UK and they are preparing to put their I-130 petition together. Thankfully, Janet loves scrap-booking and she kept everything from all of the visits they took to see each other. She was able to provide tons of photos, receipts, birthday cards, emails, texts, phone records, movie tickets, valentines cards, etc.

They had lots of evidence to show that they have been in constant communication. In fact, there wasn’t a day that they didn’t talk to each other. After 4 months, their I-130 petition was approved by USCIS without a hitch.

As you can see, there really isn’t TOO much evidence you can include. Just send everything you think will help your case and let the adjudicator decide on what’s important to them.

With all of this documentation, it’s also a good idea to stay organized. Keep checklists for yourself to make sure you don’t forget to include something. You can download the free CR1 visa checklist I’ve created to help you keep track of everything you’re sending and everything that is required.

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Know As Much About Your Spouse’s Habits As Possible

During the early stage of most relationships, you want to know everything about your love, right? Well, this can come in really handy during the interview. Knowing intimate details about your spouse’s life, goals, and past can help you when it comes time for the interview.

The consulate officer’s job is to find out if you have a real marriage and no question if off the table. I’ve heard of some really intimate questions being asked to test whether you truly know each other as a married couple.

Some really personal questions that can be asked:

  • “What side of the bed do you sleep on?”
  • “When was the last time you both were intimate?”
  • “What color are your bed sheets?”
  • “What does your spouse wear in bed?”

Are you shocked yet? I know I was.

USCIS uses these types of questions during a stokes interview when they suspect marriage fraud. I’d suggest reviewing all the other stokes questions that can be asked so you are familiar with them.

For most people, they won’t need to study everything about their spouse. You should know a lot more than a co-worker would and if you don’t, good luck! The visa interview will focus on your relationship and what a normal married couple should know about each other.

If you’ve been dating for a while, you have no excuse not to know the following:

  • favorite food
  • favorite movie
  • siblings names
  • parents names
  • where they work
  • Where they went to school

Just knowing the answers to the simple questions above will get you ahead. If these topics never came up during your calls or Facebook chats, start talking about it. Don’t wait until your foreign spouse is in the U.S. to really get to know each other.

Final Thoughts On I-130 Bona Fide Marriage Evidence

So, I hope you’ve found these tips helpful in proving you have a bona fide marriage. It’s not enough to just be married. You must show that you are married for love and not just for a green card.

I believe most couples get married to begin a life together but USCIS is suspicious of any foreigner that is applying for a green card. This makes sense because it’s their job. They aren’t really interested in how much you love each other. They just want to know they are giving green cards to people who are being honest about their intentions.

To summarize, make sure you join your finances together as much as you can. You don’t need to be on every account your spouse has but the more the merrier! Then, you should keep records of your communication to show you have an ongoing relationship. Your marriage shouldn’t look like a business transaction from the outside.

Lastly, you should know a lot about your spouse. I’m not saying that you have to tell every secret from your childhood, but your spouse should know about your past. It’s your spouse so you shouldn’t be embarrassed or nervous about them knowing some dorky things about you.

Personally, my husband knew a lot about me during our late night calls. He knew so much about me I swear if we ever broke up he could use it against me to destroy me! Okay, that was a little dramatic but I’m trying to make a point. Use the time you spending talking to be meaningful.

Forget talking about who got kicked off the island or which bachelor got dumped on TV and focus on learning more about your spouse.

If you follow these guidelines, I promise you that you will not have any trouble proving a bona fide marriage. Yes, I can make this promise without knowing your case because of some girl on the internet. Plus, I’m trying to make you feel better.

Will you have enough evidence of bona fide marriage? Let me know in the comments below!

Author: Ayan

Ayan is the founder of the Migrant Academy community and the My Path To Citizenship Podcast. She has successfully helped hundreds of couples and families achieve their goal of visa and green card approval. U.S immigration can be difficult and confusing, Ayan simplifies the process so that you feel confident and reassured.

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