What Is a Bona Fide Marriage?

A bona fide marriage is a real marriage—not one entered into to get immigration benefits. 

To show that your marriage is bona fide, you'll need to provide proof of cohabitation (living together), proof of joint ownership of property, and proof of other factors showing that your relationship is genuine. 

Proof of Marriage Documents

There are many different types of documents needed to apply for a green card through marriage. Some of the common proof of marriage documents include:

  • Joint tax returns
  • Joint ownership of property
  • Leases or mortgages in both spouses' names
  • Proof of joint bank accounts or credit cards
  • Evidence of shared household responsibilities, such as utility bills in both spouses' names 
  • Birth certificates for any children born to the couple 
  • Proof of shared vacations or other trips you have taken together

Keep in mind that this is not an exhaustive list. The USCIS may also accept other types of proof. If you're not sure what kind of proof to submit, you can always consult with an experienced spouse visa attorney.

Combined finances

Combined finances are often one of the most impactful proof of marriage documents. They demonstrate that you're willing to support each other, which is essential in marriage.

You can demonstrate that you have combined finances using:

  • Joint bank accounts 
  • Joint credit cards 
  • Evidence of shared financial responsibility for bills or other debts 
  • Proof of joint ownership of property, such as a house or a car 

Children

Marriage is often the first step of building a family, which can only be complete with children. Nothing can demonstrate your commitment to each other than having children. So if you have a family, provide evidence for the same.

You can do this by:

  • Providing birth certificates to show you are listed as a parent
  • Prove that you have joint custody and share the responsibility for their care
  • Providing evidence that you are actively involved in the children's lives

What can be Used as Proof of Cohabitation?

Although there are some exceptions, it's generally expected that married couples live together. As such, if you can demonstrate to the USCIS that you have been cohabiting, it will help validate your marriage.

There are different documents you can present as proof of cohabiting, including: 

  • Lease agreement or mortgage statement with both your names on it 
  • Utility bills (water, electricity, gas, cable, internet, etc.) in both your names 
  • Joint bank account statements 
  • Insurance policy documents with both your names on them 
  • Joint tax returns 
  • Any other official documents that show you live at the same address 

Affidavit from friends or family

If you don't have any of the documents mentioned above, you can also submit an affidavit from a friend or family member attesting to the fact that you live together. The affidavit should ideally be sworn by someone who knows you and your spouse well and can attest to the fact that you live together.

What is an Affidavit of Support?

An Affidavit of Support is a document that shows that the person sponsoring a foreign national for a green card (i.e., their spouse) has enough income or assets to support them at 125% above the poverty line. The sponsor must sign the Affidavit of Support and submit it along with the foreign national's green card application. 

The Affidavit of Support is a legally binding document, which means that the sponsor is responsible for providing financial support to the foreign national if they cannot support themselves. This responsibility lasts until the foreign national becomes a US citizen or can be credited with 40 quarters of work (10 years).

If you are sponsoring your spouse for a green card, you must submit an Affidavit of Support as part of their application. 

Owned Property Showing both Spouses' Names

A key part of securing your future is acquiring assets. One way to show that your marriage is real is to own property together. This can be shown in many ways, such as:

  • Deed or title to a house or condo with both your names on it 
  • Car registration or title with both your names on it 
  • Joint lease agreement 
  • Any other documentation that shows you own property together 

Shared Household Responsibilities

Sharing household responsibilities is an important part of any marriage. It shows that you and your spouse are committed to supporting and caring for each other. 

USCIS will review whether you share household responsibilities as part of their evaluation of your marriage. 

You can prove that you share responsibilities in several ways, such as:

  • Having both your names on the lease or mortgage for your home 
  • Provide documents indicating you share responsibility for utility bills, such as water, gas, or electricity 
  • Proof that you share domestic tasks and chores, such as cooking, cleaning, or lawn care 

Proof of Communication

When two people are married, most of their lives revolve around each other. Therefore, it's expected that you will be in constant communication with your spouse when you're not together.

Providing evidence that you communicate regularly will help prove your claim to the USCIS. You can do this by showing: 

  • Text messages or emails between you and your spouse 
  • Phone calls or video chats between you and your spouse 
  • Letters or cards exchanged between you and your spouse 
  • Proof that you communicate regularly about important topics, such as your relationship, your families, or your finances 

Proof of Social Media Interactions

Social media interactions are another way to show that your marriage is real. This can be shown in several ways, such as:

  • Posts or messages between you and your spouse on social media platforms 
  • Proof that you are "friends" or "followers" of each other on social media platforms 
  • Proof that you interact with each other on social media platforms, such as by liking, commenting, or sharing each other's posts 

Proof of Attending Weddings or Parties Together

Marriage is based on the idea that two people want to share and be part of each other's lives. Along with caring for and protecting each other, this also involves enjoying activities and visiting places together. 

Any evidence you can provide to the USCIS to demonstrate that you've attended parties and events together will strengthen your claim. Such evidence may include photographs, invitations, etc.

Does USCIS recognize online marriage?

Traditionally, marriage involves a ceremony that people attend in person. But with technology, it's now possible to get married online. 

While USCIS doesn't explicitly state whether they recognize online marriages, they have said they will accept marriage certificates issued electronically. 

If you are married online, you must submit your marriage certificate as part of your green card application. You may also need to submit additional documentation to prove that your marriage is real. 

This could include chat logs or emails between you and your spouse, photos of you together, or phone records showing that you regularly communicate with each other. 

Opportunities to Proof That Your Marriage is Bona Fide

There are many opportunities throughout the green card process to prove that your marriage is bona fide. It's important to take advantage of all these opportunities to show that your marriage is real. The more evidence you can provide, the better. 

Some of these include:

  1. Add documents to your I-130 application - When you file your I-130 application, you can include proof of your relationship. This could include joint bank statements, joint tax returns, or proof that you own property together. The more evidence you can provide, the better. 
  2. Answer questions in the Green Card Interview - You will be asked questions about your relationship during the green card interview. This is your opportunity to show that you know things about each other that only a real couple would know. 

Interview Questions to Proof Bona Fide Marriage 

You will be asked a series of questions during the interview to serve as proof of bona fide marriage. 

Some questions you'll encounter include:

  • How did you meet? 
  • What are your spouse's hobbies and interests? 
  • Where was your wedding? 
  • Who attended your wedding? 
  • What kind of music did you play at your wedding? 
  • What does your spouse do for a living? 
  • What are your spouse's parents' names? 
  • What is your spouse's favorite food? 
  • What kind of car does your spouse drive? 
  • Where was your honeymoon? 
  • How long have you been married? 
  • Do you have any children together? If so, what are their names and ages? 
  • What is your spouse's favorite color? 

Marriage Fraud Red Flags

Knowing the pitfalls is key to preparing to provide proof of bona fide marriage. Some things indicate that you may be committing marriage fraud. If USCIS sees any of these red flags, they may be more likely to deny your application. 

Some marriage fraud red flags include:

  • Your spouse is much older or younger than you are 
  • You have only been married for a short time 
  • You don't live together 
  • You don't share any joint accounts 
  • You can't speak to each other in the same language 
  • You don't have any shared interests 
  • Your wedding photos look staged 
  • You met online or through a marriage broker 

Bona Fide Marriage to Remove Conditions on Residence (I-751)

If you have a conditional green card, you will need to file an I-751 application to remove the conditions on your residence. This application is filed jointly with your spouse. 

As part of this application, you will need to provide proof that your marriage is real. This could include joint bank statements, proof of joint property ownership, proof that you live together, or evidence of shared responsibility for children. 

If you cannot file the I-751 application jointly with your spouse, you may be able to file for a waiver. To do this, you will need to prove that your marriage was real, that it ended in divorce or annulment, or that you would face extreme hardship if you were required to return to your home country.  For more information, contact us.

FAQs About Marriage Proof

Understandably, you may still have many questions about marriage proof. Here are the most common ones and their answers.

  • Does USCIS Check phone records? NO

The USCIS does not check phone records. However, they may do so during site visits.

  • Does USCIS check marriage records in other countries?

Generally, the USCIS does not check marriage records in other countries. But if the information is accessible, they will. 

  • Does USCIS check marriage records?

The USCIS may check local marriage records if they have reason to believe the marriage is not real. 

  • Does immigration check your marital status?

Yes. Immigration can check your marital status through public records. 

  • Does USCIS do background checks on petitioners?

A petitioner will be subjected to a background check by the USCIS to determine whether the FBI, sex offender registries or a related agency has a record of any crimes.

  • What happens if immigration does not believe in your marriage?

If immigration does not believe in your marriage, they may conduct a site visit to your home. In addition, they will interview you and your spouse separately to discuss your relationship. 

  • How do I prove my family relationship?

There are a few ways to prove your family relationship. For example, you can provide a birth certificate, adoption papers, or proof of guardianship. 

  • Can I get a bank statement from a joint account?

Yes. A bank statement from a joint account can be used as proof of your relationship. 

  • How do I write a bona fide marriage letter?

A bona fide marriage letter is a letter written by you and your spouse that attests to the truthfulness of your relationship. This letter should include how you met, when you got married, and any shared interests or experiences you have had. 

  • What is an affidavit letter for immigration marriage?

An affidavit letter for immigration marriage is a letter written by someone who knows you and your spouse attesting to the fact that your marriage is real. This letter should include how long the person has known you, how well they know you, and why they believe your marriage is real.