How to Prove Bona Fide Marriage Relationship

How to Prove Bona Fide Marriage Relationship

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A marriage green card, officially known as a “spousal immigrant visa” or “IR-1/CR-1 visa,” is a type of United States immigrant visa that allows a foreign national to live and work in the United States as a lawful permanent resident (LPR or green card holder) based on their marriage to a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident.

U.S. citizens or green card holders who are sponsoring their foreign national spouses for permanent residency are called “Petitioners”. Foreign national spouses applying for marriage green cards are called “Beneficiaries”.

A bona fide marriage, also known as a genuine or legitimate marriage, refers to a legally valid marriage that is entered into by two individuals with the sincere intent to establish and maintain a marital relationship for reasons other than evading immigration laws or obtaining immigration benefits fraudulently.

In the context of immigration law, proving that a marriage is bona fide is essential when seeking immigration benefits based on the marital relationship, such as a marriage-based green card or spousal immigrant visa.

Immigration authorities are vigilant to prevent fraudulent marriages entered into solely for immigration benefits. To establish the authenticity of your marriage, you can provide various types of evidence to support your case. Below is the checklist of suggested documents to prove that your marriage is real:

Type of evidence Examples of acceptable documents 
Marriage certificate
  • Valid and official marriage certificate issued by the government or relevant authorities
  • Religious marriage certificate (only if you have one)
Birth certificates of children born to the couple
  • Birth certificates must list both spouses as parents of the child
Joint financial documents
  • Joint checking or savings accounts – monthly statements that are available for each joint account. Statements provided should show that the account is used by the couple
  • Joint credit card accounts – monthly statements that are available for each joint account. Statements provided should show that the account is used by the couple. Statements must show the names of both spouses, otherwise provide the photocopies of the credit cards themselves to show that both spouses are on the account.
Jointly filed tax returns
  • Copies of jointly filed Federal IRS income tax returns for each year that the couple has file jointly
Joint assets
  • Real property deeds showing joint ownership of home or other real estate property
  • Evidence of joint ownership of cars or other vehicles (title and/or car loan documentation listing both spouses)
Joint residency
  • Apartment lease showing both spouses listed as tenants of the apartment/house. The lease should be signed by both spouses. If the lease does not list both spouses or isn’t signed by both spouses, also provide a letter from the landlord indicating that both spouses live at the apartment/house and/or copies of rental receipts showing both spouses’ names
  • Joint utility bills (gas, electric, water, internet, etc.)
  • Driver’s license, state issued photo ID, or other photo identification cards for both spouses showing their shared residential address
Joint insurance policies
  • Life insurance policies where the other spouse is named as the beneficiary
  • Medical or health insurance policies that name the spouse as a member or beneficiary
Other joint accounts
  • Copies of other accounts listing both spouses, such as, cable, gym membership, etc. 
Money transfers
  • If a couple resides in different countries – proof of money transfers, gifts, joint expenses, etc.
Joint travel records
  • Flight itineraries
  • Hotel reservations, and 
  • Passport stamps
Evidence of communication
  • Texts messages
  • Electronic messaging (i.e., Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger, etc.)
  • Telephone records showing calls, 
  • Emails, letters, birthday and holiday cards, etc.
Social Media
  • Screenshots or printouts of social media posts, messages, or photos that depict your relationship
Personal photographs All personal photographs must be annotated and contain the following details: place, date, occasion, people depicted in each picture:

  • Wedding photographs
  • Photographs of the couple together with family and friends (throughout the whole relationship)
  • Photographs from birthday parties, holiday gatherings, social gatherings, religious celebrations
  • Joint vacation photographs
Emergency contact
  • Letter from employer or showing the spouse listed and/or designation of the spouse as the person to be notified in event of accident, sickness, or other emergency. 
Witness affidavits
  1. Affidavits from friends and family members having personal knowledge of the relationship. Each affidavit must contain the following information:
    • Full name and address of the person making the affidavit
    • Date and place of birth of the person making the affidavit; and
    • Complete information and details explaining how the person knows the couple and examples of when the person sees the couple together. The more detailed specific examples of how the person has seen the couple together and how the person knows that the couple is in a loving relationship, the stronger the affidavit will be
    • Affidavits must be notarized
  2. If couple attends church or religious meetings – a letter from the religious leader or other authorized employee of the religious organization attesting to their       join membership and/or active participation together and their personal knowledge of the spouses together as a couple

The checklist provided above is just a suggested list of documents that you can provide in support of your Form I-130 petition. 

Try to submit as many documents as possible. All monthly statements (such as joint bank statements, joint utility bills, etc.) must be provided on a month-by-month basis. 

Couples living in different countries will not be able to obtain some documents (such as joint tax returns or joint bank account statements). In such a case, other available documents must be provided.

Failure to provide sufficient documentation proving the bona fide marital relationship might result in USCIS issuing a Request for Evidence (RFE) or even denial of your Form I-130. 

The burden of proof is on the petitioner and beneficiary to prove that the marriage was entered in good faith.

Related Links:

Marriage Green Card – Checklist, Forms and Processing Time

How to Fill Out Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative – Step-By-Step Instructions

Form I-130A – How to Fill Out

Form I-130 Checklist of Required Documents