Proving Your Same-Sex Marriage is Bona Fide

After the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was struck down, many same sex couples comprised of U.S. citizens and immigrants have begun to consider green cards through marriage. Immigration laws are the same all over the USA, and same sex couples are already being interviewed by USCIS immigration officers, and petitions for same sex marriage green cards are being approved every day in the United States. Many people wonder if there are any differences in the immigration process for same sex married couples, especially involving the interview. Although there is no difference, sometimes different evidence may be needed so that a same sex couple may provide “proof of marriage” during an adjustment of status in the immigration process. Depending on the circumstances, proving that a same sex couple lives together in a bona fide marriage may be a bit more difficult in some gay marriage cases.

What is a “Bona Fide” Marriage?

When two people get married and intend to establish a life together as spouses, the marriage is bona fide. A marriage entered into for the sole purpose of getting a green card is not bona fide. It’s called a “sham” or “fraudulent” marriage, and the USCIS tries to uncover these fake marriages and will refuse to issue green cards. The USCIS is very strict in determining whether a marriage is bona fide. The USCIS will ask many questions during the course of your application process and will demand extensive documentation to show that you are establishing a life together. Sometimes it is more complicated to prove that a gay married couple lives together in a bona fide marital relationship.

If you have any questions or concerns about whether your marriage will be questioned by immigration officials when you apply for a U.S. green card, feel free to contact our immigration and green card attorneys in Los Angeles.

With Marriage-Based Green Cards, it is important to keep evidence of the dating history.

Joint account statements are a great way to show that you are both committed to the relationship and that you both share financial assets and other accounts. It is best to show accounts that list both names with the same address on them. In this situation, quantity is important, and the more accounts held jointly in both names the better to show an established relationship.

What if my same-sex spouse is not involved in financial matters or lacks a Social Security Number or ITIN?

Immigration Officers are familiar with this dilemma but still expect gay married couples to provide them with proof of at least some joint accounts. Although shared financial accounts carry more weight because they are more “serious,” some related accounts are possible without much shared financial burden, such as gas station credit card accounts, rewards/rebate cards at local stores, or shared accounts with vendors, utilities, or service providers. Other evidence of joint ventures can be used as well. Consider whether you may have a joint rental agreement, joint museum, zoo, or national park membership, Netflix account or magazine subscription in both names. Any of these could be readily obtained, and none require a Social Security Number or ITIN.

How can I show a shared life history for immigration, including family and friends?

Regardless of whether your marriage is a same sex or opposite sex marriage, there is an expectation that you and your spouse both have families and friends who are involved in your lives. Often, the immigration officer will want to see that the same sex couple had interactions with the in-laws or extended family members. Usually, this is demonstrated through submitting photographs taken at the wedding, holidays, family gatherings, or other special events and outings. It is imperative that you illustrate that you and your spouse share your lives, and have done so over time as a couple. You should gather as many photos taken together, as well as photos taken with each other’s family or close friends, and also of significant shared moments.

What if family members have not been part of our gay married life together?

Unfortunately, sometimes showing family involvement is not possible if family members are in a different country or if there is conflict within the family. You or your spouse can still provide a concise explanation of why your family was not involved. Immigration officers have seen many couples with many types of family backgrounds and histories. They will understand if there is a lack of interaction or involvement with family members, but usually people will have “family alternatives” or other close friends who have active roles in your shared lives as a couple.

Our LGBT friendly immigration attorneys are ready to advise you on how best to document that your marriage is bona fide. We can guide you to obtain and organize your records to ensure your success in the immigration interview process. Call or email for your free and friendly initial consultation.