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Strategies For Filing a Successful Marriage Petition


Marriages today are very different than they were in the past. Married women often keep their maiden names. Couples keep separate finances, separate assets and, sometimes, separate homes. Although many couples benefit from these arrangements, the same arrangements can cause problems when petitioning to sponsor your spouse for legal permanent residency. Basically, too much independence in a marriage can lead the INS to assume that your marriage is not valid. Therefore, you should know which documents you must provide to show clear and convincing evidence that your marriage is valid. This can help you avoid problems at the adjustment of status or consular interview. It can also help when your spouse applies to have the conditional status of his or her permanent residency removed.

In addition to providing documentation when you file, you will also be required to provide documentation at the adjustment of status or consular interview. This documentation will prove that you have a personal and financial relationship with your spouse. It will show evidence of the life you are creating as a couple. Therefore, you should begin to collect this documentation long before you receive your appointment date for your interview. This documentation includes photographs of you with your spouse, proof of that you live together, proof that you own property together, joint bank/investment statements, joint tax returns, information on children born into the marriage, and even letters from organizations where you and your spouse are members and affidavits from family members and friends.

Photographs of you and your spouse together are very important. You should document your life with your spouse in photographs from the time you started dating, through your wedding day, and until your spouse is granted full permanent residency. Whether you have a big wedding or you elope, you must take pictures of your wedding day. Take pictures of you with your spouse, but also take pictures of the friends and family members who attended your wedding. These photographs really help to show the INS examiner that you did not marry each other only to obtain an immigration benefit. Photographs of you with your spouse in your daily lives together help show that you have a personal relationship with each other. Take photographs of yourselves with friends and family in different places and at different times. You should not provide photographs that are too personal or physically revealing, but you should provide photographs that clearly show you and your spouse as a couple.

Evidence that you and your spouse live together and share a household is also necessary to show that you have a personal relationship. You can document your shared household through mail addressed to the both of you. You should collect utility bills, notices from credit card and other service providers, bank and investment statements, and magazine and newspaper subscriptions that have both of your names listed above your address. If you rent your house or apartment, it is good if you can show a lease signed by the both of you. If you own your home, it helps to establish a valid (also called "bona vide") marriage if you can show that you own the property together.

You must also establish that a financial relationship exists between you and your spouse. You must show that your money and assets are shared. It is okay if you have some separate bank and investment accounts, but you should have at least one shared account. This account should be used to pay for expenses in your shared household. Of course, if you have share more accounts with your spouse, the evidence of your financial relationship will be even more convincing. If it is possible, you should also file joint tax returns. At the very least, your tax returns should list the same address for both of you. Other financial evidence includes a life insurance policy with your spouse listed as your beneficiary, a health insurance policy that shows your spouse as your dependent, and proof of shared loans or credit cards.

If you have children together, birth certificates showing that you and your spouse are the parents of those children are excellent proof that your marriage is valid. Photographs of you and your spouse with your children also add to the evidence.

While it is not necessary to have every document discussed above, the more that you have, the better. If you do not have many documents, you should try to provide letters from organizations, such as churches or clubs, where you and your spouse are members. You can also provide affidavits, which are sworn statements, from family members and friends that testify to the validity of your marriage.

When all your documentation is gathered, you still must go through an interview with an INS examiner. That examiner will check your documentation, and he or she will ask you questions about your spouse's habits and your life together. Therefore, as you document your life with your spouse, you should also pay attention to the details of that life-the color of your spouse's toothbrush, the time he or she wakes up in the morning, his or her favorite foods, where you store household items, etc.-so that you can answer the examiner's questions quickly, easily and honestly. As you wait for your appointment date, remember: complete documentation combined with attention to the important dates and details your life together will help you establish that your marriage to your spouse is for real.

About The Author

INSGreencard was founded by William Carroll and Ben Ferro. Messrs. Carroll and Ferro have over 61 years collective experience as senior officers in the US and abroad for the US Immigration and Naturalization Service. Mr. Carroll’s responsibilities included supervision as a Director of the Los Angeles, California and Washington, DC INS District Offices and Mr. Ferro was INS Director for all of Europe (including the former Soviet Union) and the Director of the INS Amnesty Program. They each retired from the INS as Directors in 1998 to join private industry and possess unique and valuable knowledge and credibility in the field of immigration. is an easy-to-use, easy-to-understand immigration website brought to you by two former directors of the INS. Visit INSGreencard for expert assistance, helpful explanations, quick answers, up-to-date news, INS info and forms, comprehensive glossary, useful links, and best of all, INSWizard. INSWizard, your online immigration solution, guides you step-by-step through INS applications and petitions. In minutes, you get:

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