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Family Law Blog


Marriage and the Road to U.S. Lawful Permanent Residency

June 26th, 2015
Gabriel Moreno

With marriage being the topic of discussion, it only seems appropriate to discuss marriage from an immigration standpoint. As to same-sex marriage, most arguments against it could have been applied to heterosexual marriage. The legalization of same sex marriage was the reasonable and logical conclusion to be determined by the majority of the Supreme Court of the United States. End rant.

In immigration, in order to obtain a U.S. lawful permanent resident based on marriage, a married couple must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that their marriage is bona fide. In other words, the marriage which was entered into by two people had to have been intended from the start to establish a future together.

As long as the marriage is legally valid in the country where the marriage occurred, for U.S. immigration purposes, the marriage will be held to be legally valid in the U.S. This applies to same-sex marriages as well. With the Supreme Court’s decision today, that means the same-sex marriages in any states in the U.S. will be held as legally valid.

Once a couple has entered into a legally valid marriage, the couple must prove the marriage to be bona fide. Marriages entered into for immigration purposes, solely, such as to not get deported, are of course not bona fide. Immigration will find these types of marriages as fraudulent and will bar the beneficiary from obtaining the relief sought.

If a couple has entered into a fraudulent or “sham” marriage, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will find out by their various tactics. They investigate each petition with a high level of diligence as it is their belief that a majority of petitions are filed for fraudulent reasons.

The burden is on the petitioner and beneficiary to establish with proof that the marriage entered into by the two is real—a couple must keep it real at all times until immigration grants the petition.

What about when the marriage is entered legally valid and the sponsoring petitioner was under the belief that the marriage was real, but things happens as such that the sponsoring petitioner comes to find that the beneficiary is a liar. Well, simply put, once the sponsor finds the fraud, it is their duty to contact immigration to revoke the petition.

It is necessary, for a married couple to take the steps that anyone entering into a marriages takes. Living together, sharing finances, adding a beneficiary to insurance policies (auto, health, retirement, etc.); join a gym or a club together; join a video rental store (if those still exist in your area); and take pictures to name a few of the things to do.

As your relationship and petition are investigated, more evidence may be requested from you so make sure to document as much as possible from your marriage. Facebook notes to each other; holiday and anniversary cards; e-mails; and trip receipts (don’t forget to take pictures of your trips) that show your relationship are other ways. When coming up with evidence, it is essential to think about the various ways to show that you have valid bona fide marriage. Think inside and outside of the box.

Furthermore, in a bona fide marriage, spouses know things about each other, personal things, likes and dislikes; beliefs; goals; names of family members; schools attended; birthdays; ring sizes; favorite books; movies; music; philosophies; how the spouse likes their coffee; where did you meet; what do like about each other; do you finish each other’s sandwiches; what do you both do for fun; what television show do you watch together, etc. This is all preparation for the in person interview that will eventually occur. Immigration has a plethora, a laundry list questions that they will likely ask each of you. Make a game of it as to find out more about each other.

Make sure to consult an attorney as to the process as it can become difficult if going at it alone. From paperwork to filling out forms, an attorney can help.