Best Ways to Document a Bona Fide Marriage
If you have an immigration case which requires you to prove the validity of your martial relationship, there are lots of things you can do to show your relationship is legitimate.
From copies of leases to pictures with the in-laws, here is an extensive list of all the ways you can better document the authenticity of your relationship:
1. General Documentation
The most common forms of evidence spouses will submit are written statements, photo albums and birth certificates for any children of the marriage. Federal income tax statements showing the couple’s filing status as married (filing jointly or separately) may also be submitted. U.S. credit reports are recommended if you have lived together in the United States.
2. Home or Other Real Estate: Joint Ownership or Lease (Currently or in the Past)
If you have owned property together, you may have a number of relevant documents that would help support the existence of a bona fide marriage. The most important document, of course, would be the deed showing both owners’ names.
Other relevant documents may include:
- The purchase contract
- Closing papers
- Mortgage agreement
- Mortgage statements
- Property tax bills
- Home repair documents
- Utility bills
If you lease property together, the most important document would be the lease agreement showing each spouse’s name. Other helpful documents include:
• Rent receipts
• Utility bills (gas, electric, telephone, water, cable TV, internet, etc.)
• Repair records
• Correspondence between you and the landlord (if you have lost any documents, it may be worth checking whether the landlord still has them)
3. Joint Responsibility for Financial Liabilities
Evidence of joint purchases (e.g., receipts, invoices, layaway agreements, installment contracts, service contracts, warranty agreements, etc.) are also helpful supporting evidence. Documents may include:
- Credit or debit cards and statements
- Bank loans
- Wire transfers, bank transfers, or checks from one spouse to the other
If you have (or had) a bank or other financial account together, providing those records is also important. Some examples of financial accounts include: savings, checking, certificates of deposit, mutual funds, savings bonds, retirement (pension, 401(k), retirement, etc.) and other investment accounts.
If you have (or had) joint insurance, these records are important as well. Documentation may include bills or account statements from health, dental, disability, auto, life, home or renter’s insurance. If the documentation is extensive, you can provide a sample by submitting the first monthly bill for each year.
5. Engagement-related Documents
If you need to show documentation of your engagement, you can start by providing receipts from the expenses of an engagement party or a receipt from the engagement ring showing the purchaser’s name and the fiancée’s name. Other documentation could be a close-up photo of any engraving on the ring or a newspaper announcement of the engagement.
6. Wedding-related Documents
For wedding-related expenses, documentation could include receipts, evidence of deposits or correspondence with vendors. Ideally the documentation should specify the event with the names of the spouses. Examples of vendors may include the church, reception hall or restaurant; the clergy or other MC for the ceremony; wedding gown and groom’s suit; caterers, cake, flowers, candles or religious items; videographer or photographer; limo driver; or wedding band.
7. Travel Together
Evidence that you have traveled together or that one of you has traveled to visit the other’s home is also convincing evidence. Documentation would include:
- Air, train, rental car, or bus tickets;
- Hotel reservations and bills; and
- Passports showing that you traveled together internationally at the same time (or showing that one traveled to the other’s country before you lived together).
8. Legal Records
Any legal document such as a will, trust, power of attorney, etc. is also helpful documentation to submit.
9. Communications History
Communication between the couple (e.g., an email from one spouse to the other) can also be submitted as supporting evidence of the marriage. Records of communication that may be helpful are:
- Letters and cards (with envelopes, if possible)
- Cell phone short messages (SMS)
- Messages on social media
- Phone records showing that you call each other often
If each of you still haven’t met your respective in-laws, it’s good to make the effort. It’s best to meet them in person and keep photos for your album. Also, consider communicating by mail or via the web so you can document your communications.
If there are a lot of any type of communications between you, select about 10 to 15 that span the length of your relationship and that contain the most persuasive evidence of the validity of your relationship.
Here are some other ideas of documentation that may be helpful for some couples:
- Pre-marital or marriage counseling: Some couples will seek counseling before and/or after the marriage with a therapist, social worker or psychologist. You can submit to the government related evidence, such as the counselor’s bills and copies of any “homework” the counselor may have you do. Evidence that you have invested time, money and effort in counseling tends to be strong evidence of the validity of the marriage.
- Religious records evidencing the marriage, such as:
- Correspondence or other records showing that you both are members of the same religious institution
- Baptismal records for children
- Confirmation certificates for children
- Personnel records from your current and/or former employers naming the other spouse as the emergency contact or as the beneficiary of insurance
- Examples of other documents that together may show a shared address, home phone number, family name (if the wife has taken the husband’s family name), or spousal relationship include:
- Driver’s license or state ID
- Social Security card
- Employee ID card
- Credit Card
- Club membership card
- Business card
- Children’s school records (e.g., transcripts, school registration forms, authorization forms for school field trips, etc.)
Here at Berardi Immigration Law, we file dozens of marriage-based green cards each year. If you are interested in applying for a marriage-based green card or have questions on the process, please contact our office to schedule a consultation with one of our knowledgeable attorneys today!