Top 11 Ways to Prove a Valid Marriage for Immigration

Do you have an immigration case which will require you to prove the validity of your marital relationship to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services or to a U.S. Consulate? For example, are you seeking to (a) immigrate based on a spouse’s Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, (b) get a K-1 visa based on a fiance’s Form I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiance, or (c) file a Form I-751, Petition to Remove the Conditions on Residence? This article describes 11 things you can do to better document your relationship.

To qualify for a visa on the basis of marriage, it is important to prove that the marriage was entered into in “good faith” and not for the purpose of circumventing immigration laws. Similarly, to qualify for a K-1 fiancée visa, you need to prove an intent to enter into a good faith marriage.

Federal immigration agencies look at the “totality of the evidence” to determine if they are persuaded that the marriage (or, in the case of K-1 fiancees, the intended marriage) is valid rather than entered into solely for immigration purposes. Some evidence is particularly persuasive: for example, evidence that the couple has children together and owns real estate jointly.

Federal immigration authorities consider that some factors may indicate a sham marriage. For example:

  • Large disparity of age;
  • Inability of petitioner and beneficiary to speak each other’s language;
  • Vast difference in cultural and ethnic background;
  • Family and/or friends unaware of the marriage;
  • Marriage arranged by a third party;
  • Marriage contracted immediately following the beneficiary’s apprehension or receipt of notification to depart the United States;
  • Discrepancies in statements on questions for which a husband and wife should have common knowledge;
  • No cohabitation since marriage;
  • Beneficiary is a friend of the family; and
  • Petitioner has filed previous petitions in behalf of aliens, especially prior alien spouses.

Where such red flags exist, more persuasive evidence of the validity of the marriage will need to be submitted.

Submit copies of as many documents as you wish to establish this fact and to demonstrate the circumstances of the relationship from the date of the marriage to the present date. The list of documents below is illustrative, so feel free to provide other persuasive evidence.

Machine generated alternative text:

1. Most Common Evidence

  1. Written statement by the petitioner regarding the validity of the marriage
  2. Photo Album documenting the history of the relationship
  3. Federal income taxes showing your filing status as married (filing jointly or separately)
  4. Birth certificate for child born of the marriage.
  5. U.S. credit report: If you have lived together in the U.S., get copies of both of your credit reports.
  6. Register a joint overseas trip or residence with the U.S. Department of State’s “Travel Registration” System: This system tracks U.S. citizens who are traveling or living overseas. Registration allows citizens to record info about their trip abroad so that the State Dep’t can assist in an emergency. You can record info about each person traveling or living overseas with you. You also have the option to list your fiancée/spouse as your emergency contact. Save the confirmation for your records. Also, keep your user name and password in a safe place so that you can access the site again in the future.



2. Home or Other Real Estate: Joint Ownership or Lease (Currently or in the Past)

If you have owned property together, please provide any of the following documents you have. The key document would be the deed showing both owners’ names. Other relevant documents may include the purchase contract, closing papers, mortgage agreement, mortgage account statements, property tax bills, home repair documents, and utility bills.

If you leased property together, the key document would be the lease agreement. Other relevant documents may include rent receipts, utility bills (gas, electric, telephone, water, cable TV, internet, etc.), repair records, and correspondence between you and the landlord. (If you have lost your documents, it may be worth checking whether the landlord still has them.)


  • For cases where USCIS will interview both spouses, it’s important to both bring your key chains with matching house (and apartment security cards, if any) keys to the interview.
  • If you rent a home together, but the lease only has one of your names, you may be able to ask the landlord for an amended lease.
  • Before a U.S. citizen adds a nonresident alien spouse as a joint tenant to a deed, it may be wise to seek tax advice. This may be considered a gift subject to federal tax, although there is a $134,000 exemption (2010) for nonresident alien spouses.


3. Joint Responsibility for Financial Liabilities

Any documents showing you have purchased things together (e.g., vehicles, home appliances), taken on debt together, or transferred funds from one to the other. Examples include:

  1. Evidence of joint purchases (e.g., receipts, invoices, lay away agreements, installment contracts, service contracts, warranty agreements)
  2. Credit cards and credit card statements
  3. Debit cards
  4. Bank loans
  5. Wire transfers, bank transfers, or checks from one spouse to the other


4. Joint Ownership of Assets

If you have (or had) a bank or other financial account together, provide the records–from the account opening records (e.g., application) to the current account statement. If the account statements are voluminous, provide a representative sample of about 10 records (e.g., if you have had an account for 10 years, provide the first monthly statement for each year).

Some examples of financial accounts include: savings, checking, certificates of deposit, mutual funds, savings bonds, retirement (pension, 401(k), retirement, etc.), other investment accounts.

Machine generated alternative text:

5. Insurance

If you have (or had) joint insurance, provide the records. This may include the account opening records (e.g., application, quote, enrolment form), policy, and bills/account statements. If the bills/account statements are voluminous, provide a representative sample of about 10 records (e.g., if you have had an account for 10 years, provide the first monthly bill/account statement for each year).

Some examples of insurance include: health, dental, disability, auto, life, home, and renter’s insurance.


Machine generated alternative text: iII

6. Engagement-Related Documents

Examples include:

  1. receipts for expenses related to the engagement party: Ideally the receipt should specify the event (e.g., “Flowers for the engagement party of Steve SMITH and WANG Hong”)
  2. engagement ring: Receipt showing the purchaser’s name and the fiancée’s name; close-up photo of any engraving on the ring
  3. newspaper announcement of the engagement

Machine generated alternative text:

7. Wedding-Related Documents

Examples include:

  1. Documentation of wedding-related expenses. The documents could include receipts, evidence of deposits, or correspondence with vendors. Ideally the documentation should specify the event (e.g., “Flowers for the wedding of Steve SMITH and WANG Hong”). 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, religious items; videographer or photographer; limo driver; wedding band.
  2. Sign-in book or scroll: Ask wedding guests to sign their names and write a special message for the bride and groom.

Wedding video: Consider making

a written transcript of parts from the video of the ceremony discussing your relationship (e.g., someone talking about how you met or how much you have in common).

  1. If you are planning your wedding and will have a videographer, have the videographer do brief “interviews” of the guests, asking questions like: How do you know the bride and groom? What do you think they have in common? Tell me about something you’ve done with the bride and groom together? Then make a transcript.
  2. Wedding rings: Receipt showing the couple’s names; close-up photo of any engraving on the ring.
  3. Guest list
  4. Wedding items with the couple’s names: E.g., wedding invitations, wedding program, dinner menu, napkins, thank you letters, religious wedding certificate or Jewish ketubah
  5. Newspaper announcement of the wedding


Machine generated alternative text:

8. Travel Together

Provide evidence of travel together, including evidence that one of you has traveled to the other’s home before you lived together. Examples of evidence include:

  1. air, train, rental car, or bus tickets, reservations, and boarding passes;
  2. hotel reservations and bills; and
  3. passports (or Hong Kong travel permit) showing that you traveled together internationally at the same time (or showing that one traveled to the other’s country before you lived together).

Tip: If a U.S. petitioner will be in China at the time of the applicant’s appointment at the U.S. Consulate, the applicant can prove this by bringing the petitioner’s original passport to the appointment.


Machine generated alternative text:

9. Legal Records

Examples include:

  1. wills, trusts, power of attorney, contracts, papers from a lawsuit naming both of you
  2. any non-U.S. visa application by one spouse listing the other’s name
  3. prenuptial agreement or post-marital agreement
  4. U.S. Department of Homeland Security change of address forms (e.g., Form AR-11, Change of Address; or Form I-865, Sponsor’s Change of Address)



10. Communications History

These could be communications between the couple (e.g., an email from one spouse to the other), from one spouse to a third party regarding the other spouse (e.g., an email from the husband to a friend discussing what the husband and wife did during Spring Festival), or from a third party to one spouse that mentions the other spouse (e.g., a cousin’s Christmas card to the husband that also mentions the wife).

Records of many types of communication could be helpful:

  1. letters and cards (with envelopes, if possible)
  2. cell phone short messages (SMS)
  3. emails
  4. instant messages (QQ, Skype, etc.). If your username is an alias (not your real name), then edit your profile to include your name and/or photo and give our firm a copy.
  5. messages on social media (e.g., Facebook or Sina Weibo or Tencent Weixin)
  6. phone records showing that you call each other often. Ideal phone records will show the customer’s name and phone number as well as the length of each call and the other party’s phone number. For example:
    • sells Skype Out, a service that allows calling from a PC to a phone. Phone records can be printed for the most recent 6 months. (Click on View > History).
    • China Mobile’s GoTone customers can print out the latest 5 months of phone records at a China Mobile service center.
    • Calling cards are not helpful.


  • If each of you still haven’t met your respective in-laws, make the effort. It’s best to meet them in person and keep photos for your album. Also, consider communicating by mail (e.g., try sending a birthday card or Christmas card with a detailed personal note) or via the web (email or instant message or social media) so you can document your communications.
  • For all communications, make sure they don’t include any information about illegal or improper conduct or private details that you don’t want to share with the government.
  • If there are a lot of any type of communications between you (e.g., letters, SMS, emails, etc.), select about 10-15 that span the length of your relationship and that contain the most persuasive evidence of the validity of your relationship.
  • If you have a lot of emails, you can also print out a list of the emails between the two of you. Here are instructions for Microsoft Outlook users:
    1. Search all folders for your partner’s email address(es). This should give you a list of all emails between you.
    2. Look at the headings for that list. Make sure you see “from,” “to”, “subject”, and “received” (i.e.,date/time). If you don’t see all those headings, put your cursor over the heading row, right click, select “Field Chooser” and add the missing fields.
    3. On the top menu, choose File > Print. Under “Settings,” choose “Table Style”. Then “Print”.

11. Miscellaneous Documents

  1. Pre-marital or marriage counseling: Some couples will seek counseling before and/or after the marriage with a therapist, social worker, or psychologist. The goals of couple’s counseling include, for example, improving communication, dealing with conflicts, and getting the most out of your relationship. Counseling may be especially helpful for cross-cultural couples, interfaith couples, interracial couples, or couples where one or both is an immigrant. 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.
  2. Religious records that 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
  3. Personnel records from your current and/or former employers naming the other spouse as the emergency contact or as the beneficiary of insurance
  4. Some funny things our clients have done:
    • Tattoo with your significant other’s name. Even better, get pictures taken in the tattoo parlor as it’s being made.
    • Skywriting message for your significant other
  5. 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
    • China foreigner residence registration reference card
    • Library card
    • Student ID card
    • China household register
    • Letters (with envelopes or courier way bills, if available)
    • Hospital, medical, or dental records or bills
    • PRC “birth control certificate” (准生证) naming both spouses
    • An obituary in the newspaper for a friend or relative that refers to you as a couple.
    • Proof you participate together in any clubs or organizations
    • Children’s school records (e.g., transcripts, school registration forms, authorization forms for school field trips, etc.)

Thanks to Jacqueline Lentini McCullough for assistance with an earlier version of this article.  





37 responses to “Top 11 Ways to Prove a Valid Marriage for Immigration”

  1. […] The evidence will be similar to what heterosexual spouses submit. See Top 10 List: How to Document Your Valid Relationship for Immigration Purposes. […]

  2. […] many ways, the evidence needed will be similar to what heterosexual couples submit. See Top 10 List: How to Document Your Valid Relationship for Immigration Purposes. But, unfortunately, some same-sex petitioners and beneficiaries may have not disclosed their […]

  3. REY ANDREW Avatar

    Hi Gary,

    I am a US citizen in the Philippines and have been living here for 4 years now. My question is my wife, of only a month, is currently working in Singapore as a nurse and I would like to petition her. What are the chances that she could be denied? Or is it even possible? The timeline of our relationship is like this: We lived in for 11 months as boyfriend and girlfriend, then I proposed, after that she went to Singapore to work. We have been apart for 6 months but engaged for 8 months this June 2014. Then she comes back to the Philippines after 6 months (June 2014) and we get married (we have been going back and forth between Singapore and Philippines to visit each other). After that she left again for Singapore and I filed the I130 first week of July.


    1. Gary Chodorow Avatar


      The fact that you live apart from your wife will be noticed by USCIS. It’s a potential red flag, but there are legitimate reasons why real couples live apart. So do a good job proving the validity of the marriage. I hope this list is helpful.

  4. Michael Avatar

    I’m 25 years old, and my fianceé is 41 years old. We have been in a relationship for 2 years and engaged for a year. I want after a year being married file a petition for her to get a green card. Will there be issues due to the age difference?

    1. Gary Chodorow Avatar

      Michael: In many cultures, it’s not uncommon for a husband to be 15 years older than his wife. So the age disparity may not be a serious red flag.

  5. Fern Avatar

    Hi Gary,

    My boyfriend and I graduated college and want to move in together and get married. At the moment, we don’t want to invest so much money into a wedding ceremony we want to get married by the court and have a low key reception for family and friends. Will this approach be a problem to prove a bona-fide marriage because we didn’t have a lavish wedding? We obviously love each other and plan to have a lasting future together.

    1. Gary Chodorow Avatar

      Fern: America is the home of drive-in movies, drive-through fast-food restaurants, and drive-by shootings. So of course drive-in weddings in Las Vegas officiated by an Elvis look-alike are OK too. More seriously, federal law doesn’t mandate that you have a lavish ceremony. All you need is to prove a valid relationship. So even if you get married in city ahll with no guests present, you can rely on other evidence of your valid relationship. It’s the totality of the evidence that counts.

  6. Martin Avatar

    Hi Gary.

    This article is very informative and made it easier for me to prepare for the documents my wife and I will submit.

    I do have a question. My wife and I got married in April and we are now gathering paperworks as evidence of our marriage. She is living with me and is not working because we have yet to submit for her Social.

    I am currently filing my Federal Income Tax as Single and would want to switch to a married status. She does not have a Social nor does she have an ITIN. How will I go about filing change of status (from single to married) for my FIT? I want the papers to reflect as Married. Also, with our case that she is not yet working and being taxed, do I submit a married-filing separately status?

    Thank you!

    1. Gary Chodorow Avatar

      That’s a good question for your tax adviser.

  7. […] Top 10 List: How to Document Your Valid Relationship for Immigration Purposes (Oct. 8, 2009), . […]

  8. Nesha Jagdeen Avatar
    Nesha Jagdeen

    I have a question. My husband lives in Miami, 2 hours away from me, and we see each other every month. Will this be an issue? Do we have to move in together to prove a valid relationship?

    1. Gary Chodorow Avatar


      Yes, this will be an issue. As mentioned above, immigration authorities see lack of cohabitation (i.e., spouses not living together) as a potential sign of lack of good faith marriage. Be prepared to be questioned about why. Still, there is no requirement that spouses cohabitate. In modern America, it’s not uncommon for spouses to be separated for some period because of conflicting demands of school, higher education, and caring for relatives. The legal requirement is that the “totality of the evidence” must persuade the immigration authorities that the marriage was entered into in “good faith” and not for the purpose of circumventing immigration laws. So make an extra effort to provide persuasive evidence that your marriage was entered into in good faith.

  9. MS Avatar


    I am a non immigrant on OPT and getting married to my fiancee who is a U.S. citizen. I have been living with her since a year. I want to know whether the USCIS will perform a background check on my Facebook and judge me based on my social media history such as messages, emails, etc. As a former college student, I have had my fun share of blogging and publishing opinions and experiences on social media that I haven’t been afraid to hide. I want to know whether the background check on my Facebook, emails, or other social media will affect me being approved of a green card status? Thanks in advance.

  10. R Hixson Avatar
    R Hixson

    We received an RFE at interview for more bone fide marriage proof, but this has been a nightmare. The landlord won’t add me to the lease without a green card. The utilities won’t put my names on the bills because I’m not on the lease. And the bank won’t add me to the account without a utility bill as proof of address.

    This is the evidence we have, but no idea if it’s enough:

    Screen Shot on Veterans Affairs e-benefits site showing me as spouse (in pending status due to lack of SSN)
    Letters from SSA showing we attempted to apply for SSN
    Screenshots from utility companies on headed paper showing me as a spouse
    Joint car insurance
    Joint renters insurance
    Letter from landlord stating why they can’t add me to lease
    Receipts for engagement and wedding rings
    Other gift receipts
    Letters of attestation from us both

    We have no idea if this is enough and we are both so stressed.

    1. Gary Chodorow Avatar

      R. Hixson: As mentioned above, the bona fide marriage has to be proven by the totality of the evidence, taking into account evidence you submit plus any negative factors indicating that your marriage may not be bona fide (e.g., large age difference, inability to speak each others’ languages, etc.). Unfortunately, the comments section for this blog can only provide general legal information, not specific legal advice. You mention that you’re stressed out and that this case has been a nightmare. You may find that it can give you valuable peace of mind to consult with our law firm or another qualified immigration attorney, who can review your evidence, learn additional facts such as any negative factors, and advise you on any further steps that should be taken.

  11. Cherry Avatar

    My US citizen husband had previously been married to another alien whom he had petitioned but got divorced after 9 years. We got married right after his divorce. Will this post a big problem in his I-130 petition for me?

    1. Gary Chodorow Avatar


      As mentioned above, if the petitioner previously has filed an I-130 on behalf of a former spouse, the USCIS often sees that as a red flag requiring further inquiry. The question is whether that marriage was valid, i.e., the parties intended at the time of the marriage to share a life rather than marrying solely for immigration purposes. Evidence of a valid marriage would include a long period of cohabitation, children together, commingled finances, etc. An attorney would inquire about the facts and about available evidence in order to be ready for related questions from USCIS.

      Of course, the immigration law does not require “perfect” marriages, so the law leaves room for the possibility that a petitioner whose prior marriage was valid but ended in divorce can then file an I-130 for a second spouse.

  12. Sam Avatar

    Hi Gary,

    First off, thank you for the wealth of information you have provided on your site.

    I am a US PR, and my fiance lives and works in Canada. We plan on having a civil marriage in Canada soon, with a traditional ceremony and reception in September.

    Since my fiance is unable to find a job in the US, he will have to live in Canada until the visa application is approved. I suppose this is sort of a catch-22 as I will remain in the US while the file is being processed, and he will be living and working in Canada. Would this be a major red flag or something we could have the opportunity to explain.

    1. Gary Chodorow Avatar


      It’s common and unremarkable–not a red flag–that an LPR petitioner lives in the U.S. while her spouse waits abroad for an immigrant visa to become immediately available.

  13. Brian J Avatar
    Brian J

    Hi Gary,

    This site has been very helpful. I’m in a tough spot and have been given conflicting advice.

    I’m from New Zealand and wish to marry my fiance who is a US citizen. We have none of the ‘proof’ that is commonly recommended because we don’t really see a ‘marriage’ like it’s described here. We love each other and want to spend out lives together but haven’t got to the step of combining accounts etc.

    We both dislike photos so we don’t take them also but we are in a relationship which I have gone to all her family things and holiday events.

    We pass all the requirements but are worried we will get stuck in this archaic ‘proof’ measure. Can we get video affidavits of family and friends regarding out relationship?

    In your experience have you found the USCIS will look at these things with common sense? It seems more convoluted to concoct ‘evidence’ of a relationship with a paper trail that doesn’t really apply in modern society.

    1. Gary Chodorow Avatar

      Brian: Often it is problematic getting videos past security at government buildings, and often immigration officers won’t take the time to see the videos. But you can take video declarations and then submit to the government transcripts of those videos.

  14. J.Reddy Avatar

    Hi Gary,

    Thank you for getting all this usefull information collected at one place.

    I am in US on H1 visa. My wife just applied for an H4 visa in India. The consular officer issued a 221(g) notice stating, “Please provide any proof of relationship that will convince the consular officer that this marriage is genuine and not entered into solely for immigration purposes.”

    As background, I met my wife 4 years ago. She was in the US on a visitor visa at that time. We dated for 2-3 months and got married here in US (court marriage and traditional ceremony with 100 guests). We applied for her change of status to H4, and she was approved without any issues. Subsequently, I have renewed my H1 and her H4 3 times.

    Ours is a genuine marriage, and we have lived together since we get married. We also have a joint apartment lease together, bank account, and tax returns.

    My wife is applying for the H4 visa now because it’s the first time she’s been back to India since our marriage.

    What documents should we submit? Do we need to prepare a cover letter too?

    1. Gary Chodorow Avatar

      J. Reddy:

      Your first question is what documents you should submit. Generally speaking, the bona fide marriage has to be proven by the totality of the evidence. So you should consider which evidence you can gather which is (a) most persuasive and (b) least burdensome to gather. Some people would also think about which evidence is least invasive of their privacy. In addition, think about whether there are any negative factors indicating that your marriage may not be bona fide (e.g., large age difference, inability to speak each others’ languages, non-traditional courtship, etc.). If there are any such factors, think about what evidence you can submit to explain away the negative factors.

      Your second question is whether you should prepare a cover letter. A cover letter can sometimes be helpful. For example, if there is something nonobvious about the evidence, you can clarify to make it easier for the officer to understand. And if the evidence is bulky, you can give the officer a quick summary.

  15. Ratt Avatar

    Hi Gary,
    First I’d like to thank you for the very usefull and detailed information.

    I’m a US citizen living with my parents in US and I’m their dependent (unemployed). My wife is living in Russia. I travelled there many times with my parents’ financial assistance, and finally we got married there a few months ago.

    I’d like to file an I-130 petition for my wife. My parents will be my sponsors in the Form I-864, Affidavit of Support. I do not have any medical insurance. I spend several months outside the US, and I think I do not need it. Are these circumstances can be viewed by USCIS as the “red flags” for proving a valid marriage in our case?

    1. Gary Chodorow Avatar


      To summarize the facts, you’re a currently unemployed newlywed who just filed an I-130 for his wife who lives abroad. Based solely on the facts you’ve mentioned, I don’t see any of the “red flags” related to valid marriage, as listed above. In particular, since you’ve just married and your wife is abroad, it’s not unusual that you don’t yet live together.

      For information about the affidavit of support, see this article.

      On a separate note, as you may know, some persons are subject to a tax penalty for failure to obtain health care coverage. To find out whether, as you suspect, you are exempt from the requirement to maintain health care coverage based on the amount of time you spend abroad, see the IRS website here (Question 12). For persons with low income, there are certain exemptions from the penalty and certain types of financial assistance to obtain coverage, discussed here.

  16. Mickey Avatar

    Hello there. Great post. Really helpful.

    Alas, since the lives of me and my future husband are in the hands of strangers that will judge us based on one interview, I have a few questions that I’d love to get answers for.

    I have been in long distance, same-sex relationship since April, 2011. Last winter he visited me in my country and stayed here for a week. We have some pictures; not a lot of them but some. We talk pretty much every day via Skype, sometimes calls, mostly IMs. During hard times he sent me financial help through PayPal.

    I am wondering if the photos, the airplane ticket, the PayPal transfers, Skype communication are enough to convince embassy that me and him are genuinely in love and simply want to live together. We are planning to have the marriage done by my boyfriend’s grandmother, so would a letter from her, stating that she intends to lead the marriage be helpful?

    We do not yet share bank accounts, and my family does not know about my intent to marry because of their views on LGBT relationships.

    I am really scared that they will deny me the possibility of living with the love of my life solely on lack of enough evidence…. or out of LGBT discrimination. What are the chance of either of those happening?

    1. Gary Chodorow Avatar

      Mickey: The decision immigration authorities must make is whether the “totality of the evidence” shows the relationship is bona fide. I couldn’t possibly comment on your caset, given that I haven’t seen any of the evidence you’ve gathered and I’m not aware of whether there may be any red flags indicating the relationship may not be valid. But I totally understand your concern that you want to have a strong case that will pass government scrutiny. To get that peace of mind, you may want to schedule a consultation with a qualified immigration lawyer who can review the evidence and then tell you his or her professional judgment. Also, if your evidence isn’t yet bullet proof, then consider gathering additional evidence. How about a written declaration by the U.S. citizen petitioner? And to make up for the fact that your family doesn’t know about the relationship, how about you meet with a member of his family (e.g., his grandmother, who will perform the wedding ceremony) by Skype, get to know them, and then have them write a declaration confirming what they know about the relationship and you?

  17. Julia Avatar

    I have a question. My fiance is in jail. I actually met him while he was in jail. Obviously we don’t have a car or a house together or anything like that, the proof that we have is letters that we have sent to each other, records of when I have been visiting him, pictures and things like that. So I am wondering if this will lower my chances of getting a green card or if it is even possible at all?

    1. Gary Chodorow Avatar


      Great question. I understand that in Turner v. Safley (1987) the Supreme Court determined prisoners have a fundamental right to marry. Since you and your fiancé’s courtship has been limited to the period he’s been in prison, you can expect that USCIS will look closely at the evidence of the validity of the marriage. A competent immigration attorney can guide you on that.

  18. Richard Tedrick Avatar
    Richard Tedrick


    Thank you for the post. It has been very helpful for my wife and I as we go through the visa arduous visa process for her. The wealth of information here has put our minds at ease.

    My next question is, what types of questions will the officer ask during the interview?

    1. Gary Chodorow Avatar

      Richard: Glad you found this article helpful. For clients we represent, we do outline the topics and questions we think the officer may ask about during the interview. Those vary depending on the facts of the case. That may be the subject of a future blog post….

  19. Raj P Avatar
    Raj P

    Hi Gary,
    First off, I want to thank you for this helpful article.

    I just received a request for evidence (RFE) from USCIS saying that I haven’t submitted sufficient evidence to establish that my spouse and I entered in good faith and continue to share a life togehter.

    The RFE asks for items we don’t have, like:
    -joint health insurance
    -children’s birth certificates
    -joint tax returns

    What can we do?

    1. Gary Chodorow Avatar

      Raj P,

      Thanks for your question about the art and science of responding to a USCIS request for evidence (RFE). Under the law, the parties in most such cases must show through the totality of the evidence that it is more likely than not that the couple has a valid marriage (i.e., one that is not a sham entered into merely for purposes of securing an immigration benefit). As a result, your inability to provide any specific document requested isn’t critical; in other words, the other evidence may still together prove the validity of the marriage. While I can’t give specific advice about your case through this blog, our general approach is to see what additional valid marriage evidence the clients have, even if not specifically listed in the RFE. We’ll also see what additional evidence can be created, such as third party declarations about the validity of the marriage. We try to make our best judgment as to whether the already submitted evidence and the additional evidence will meet the legal standard. We will also explain to USCIS why were aren’t submitting some of the items listed in the RFE. Finally, in some cases we will include a legal brief explaining why the evidence meets the legal standard.

  20. […] doesn’t have a long-term visa, or just moved abroad. Also be prepared to prove it’s a valid marriage by submitting a photo album, evidence of children born of the marriage, evidence of commingled […]

  21. […] One caveat to the rule of lex loci celebrationis , not discussed here, is that the Immigration and Nationality Act does not recognize marriages entered into solely for purposes of qualifying for a visa, meaning marriages that are not entered into by the couple in good faith for purposes of making a life together. See Top 11 Ways to Prove a Valid Marriage for Immigration. […]