Petition by Spouse

A lawful permanent resident may file a Petition for Alien Relative (Form I-130) on behalf of their legal spouse.  The lawful permanent resident is the petitioner, and the alien spouse is the beneficiary. The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) scrutinizes all petitions for alien relatives, but they more strictly scrutinize petitions filed by spouses to weed out fraudulent marriages. A fraudulent marriage is one which was entered by the parties for the precise purpose of migrating to the United States and not for the purpose of establishing conjugal or domestic life together.


How will the USCIS scrutinize petitions for alien relatives?

They will carefully go over the documents submitted, looking for discrepancies and inconsistencies. They will also call the spouses for interview and they will interview them separately.  This is called the marriage fraud interview.


Which marriages are treated by the USCIS as suspicious?

Analyzing the decisions of the USCIS, clearly, the USCIS holds as suspicious marriages where the spouses have not lived together; where the spouses have a wide age gap especially when the wife is much older than the husband; where the spouses are of different races; where the spouses belong to certain targeted nationalities.


What must be proved?

To obtain approval of the petition, the lawful permanent resident must prove that the marriage to the beneficiary (spouse) is valid and legal; and that the marriage is bona fide or genuine. The petitioner must show that they did not marry simply to benefit from migration policies allowing spouses to migrate.


How can I prove that my marriage is valid and legal?

The petitioner and the beneficiary must show that their marriage was valid in the country where it was celebrated; that is, that they possess all the qualifications for eligibility to marry and none of the disqualifications for marriage. The petitioner and the beneficiary must show also that the celebration of their marriage conformed to all the requirements for valid celebrations of marriage in the place where they were married.

The petitioner must show that they were qualified to marry in the place where they were married. They must prove that they were of marriageable age when they entered the marriage. They must prove that there were no impediments for them to marry.  This means that they must have been single at the time of the marriage.  If they had previous marriages, the previous marriages must have been annulled or they must have had a valid divorce. Thus, if the petitioner and the beneficiary had previous marriages, they must produce valid divorce or annulment decrees to show that their previous marriages were validly terminated.

If the petitioner or beneficiary produce a divorce decree, the divorce proceedings and the divorce decree must have come from a court of competent jurisdiction and it must be a court in the same country where the former or previous spouse resided.


What circumstances cast doubt on the genuineness (bona fides) of the marriage?

Certain circumstances cast doubt on the genuineness of the marriage of the petitioner and the beneficiary. If the petitioner and the beneficiary did not live together as husband and wife, if they did not behave or show themselves publicly as married, then there will be a doubt on the genuineness of the marriage. If during the marriage fraud interview, the spouses reveal that they will not live together in the same house, this raises a suspicion on the genuineness of the marriage.

However, if the spouses lived apart for some time because of work, this does not mean that the marriage was not genuine. If the spouses had separated for a time because they were undergoing relationship problems, this does not affect the genuineness of the relationship. If the spouses have eloped or have not told their families of the existence of the marriage, this does not necessarily mean that the marriage was fraudulent or not genuine.


When do the petitioner and beneficiary need strong evidence to show the genuineness of their marriage?

The petitioner and beneficiary must provide clear and convincing evidence of the genuineness of their marriage under the following circumstances;

  1. When the beneficiary of the petition is facing deportation or removal proceedings
  2. When the petitioner had previously petitioned an alien spouse and the new petition was filed within five years from the filing of the previous petition
  3. When the petitioner or beneficiary had tried previously to immigrate through marriage fraud
  4. When the petition was filed within two years of marriage and then, subsequently, two years after attaining the status of lawful permanent resident, the marriage ended.


What circumstances show that a marriage is genuine?

The petitioner and beneficiary must prove circumstances that show married and domestic life. They must show that they live together or that they have established a common residence where they live as husband and wife; even if they travel for work, it is this residence where they return to after their travels. They can show that they jointly own or lease their place of residence.

They could show common credit or debit accounts, joint savings and checking accounts. If they have applied for a loan, then they could be co-makers or co-guarantors of the loan agreement. They could be beneficiaries to each other’s health and life insurance policies. The marriage must be reported for tax exemption purposes or for social security purposes.  Close family members, friends and acquaintances should know that the petitioner and the beneficiary are married.


What kind of questions will be asked during the marriage fraud interview?

You must be prepared to answer intrusive questions about the small details of your private lives as a married couple. You may be asked questions that only people who live together and who interact daily can know such as favorite foods, sleeping habits, eating habits, grooming and hygiene habits.  They may ask about details which should be known only when people have been sexually or emotionally intimate, details such as health and medical conditions.

They will ask about the history of the relationship such as when and where you met, when and where you decided to marry and other significant events or milestones of the relationship. They may be asked about their motivations to get married.


The marriage fraud interview is nerve wracking. If you need help preparing for this interview, you can ask the competent and friendly immigration lawyers at Lluis Law – they are willing and available to help you prepare. Call Lluis Law today and speak to our immigration lawyers.