There are many obstacles to gaining lawful entry to the United States, but perhaps one of the most difficult obstacles to clear is proving to USCIS that you are not defrauding the system to gain entry for another unstated reason.
For most visas, the applicant has many resources to corroborate their purpose for entering the United States.
For example, student visa applicants can forward acceptance letters from American universities to demonstrate their reason for coming to the United States, or those who seek a business travel visa can present statements from their company and copies of invitations to business conferences in the States.
For those applying for fiancé or marriage visas, proving the purpose of your visit to the U.S. is a little trickier. You must prove the authenticity of an intangible thing, a relationship.
USCIS is particularly critical of fiancé and marriage visa applicants because there is a long history of people abusing this system to gain entry to the United States. The most common type of fraud in the fiancé marriage visa process is sham marriages.
Sham marriages are not uncommon. When two people get married (or engaged) for the sole purpose of applying for a marriage or fiancé visa it is a sham marriage.
Since spouses of U.S. citizens enjoy special privileges in the immigration process, it can be enticing to marry a U.S. citizen to gain a quicker path to permanent residency; it’s more difficult to fake an engagement relationship in an attempt to obtain a K-1 fiancé visa, but it also happens.
To overcome any assumption that your relationship is not legitimate, it’s important to give USCIS enough evidence to see that you are in a real relationship.
Evidence of Your Relationship
Meeting in Person
USCIS requires certain evidence that you and your partner married for love and not immigration benefits, but you can (and should) supply additional evidence of your relationship.
It is required that you and your fiancé or spouse have met in person at least once within the two years prior to applying for the fiancé or marriage visa.
This requirement can only be waived if there is a religious or medical reason that the petitioner and beneficiary could not meet prior to being granted K-1 visa.
If you have not met your fiancé or spouse in person within the last two years and you plan to waive that requirement because of a religious or medical reason, you will need a letter from a religious leader or physician explaining your circumstance.
Evidence for Engaged Couples Applying for a K-1 Visa
For those applying for K-1 fiancé visa status, USCIS will need to see proof that your engagement is not fake. To prove your engagement is authentic you can include several items with your I-129F application:
- Copy of the wedding invitation
- Photos of proposal or engagement ring
- Photos of you two on dates and with family
- Phone records that show you call each other
For more ideas on what to send with your I-129F as evidence, visit “What Evidence Should I Include With My I-129F Fiancé Visa Petition?”
Evidence for Married Couples Applying for a K-3 Visa
In addition to a marriage certificate, you can demonstrate the validity of your marriage to USCIS by providing:
- Documentation of joint bank accounts or other financial assets
- Copy of the deed to a jointly-owned home
- Photos of your wedding or wedding invitation
- Wills, trusts or power of attorney documents that name each other as spouse
- Birth certificates of children naming petitioner and beneficiary as parents
Tips for the Consular Interview – Fiancé (K-1) and Marriage (K-3) Visas
Many couples fear that they will answer questions differently during the consular interview when they are separated and that will result in denial of the visa application.
While it is not likely that one inconsistent answer will lead to a denial, you should still diligently prepare for the interview to ensure your relationship does not appear fake.
Discuss the answers to essential interview questions with your partner, such as:
- What was the location of your first date?
- What is your mother-in-law’s name?
- When is your anniversary?
- What is your partner’s favorite food?
- In what city was your partner born?
For more example interview questions for marriage based visas, visit “What Questions Will I Be Asked at My Marriage-based Green Card Interview?”
For fiancé visa interview information, visit “What Will My Fiancé-based Green Card Interview Be Like?”
Avoiding Red Flags
USCIS considers certain aspects of a relationship to be a “red flag”. If your relationship has any of the following characteristics, you should take extra care to supplement your visa application with evidence of your relationship.
Common red flags include:
- There is not a shared language between the two of you
- You practice different religions
- There is a significant age gap
- The beneficiary has a history of visa denials
This list is not exhaustive, so every couple should be extensive in providing evidence of their relationship.
Proving such an intangible thing as love can be difficult and, for this reason, many applicants choose to hire a lawyer to help navigate the process.