USCIS evidence guidelines for marriage often seem outdated with the digital age. Some couples will not have all, or even some, of the types of evidence listed in my previous post, for a variety of reasons: they are young and have not yet tackled estate planning issues; they are living in different cities due to jobs or schooling; the foreign national spouse is undocumented and cannot open a bank account without a social security number, or a public utility refuses to add a spouse’s name to the household account. Therefore, we need to think creatively about other types of evidence that will convince the immigration officer that you entered into a good faith marriage.
The federal court held that the officer should look at the “parties’ intent at the time of the marriage and refrain from imposing the officer’s own opinions about what a ‘real’ marriage is or should be or how parties in such a marriage should behave. Officers should also refrain from imposing their own norms and subjective standards on the determination” and “look to objective evidence.” This is especially necessary as marriages are becoming less “traditional.” More and more U.S. citizens are meeting their spouses online. Additionally, it is becoming more common for couples to maintain individual bank accounts. According to a study by TD bank, 42 percent of those in relationships have individual accounts in addition to a joint bank account. With the decrease of traditional marriage and the increase in modern dating practices, it is necessary to use original and creative ways to prove a marriage for immigration purposes. Even couples who can provide a significant amount of the evidence listed above should considering including:
• Evidence of trips taken together (tickets, hotel reservations, photos, etc.); Joint gym or other memberships;
• If a telephone account is in only one spouse’s name, evidence that each spouse’s phone number is listed on the account;
• Printout from one spouse’s checking account proving that s/he writes the other spouse a check for half of the rent every month;
• Evidence that a spouse is listed as an emergency contact on a work-related form;
• If the spouses have pets, a printout of a letter or bill from the veterinarian listing both spouses as “pet parents” (likewise, a joint pet adoption certificate);
• Affidavits from friends and family;
• A printout from Netflix or a similar program showing that each spouse is listed as an approved user;
• Letters or cards addressed to the couple (preferably including envelopes, so that the officer can examine the postal processing stamp to confirm its validity).
If an officer requests certain evidence that is unavailable, the spouses should be prepared to answer why they are unable to produce that evidence-for example, “Our names do not appear together on the lease because Spouse B moved into Spouse A’s apartment, and the landlord refuses to update the lease until it is up for renewal.”