Understanding Bona Fide Marriage: How Andrew T. Thomas, Attorneys at Law Can Help You Prove Your Relationship

Office Locations

Proudly Serving Dallas, FT.Worth, San Antonio, Houston.


OFFICE 1700 Pacific Ave. #3750, Dallas, TX 75201


OFFICE 851 Grainger St. Ste 107 Fort Worth TX 76104


OFFICE 110 Broadway St. Ste 370, San Antonio, TX 78205


OFFICE 815 Walker Street, Ste 945, Houston, TX

Understanding Genuine Relationship Indicators

What makes a marriage genuine in the eyes of the law? A bona fide marriage is one that is genuine and entered into for reasons beyond immigration benefits. For couples going through the U.S. immigration process, proving that you are not in a sham marriage is essential. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) requires solid evidence to ensure that marriages between U.S. citizens and foreign nationals are real, especially for applications like the I-130 Petition for Alien Relative and Green Card applications. Failure to prove a bona fide marriage can lead to serious consequences, including marriage fraud allegations.

USCIS examines various documents and testimonies to determine if a couple has a good faith marriage. This includes joint bank statements, property deeds, heartfelt photos, and letters. No single piece of evidence is enough; USCIS looks at the totality of evidence. Even strong evidence like joint tax returns and shared health insurance can be scrutinized. Understanding these complexities is crucial for navigating the immigration process successfully.

At Andrew T. Thomas, Attorneys at Law, we recognize the personal stories behind every document and interview. Our firm practices in immigration law, and we are dedicated to helping you prove the legitimacy of your marriage. We break down the legal jargon and guide you through the process with professionalism and integrity, ensuring you have a good chance of a successful outcome in your immigration journey.

What Constitutes a Bona Fide Marriage?

A bona fide marriage, as recognized by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), hinges on more than just a marriage certificate. It is the bedrock upon which a couple builds a life together, far beyond the mere convenience of legal benefits. But what makes a marriage bona fide for immigration purposes?

To begin with, a bona fide marriage implies a genuine relationship between husband and wife, established to share a life together. This contrasts sharply with marriages of convenience, orchestrated merely to secure immigration benefits. The USCIS officer reviewing your case will look for various pieces of evidence showing that your marriage is genuine.

Key indicators of a bona fide marriage include:

  • Financial entanglement: Often involves a joint bank account where both parties contribute and withdraw money for shared expenses.

  • Joint ownership of real estate: Owning property together fortifies the notion of a shared life.

  • Insurance policies: Having one spouse as a beneficiary on the other’s life insurance policy is a powerful testament to trust and mutual care.

  • Children together: Shared responsibility for children, whether biological or adopted, evidenced by birth certificates, speaks volumes.

  • Photographic evidence: Pictures of the couple with family and friends at various events support the narrative of a shared life.

  • Gift exchange: Receipts or records of gifts exchanged during holidays or special occasions.

  • Shared responsibility statements: Documents showing both spouses are responsible for children’s education, healthcare, and other major decisions.

A marriage enters the realm of bona fide when it weaves the individual threads of two lives into a single, enduring tapestry. A couple exemplifies the depth of their commitment through layers of shared experiences and entwined responsibilities. 

To solidify the standing of a marriage before the USCIS, completing Form I-130, the Petition for Alien Relative, is a crucial step where the collective proof of a bona fide marriage is presented.

Legal Requirements for Proving a Bona Fide Marriage

Proving that a marriage is genuine is crucial for receiving immigration benefits based on marriage. USCIS officials carefully examine whether a marriage is real or just for immigration advantages.

To prevent immigration fraud and verify legitimate marriages, USCIS enforces strict immigration laws. Applicants must show that their marriage is not just for U.S. immigration benefits.

USCIS accepts different types of evidence, and the evaluation begins with the I-130 petition and continues through the Green Card interview and beyond. For more information, see our guide on Adjustment of Status Through Marriage.

Types of Evidence to Prove a Bona Fide Marriage

Documents and Official Records

Crucial to establishing a valid marriage are official documents, such as the marriage certificate, which confirms the legality of the union itself.

Other essential records include joint bank statements, lease agreements, or property deeds attesting to shared financial obligations and assets. These documents play a vital role in corroborating a vested interest in each other’s lives, which is a compelling argument for a bona fide marriage.

Evidence such as a car or life insurance policies naming both partners and joint tax returns further fortify this claim by showcasing ongoing financial intertwinement and responsibilities. 

Similarly, presenting a birth certificate for any children the couple shares provides irrefutable proof of a shared familial bond.

Personal Evidence

Beyond formal documentation, personal items can also serve as poignant indicators of a bona fide union.

Wedding photos, shared social media posts, detailed joint travel itineraries, and receipts for gifts exchanged illustrate a narrative of intimacy and shared experience.

Affidavits from third parties, often friends or family who can attest to the authenticity of the relationship, add another layer of verification.

Continuous Relationship Proof

Likewise, ongoing personal evidence such as shared phone logs, text messages, and even family photos can demonstrate the continuity and evolution of the relationship, further affirming its legitimacy for immigration purposes.

It’s important to understand that these various pieces of evidence come together to create a complete picture that USCIS reviews to determine if a marriage is genuine and what exemptions exist.

Common Challenges and How to Overcome Them

Red flags in an application can turn a straightforward process into a complex one. For instance, a brief courtship, vast age differences, or divorce soon after gaining permanent status can lead USCIS to question the validity of a marriage.

To overcome these challenges, applicants must compile comprehensive proof of relationship. Evidence can be segmented into three tiers of strength:

  • Strong Evidence: Includes joint bank accounts, life insurance policies, wills, co-signed leases, and shared utility bills.

  • Medium Evidence: Encompasses coordinated travel plans and text conversations.

  • Weak Evidence: Often consists of greeting cards and affidavits from friends and family.

For conditional residents facing an annulment or divorce, the situation may become complex, but submitting a waiver citing a bona fide marriage that ended through no fault of the applicant is a potential solution.

Applicants concerned about the nuances of marriage fraud immigration issues would be well-advised to seek legal counsel. A professional familiar with immigration law can provide invaluable assistance in navigating the complexities of this process.

The key to overcoming challenges is to anticipate USCIS requirements and meticulously prepare your documentation. Each piece of evidence works together to construct a narrative of your bona fide marriage, satisfying the USCIS standard and leading to a successful Green Card application.

Andrew T. Thomas, Attorneys at Law: Your Partner in Proving Bona Fide Marriage

Proving a genuine marriage is crucial when applying for a Green Card or adjusting status. At Andrew T. Thomas, Attorneys at Law, we help clients gather and present the necessary evidence to show USCIS that their marriage is real. This includes:

  • Joint financial documents showing shared responsibilities

  • Affidavits from friends and family

  • Evidence of cohabitation, like a mortgage or lease in both names

  • Shared insurance plans

Our immigration attorneys provide tailored legal strategies based on each client’s unique situation. We meticulously guide you through each step, from collecting evidence to preparing the Form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence.

Our commitment is to provide support and navigate the complexities of immigration laws, ensuring peace of mind as you build your life together in the U.S.

Andrew T. Thomas, Attorneys at Law, is dedicated to proving your bona fide marriage with care. For more information, see our guide on Spousal Petitions.


In the landscape of marital immigration, the concept of a bona fide marriage stands as a cornerstone for adjudicating a marriage-based Green Card application. Bona fide, meaning “in good faith,” implies that the union is genuine and established with the intention of a shared life rather than solely for immigration benefits.

The manifestations of such a partnership are myriad, from raising children together or adopting to interweaving finances in joint bank accounts and retirement savings. Even in the face of death, the designation of one’s spouse as an emergency contact or beneficiary underscores the authenticity of the marital bond.

Entrusting permanent residence or naturalization aspirations into this process necessitates careful navigation of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and consular requirements. With legal intricacies and the impact of policies on domestic partnerships and common law marriages, the journey towards securing a Green Card demands meticulous proof of a bona fide marital relationship.

At Andrew T. Thomas, Attorneys at Law, we understand the complexities of immigration law. We tailor our guidance to your unique situation. As you work toward permanent residence, contact us to ensure your path is clear and compliant.