Marriage Visa Legal Requirements

The foreign spouse of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident is legally entitled to apply for U.S. permanent residency on the basis of that marriage. To successfully obtain permanent residency the American petitioner and foreign spouse must meet the following requirements.

    1. The petitioner must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident (green card holder);
    2. The petitioner and beneficiary must be legally married;
    3. The underlying marriage must be “bona fide.” In other words the petitioner and beneficiary must not be married solely to obtain an immigration benefit.

Proof of U.S. Citizenship

A person may acquire U.S. citizenship in one of only 3 ways:

    1. Birth in the United States
    2. Naturalization – becoming a U.S. citizen through legal process.
    3. Acquiring U.S. citizenship through a U.S. citizen parent. For example, a person born in Canada to a U.S. citizen mother has the right to U.S. citizenship. That citizenship is usually documented by the issuance of a certificate of birth abroad of a U.S. citizen.

Proof of U.S. Permanent Resident Status

A legal marriage is a marriage that is valid under the laws of the country or state where the marriage took place. This typically means that the marriage has been registered with the local governmental authority. A government issued marriage certificate is usually sufficient proof of the legality of a marriage.

Bona Fide Marriage Definition

A bona fide marriage is one that is based on love and commitment to each other and an intent to build a joint life together as husband and wife. A marriage entered into solely to obtain immigration for the foreign spouse cannot possibly qualify as a bona fide marriage. Such a marriage is considered fraudulent by the USCIS.

It is easy enough to document a bona fide marriage. Typically a husband and wife in a bona fide marriage will have some joint finances and proof of their romance. Such proof can be in the form of photos, emails, cards and proof of time spent together.


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