Should we open a joint bank account just to satisfy USCIS that our marriage is bona fide?

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Question:

I married a much younger man from Tanzania, who is in the U.S. on a student visa. Now I’m starting the process of petitioning for him to get a green card. Our marriage is the real thing, but I have a feeling that proving this to the satisfaction of USCIS is going to be tough. We want to do everything we can to show our shared life together when we get to our adjustment of status interview. We’d really like to keep our finances (credit cards, bank accounts) separate, though – I’m a bit of a shopaholic and he is very careful with money, and he says he’ll be happier not knowing what I’m spending money on. Would it help if we just opened a small joint account?

Answer:

It is usually a good idea for married couples to consider what aspects of their life, financial and otherwise, they can join up in order to prove a bona fide marriage to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in order to qualify the noncitizen for a green card (lawful permanent residence).

What you’re describing, however, could hurt your case as much as it helps – in fact, it make USCIS wonder whether you are taking steps to perpetrate a fraud. Why? Because USCIS will see from the bank statements you provide that only a small percentage of your assets were placed into this account fairly recently (i.e. within the time you knew you were going to submit an adjustment of status/green card application), and that the money is mostly just sitting there (unless the two of you actively use this account). That’s a red flag – USCIS is accustomed to seeing couples attempting marriage fraud do the exact same thing.

Far better to focus on aspects of your life that you are genuinely interested in sharing, and provide evidence of those. See “Documents to Bring to Your Marriage-Based Adjustment of Status Interview” for suggestions.

If the USCIS asks why you haven’t opened a joint bank account, you can supply the explanation you gave above – it makes it sound very much like the two of you have gotten to know each other well already!

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