Should We Open a Joint Bank Account Just to Satisfy USCIS That Our Marriage Is Bona Fide?

Married couples should consider what aspects of their life, financial and otherwise, they can join up in order to prove a bona fide marriage and qualify the noncitizen for a green card (lawful permanent residence). But don't go too far.

By , J.D. ● University of Washington School of Law
Updated 3/05/2024

For some binational couples, in which a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident marries someone from another country, the fact that they are in love doesn't necessarily mean they want to combine their finances (savings, debts, and so on). As with all couples, there might be differences in how they handle money. Perhaps, for instance, the higher-earning member of the couple is a bit of a shopaholic and the other is extremely careful with money and would be happier not knowing what it's all being spent on.

Will this be a problem if they seek to obtain lawful permanent residence for the foreign national and thus will need to prove the bona fides of the marriage to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)? If so, what can you do? Could something like opening a small joint account ease USCIS's suspicions regarding marriage fraud? This article will discuss this issue, and the possibilities for overcoming it.

Normal Forms of Proof of Bona Fide Marriage

Proving a real marriage to USCIS can be challenging. Couples need to do everything possible to show a shared life, which normally includes not only a history of dating, gift-giving, family visits, and at some point living together, but shared finances (credit cards, bank accounts, and so on).

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 in order to qualify the noncitizen for a green card (lawful permanent residence).

Creating Additional But Artificial Forms of Proof of Bona Fide Marriage Could Backfire

Taking artificial steps, such as opening a small bank account together, could actually hurt your case as much as it helps. It might even make USCIS wonder whether you are taking steps to perpetrate marriage 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, and probably fairly recently (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 definite red flag. USCIS is accustomed to seeing couples attempting marriage fraud do the exact same thing.

Then What Evidence of Bona Fide Marriage Would Be Best?

Your best bet is 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 you've had children together, that's one of the strongest forms of evidence, though that too is a decision that should not be made merely for the sake of proving your real marriage to the satisfaction of the U.S. government!

If USCIS asks why you haven't opened a joint bank account or combined your finances in other ways, you can supply the explanation that truly represents your married life.

Also think about quasi-financial things you might share, such as placing the other person on the citizen's health insurance plan, or taking out a shared car loan.

Getting Legal Help

Given that your situation is unusual, you could make your life easier by hiring an experienced immigration attorney to handle your family visa case. The attorney can analyze the facts and strategize the most convincing forms of proof that you're truly getting married with the intention to form a shared life, prepare the immigration paperwork, and monitor the progress toward approval.

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