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Nine reasons why your marriage Green Card can be denied

Red no entry sign on the street

When preparing for a marriage Green Card interview, do not lose sight of the big picture.  You are a married couple; you want to show the adjudications officer that your marriage is legal and that your relationship is genuine and authentic. At first, this doesn’t sound too difficult. Denial rates for Green Cards in 2019, however, are on the rise

The first step is to file an adjustment of status through a marriage petition.  Once you file a petition to citizenship and immigration services, you should receive an employment authorization card that gives you permission to work as long as you enter the country legally.  For example if a spouse is getting married on a tourist visa, that counts as a legal entry into the United States.

The key is to be able to talk about your spouse and your marital life in a free and relaxed manner.  It is also helpful to be aware of some of the common pitfalls that can befall you during a marriage Green Card interview.

1. Failure to Provide a Valid Marriage Certificate 

While there may be other ways of proving that your marriage is legal, a valid marriage certificate is usually the best way to do it. Make sure you bring a copy of your marriage certificate to the interview.  

Marriage certificate, two rings and a pen on white table

2. Failure to Finalize an Earlier Divorce 

If you or your spouse had a prior marriage that ended in a divorce make sure that the divorce was finalized properly. This will often require such things as filing certain documents with a family court. If an earlier divorce is not finalized correctly, it could impact the legality of your marriage and hamper your Green Card application.

3. Not Knowing Basic Things About Your Spouse 

The adjudications officer will ask basic questions about your marriage and your spouse. This goes to the authenticity of your marriage. Married people know things about each other.  

You will be asked bona fide marriage questions, which means questions that a normal married couple should know about each other. Personal details that the officer will ask about include such things as: 

  • how you met,
  • where you met, and
  • where you went on your first date.

Other more intimate details could include questions about whether your spouse has a tattoo or birthmark. You will also need to know about your spouse’s family, especially if your spouse has a child from another relationship who is living with you. 

Married couple walking on the street holding hands

Finally, be prepared to discuss basic things about your marital life. Your living arrangements, financial situation, and employment status are all important factors that will impact whether you get a Green Card. 

Click here for 50 common questions an officer can ask at marriage Green Card interview

4. Failure to Show Evidence of Cohabitation

Married couple cooking together in the kitchen

You need to prove that you live together. Remember, the overall goal is to show that you have an authentic relationship and that you were not married for the sole purpose of getting a Green Card. 

Married couples, for example, often have joint ownership of property and share expenses. You could run into problems if things like the lease to your apartment, deed to your house, or utility bills are only in one person’s name. 

On the other hand, your application will be stronger if you have such things as:

  • a joint bank account, 
  • joint credit cards, 
  • joint auto and homeowner’s insurance, 
  • life insurance, and 
  • a mortgage loan that includes both you and your spouse. 

Make sure you bring copies of any records that show you own property together or are sharing expenses as a married couple.

5. You File Your Tax Returns Individually 

Most married couples file their tax returns jointly. There may be valid reasons for filing separately or as “Head of Household,” just be prepared to explain why you are doing it.

 Also, if the US Spouse does not show  that they satisfy the minimum income requirements to be a sponsor of the foreign spouse, they will need to get a joint sponsor. 

Hand using calculator working on tax returns with papers laying on the table

6. If You Can Become a Public Charge

Your application could be denied if the adjudications officer determines that you and your spouse are financially unable to support yourselves. The concern here is that you will need government assistance to survive and will become a public charge

You will need to fill out an I-944 form that requires proof of your finances. The adjudications officer will also apply a totality of circumstances test to determine whether you can support yourselves as a married couple. Things that the officer will consider include your: 

  • age, 
  • health, 
  • education, and 
  • skills.

Be sure to bring to the interview all documents that show you will not need public financial support.  

Click for more information regarding Public Charge. (JOE: direct to Failing To Pass the Public Charge Test)

7. Failure to Provide Updated Financial Records

When you apply for your Green Card it is necessary to file certain financial records. Your marriage Green Card interview, however, will be months later. As part of the interview process you will need to provide updated financial information. 

Open wallet with credit cards laying on the bank statement sheet

8. Inconsistencies in Your Records

Throughout the process you will need to provide a variety of different documents and inconsistencies in these records could be a basis for denial. 

 You could have a problem during your interview, for example, if the address on your driver’s license or identification does not match your current home address. Likewise, missing signatures, information, and problems with your photos could all be issues that are raised during your interview and provide a basis to deny your application.

9. If You Have a Criminal Record

Records of certain crimes could cause your application to be denied. You should be prepared to discuss any crime that relates to you and your spouse, no matter how minor it may seem. But more serious crimes could make you inadmissible. These crimes include those involving: 

  • moral turpitude, 
  • illegal drugs, and 
  • aggravated felonies.  

Crimes involving moral turpitude include such things as murder, kidnapping, child abuse, fraud, and robbery. You should bring any documents to the USCIS that show the resolution of the criminal discharge, most states call that the criminal disposition.

Many of the problems that occur during marriage-based Green Card interviews stem from the failure to provide supporting documents. Things like duplicate tax records, for example, can be difficult to obtain on short notice. Develop good record keeping habits early on in the process so you have what you need well in advance of the final interview.

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