The Role of Family & Friend Letters in Green Card Filing

The Role of Family & Friend Letters in Green Card Filing

Congratulations on your marriage! Now what happens if you are a U.S. citizen and your spouse is foreign? You likely want to petition for your spouse be “get a green card” either by coming to the U.S. or applying for a green card from within the US. to the U.S. as a permanent resident. As part of that “green card” application, you will also need to show that your marriage is “real.” Real? You may be wondering what on earth a “real” marriage is. Well, when people get married solely just to obtain a green card, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) does not consider the relationship to be legitimate. These “sham” marriages are illegal and carry heavy penalties for fraud. The USCIS carefully scrutinizes the authenticity of marriages when applying for a green card. As a result, you and your spouse bear the burden of proving that your relationship is valid.

Documenting a Marriage

As part of proving that your marriage is real, you need to provide documentation of your intertwined lives. Documents showing things such as joint ownership of property, joint bank or investment accounts, joint leases agreements, birth certificates of any children, and other similar documents help prove your case. However, if you have recently married, you may not paper documentation of your relationship. In that case, you should provide third party testimony about the authenticity of your relationship. I usually suggest that my clients submit anywhere between 5 to 15 letters of support from family and friends.

Affidavits from Friends and Family

You can submit affidavits from family members, friends, religious leaders, community members, landlords, neighbors, and others as part of your application. A letter should be from someone who is familiar with you as a couple and can attest to the authenticity of your marriage. The affidavit submitted to USCIS should generally cover what the writer has observed of your relationship, but the letter should also cover these specific items:

  • Full name, address, date of birth, and the birthplace of the writer;
  • Relationship to you and your spouse;
  • An account of your relationship, including: (1) how the writer met you and your spouse; (2) how long the writer has known you; (3) how often the writer sees or socializes with you and your spouse; and (4) the nature of the writer’s relationship with you and your spouse;
  • Date and signature; and
  • Photocopy of the writer’s state license/ID or passport.

Even with great documentation of your marriage, some issues that may make it more difficult or even impossible for certain immigrants to get spouse visas. For example, criminal issues, misuse of visas, fraud or misrepresentation, unauthorized time in the U.S., and deportation/removal from the U.S. may change the spouse’s eligibility for the green card.

I recommend that everyone consult with me or another experienced immigration attorney before beginning the green card application process. Even if you decide to proceed without an attorney, I can explain what is involved in the immigration process and whether legal issues may complicate your family member’s application. I work with clients around the world to help make the immigration process less confusing and as efficient as possible.