Married to a U.S. Citizen? How to Prove Your Marriage is “Bona Fide” for purposes of Form I-751

It is the stuff romantic comedies are made of. A couple that is married just for the convenience of U.S. citizenship has to jump through hoops to prove to the government that the marriage is indeed real.

Back in the real world, most marriages of an immigrant to a United States citizen are probably legitimate. If a couple is newly married at the time of attending their initial interview at USCIS and they have not been married for two years, but they have shown the legitimacy of their marriage, that person will be granted conditional residence for two years. Ninety days before the two year anniversary, the married couple will have to file Form I-751 Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence, to remove those conditions on their residency and allow them to receive their permanent residency for 10 years.  But first, the couple needs to provide evidence that the marriage is and continues to be real, or in the terms of the government, “bona fide”.

There are some key things adjudicators look for as warnings signs for a marriage that may not be bona fide. If you have any of these circumstances, you will want to take extra care with your application:

  • Large difference in age
  • No cohabitation since marriage
  • Inability of petitioner and beneficiary to speak each other’s language
  • Beneficiary is a friend of the family
  • Vast difference in cultural and ethnic background
  • Family and/or friends unaware of the marriage
  • Marriage arranged by a third party
  • Marriage contracted immediately following the beneficiary’s apprehension or receipt of notification to depart the United States
  • Discrepancies in statements on questions for which a husband and wife should have common knowledge
  • Petitioner has filed previous petitions on behalf of prior alien spouses

When filing form I-751 together, you will want to provide as much evidence as you can to prove that your marriage has been and continues to be legitimate including these spheres of your life:


Long-term cohabitation is considered good evidence for a bona-fide marriage. Considering submitting as many of these documents as you have available:

  • Deed to property showing both names
  • Mortgage or loan documents showing both names
  • Lease agreement showing both names
  • Driver’s licenses or IDs showing the same address
  • Bank statements showing the same address
  • Voided or cancelled checks showing the same address
  • Utility bills showing the same address (electricity, water, gas, trash, cable, internet, cell phone, etc.)
  • Property insurance agreements, statements, or cards showing the same address
  • Health and life insurance statements showing the same address
  • Correspondence from friends, family, or businesses showing the same address
  • Affidavits from friends, family, neighbors, and landlords attesting to cohabitation


Having children together, for obvious reasons is also considered primary proof for a bona-fide marriage. Submit the following documents:

  • Birth certificates showing both spouses as parents
  • Adoption certificates showing both spouses as parents
  • Evidence of a relationship with children or step-children (photos, vacation itineraries, school records, affidavits from friends, family, and teachers)
  • Medical records evidencing an ongoing pregnancy
  • Evidence showing the non-related parent as an emergency contact for a step-child on school records, doctor’s records, etc.


Long-term commingling of finances is yet another good proof of a bona-fide marriage. Potential proof could include:

  • Bank statements for joint checking, savings, and credit card accounts
  • Voided and cancelled checks for joint accounts
  • Statements for joint loans or loans where one spouse is a co-signer for the other spouse
  • Copies of bank statements from separate accounts and cancelled checks showing that you share jointly in your financial responsibilities and big purchases (for example, if each spouse pays half of rent from a separate account or if each spouse paid one half toward the purchase of a car)
  • Joint health, life, property, and auto insurance agreements, statements, and cards
  • Utility bills showing both names (electricity, water, gas, trash, cable, internet, cell phone, etc.)
  • Tax returns filed as married showing both names
  • Documents showing joint ownership of real property, cars, or investments
  • Life insurance policies, wills, and trusts, designating your spouse as a beneficiary


Last but not least, even if you have a large number of the documents above, it is good to get at least a couple of affidavits from friends, or even better, coworkers or community leaders that assert that your marriage is indeed bona fide.

Need help with filing I-751 Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence? I am here to help! Reach out to me today to schedule your appointment.