It Is Never Over Until It Is Over
An American citizen, who is married to a foreign national, may file a petition with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to have his or her spouse become a permanent resident of the United States. If the petition is approved, the foreign national will be granted permanent resident status (Green Card). However, if at the time the petition is approved the couple has not been married for at least two years, the beneficiary will receive only conditional Green Card, valid for two year. For all practical purposes, the Green Card holder is entitled to all the benefits of a permanent resident.
The condition attached to the Green Card is that, within a 90-day period before the Green Card expires, the beneficiary must file a petition to remove the condition on the card. If the Green Card holder fails to file the petition, USCIS will terminate the permanent resident status and my place him or her in removal proceedings. The Immigration Marriage Fraud Amendment Act (IMFA) of 1986, to curb fraud in marriage petitions, initiated this requirement.
A couple filing a marriage petition with USCIS is required to establish that the marriage is a good faith marriage. A marriage is considered not a good faith marriage when it was entered into solely for immigration purposes (to circumvent the immigration laws). If a marriage is found not to be a good faith marriage, the petition will be denied. Worse still, USCIS may categorize the marriage as a “sham marriage” (fraudulent marriage). A “sham marriage” denial bars the beneficiary from obtaining any other immigration benefits.
The Petition to remove conditions on residence may be filed as a joint petition or may be filed with a waiver of the joint filing. A joint petition is normally filed when the couple are still together. However, if the marriage broke down after the beneficiary has been granted a conditional Green Card, he or she can still file the petition alone and request a waiver of the joint filing. In requesting this waiver, the beneficiary must still prove that the marriage was a good faith marriage.
One of the biggest mistakes that conditional Green Card holders make is to assume that the requirements for proving a good faith marriage is less stringent when removing the condition on a Green Card. The fact is that the reason for imposing a condition on the Green Card is to give USCIS another opportunity to assess the good faith of the marriage. USCIS will actually expect more proof of a good faith marriage.
How do you prove a good faith marriage? Contrary to the prevailing view, there are no specific required documents to prove the good faith of a marriage. However, it will substantially help your case if you provide documents and information showing joint residence, joint assets and liabilities, joint bank accounts, joint businesses, birth of children, photographs, affidavits from persons who have known you as a couple and many others. Ultimately, the best evidence of a good faith marriage is to be in a good faith marriage. It usually shows.