Green Card Marriage: How much scrutiny does a couple face?

How can the government go about providing legal proof that a couple isn’t really married? (When I say the “government” it’s that I’m not actually certain who, specifically, handles this kind of thing. Would it be INS???)

People get married for all kinds of reasons. Two citizens marrying each other are not legally required to be “in love”. I have even met married people who continue to live in different cities because of career commitments. How can there be a standard applied to define a “real” marriage?

I have heard stories of couples getting caught because it was proven that the citizen was paid a large sum of money by the non-citizen. Suppose though that the citizen was being completely altruistic, figured “hey, it might be fun to have a roommate, just kick in for rent and help with bills. We’ll have “our” bedroom and we’ll have the “guest” bedroom.”

When a citizen marries a non-citizen into the country how much scrutiny do they face? Are they challenged to justify the marriage? Is their private home life invaded by investigations?

Adjudication of green cards based on marriage is performed by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, aka the Agency Formerly Known as INS.

The short answer: levels of scrutiny can be all over the map, depending on the experience and common sense level of the adjudicating officer. The couple is required to provide proof of a shared life, which generally consists of things like documenting shared financial obligations (lease/mortgage, bills, joint purchases, listing each other as beneficiaries for insurance purposes, tax returns, that sort of thing), as well as more personal items such as wedding photos, birth certificates of their children, etc.

If USCIS disputes that the marriage is valid, they may ask for additional proof. I’ve mostly seen this in the context of deportation proceedings in which it’s already been alleged that the marriage was fraudulent, and those cases were often pretty blatant – the couple didn’t have a language in common, their families had no idea they were married, they couldn’t remember how many children their spouse had, that sort of thing. Believe me, I could tell some mind-blowing stories about marriage fraud cases I’ve seen – maybe later. Additional proof consists of things like witness testimony and affidavits from the couple’s family and friends, correspondence between them or addressed to them as a couple, etc., but the final decision tends to rest on the consistency of the evidence and the judge’s credibility determination. Usually it’s pretty clear to all concerned if the marriage is fraudulent. And no, I haven’t seen many cases in which there was a home visit by an investigator – it’s usually done on the basis of documentary evidence, witness testimony, and/or an interview at the local USCIS office.

Eva Luna, former Immigration Court interpreter

It’s not that the government cares whether people are in love or living together after the wedding or marrying for convenience only and actually hate each other. What they are trying to prevent is foreign nationals marrying U.S. citizens SPECIFICALLY to circumvent immigration regulations.

I’ve had my marriage checked out by the INS, when my wife and I got green cards. I had won the green card lottery, and she was getting a green card at the same time as me, because she was married to me.

We didn’t have too many problems at our interview: we had been married for 25 years, living together all that time, with 4 children aged (at that time) 16 to 24. We brought along the usual documentation, and a few wedding photos and family photos, but we didn’t have much trouble proving that we hadn’t got married 25 years earlier just to defraud the INS :slight_smile:

A friend of mine who had recently married her Frenchman related her story. They were ushered into separate rooms and asked personal questions: “What color is his toothbrush? Does she bathe or shower? How many rooms are in your house?” If the answers had been inconsistent or not forthcoming, he might not have gotten into the country (actually, he never did get his green card; after months of bureaucratic B.S. and delay, including one retaliatory FBI investigation (he raised his voice to a clerk), they gave up and moved to France.

It wasn’t that bad for Me and my wife. We were asked some questions, showed some documentation (Teax returns filed jointly etc.) and that was about it. The whole interview was about 1/2 hour.

But without the spectre of an immigration investigator, what will happen to the poor downtrodden situation comedy?

Oh, the humanity!

Marrying a US citizen no longer gets you an automatic green card, nor does it make you a citizen. The non-US spouse still has to jump though various hoops, and actual citizenship can still take years (and Resident Alien status does not provide a person with the same legal protections as citizenship).

I’m presently jumping through the immigration hoops. We haven’t had any interviews yet but I’ve been told by our lawyer that they don’t do the “split-you-up-and-quiz-you-on-the-colour-of-your-carpet” thing any more.

I’m sure that in these days of Homeland Security, your country of origin may have some effect on your level of scrutiny.

We didn’t even have an interview (me being me, and my wife being a foreign national). We submitted documentation by mail. A year or so later (yeah, really) we got a request for additional documentation and sent it in. Several months later we were told the conditional status was removed, and to expect an unconditional permanent residency card within the next next (yeah, really). It hasn’t shown up yet, and we had to renew the stamp in her passport, even though she has a (now expired) green card.