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To support a I-751 petition and show that the marriage is “bona fide,” couples must submit evidence that helps establish that the marriage is genuine. This can include joint leases, wedding pictures, joint bank statements or a huge variety of other documents and records. Because the burden of proof to demonstrate that the marriage is bona fide is on the couple, it is up to the couple to present sufficient evidence that proves that they married for love and not simply to get a green card. This burden still applies when the conditional resident is allowed to file the I-751 without their spouse because the couple is divorced or the immigrant is subject to domestic abuse. This added complexity generally makes hiring a lawyer prudent.
Affidavits or Letters of Support are one possible piece of evidence. These are statements written by people who know the couple and have first-hand eye-witness knowledge of their relationship. An affidavit or letter can corroborate and support other evidence that the couple or individual may submit as part of the I-751 packet to demonstrate that the marriage is real, entered in good faith and not a sham. Such third-party documents are most useful when the petitioner’s documentary evidence of a bona fide marriage is not ironclad or they can expect heightened scrutiny, such as when seeking a waiver or other red flags are present.
Affidavits or letters are not required. However, they can be helpful. Sometimes, they can even help petitioners avoid an I-751 interview. However, they are not a replacement for strong, objective evidence that a bona fide marriage exists. The best evidence of a credible, good faith marriage include having children together, maintaining a joint financial identity (such as joint bank accounts, joint insurance policies, joint retirement plans, etc.) and jointly owning or renting property. These records demonstrate that the couple’s lives are intertwined and plan or planned for a future together.
An affidavit or letter can be used to fill gaps, corroborate or support other evidence or explain shortcomings or weaknesses in a petition. Nevertheless, USCIS will usually give objective forms of evidence more weight and credibility than an affidavit or letter from a friend or relative.
Who Should Write a Letter?
Affidavits or letters in support of an I-751 petition are usually written by relatives or close friends of the married couple. This can also include neighbors, landlords, community or religious leaders. Ideally, the person who writes the letter of support knows the couple well, hopefully for years but at least since the marriage started, until the present. The writer does not have to be a US citizen. They should be someone who is familiar with the couple’s life together.
In the letter, the writer should state their personal views of the couple and share observations and opinions that lead the writer to conclude that the couple is/was in love, they honestly sought to marry and desire to remain a married couple. The goal is to explain why the writer thinks the couple’s marriage is/was genuine.
Using an Affidavit or Letter When Seeking a Waiver
The I-751 petition normally must be filed jointly by both spouses. Unfortunately, some marriages do not last. This is true even if you get married with the best intentions. Just because the marriage ended, does not mean the marriage was not “bona fide.” In such cases, the US citizen or permanent resident spouse may refuse to sign the I-751. A joint petition may not be possible even if the marriage is intact, but involves physical or emotional abuse.
Where the I-751 petition cannot be filed jointly, conditional residents must file the petition and seek a waiver of the joint filing requirement. Now, not only must the petitioning conditional resident spouse still prove that the marriage was bona fide, but also the additional grounds that justify the waiver. USCIS will look at waiver petitions more closely.
In such situations, a letter or affidavit can be even more beneficial. An I-751 affidavit or letter can help establish the good intentions of the immigrant in marrying, why the marriage was unsuccessful or why the petitioner must file the I-751 alone. This can be particularly helpful in cases of abuse.
A Proper I-751 Affidavit or Letter
An affidavit is basically a sworn letter. The writer is called an affiant. The affiant swears to the affidavit’s truth. When submitting one for an I-751 petition, the affidavit or letter should be typed and signed by the writer. It should contain some basic points:
– Affiant’s full name and address
– Affiant’s date and place of birth
– Affiant’s relationship to the I-751 applicant and/or spouse
The description of the affiant’s relationship with the couple can include:
– How the affiant met the couple
– The period of time in which the affiant knows the couple
– A description of how frequent the affiant interacts with the couple
– A short description of why the affiant believes the couple’s marriage is/was genuine (one or two stories that prove the couple’s mutual commitment, how they held themselves out as being a married couple etc.)
The letter does not necessarily need to be notarized, but the affiant should sign and date it. The letter should also include a sentence saying that everything the affiant states in the letter is true. Here is sample wording to consider: “I swear or affirm, under penalty of perjury, that the foregoing is true and correct to the best of my knowledge.”
A sample letter could look something like this:
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
Subject: Affidavit Letter of Support for Mark & Lilly Jones
Dear USCIS Officer,
I write to support Lilly and Mark’s immigration application. I first met them three years ago when they rented an apartment from me in a building that I own. They arrived soon after they got engaged and I was very happy to meet them. We quickly became close friends. They seemed really close and very caring for each other. They were always together. They got married while living together in the same apartment and threw a little party in the building’s courtyard to celebrate with the others who live in the building. They invited all the neighbors, including me and my wife, which I really appreciated. I’ve attended numerous dinners and events over the years with them as a couple. They frequently discussed future plans and starting a family. Thank you for the opportunity to share this information with you. Please contact me at (123) 867-5309 if you need additional information. I swear, under penalty of perjury, that the foregoing is true and correct to the best of my knowledge.
(Date of Birth: 7/21/1965)
(Birthplace: Anyplace, NY, USA)
Obviously, each letter is unique and should contain elements that are personal to each affiant and each couple’s own story. The affiant should be honest and use anecdotes or stories to demonstrate why he or she came to the conclusion that the couple has a bona fide marriage.
Finally, it is possible, though usually not necessarily likely, that the affiant may be required to testify before an immigration officer regarding the materials contained in the letter or affidavit. The affiant should know that this is a possibility.
The form I-751 petition is a necessary step for anyone who obtains conditional residency through marriage and wants to become a permanent resident and eventually a US citizen. Submitting proof that the marriage is bona fide is key to the process. Providing adequate (quantity) and strong (quality) evidence of a bona fide marriage, possibly including multiple well-prepared I-751 affidavit letters of support, can help ensure that the process is a successful one. Before filing, you should always closely review the most recent filing instructions provided by USCIS. For cases where you are seeking a waiver or has any complications/red flags, it is especially important to seek the advice of attorney before proceeding.
*This is for informational purposes only