[Also available on Reddit.]
The filing of a form I-751 is a critical step in the transition of a foreign national’s conditional resident status to a permanent one, with a 10-year green card. But getting the form I-751 approved means filing it correctly, generally within the 90-day period before the 2-year residency expires and, most critically, with enough evidence that supports its approval. That evidence is key and goes to the heart of what the Form I-751 is meant to do.
Proof of a “Bona Fide” Marriage
At its core, the form I-751 is meant to ensure that the marriage, from which the foreign national obtained the right to reside in this country, was bona fide (or legitimate). To do so, the US resident and the foreign national must submit proof that the marriage was genuine and not a sham meant solely to confer immigration benefits. A marriage certificate is not enough. So what is?
The key to this process is submitting evidence that shows that the marriage upon which the foreign national was granted conditional status was entered in “good faith” and was not for the purpose of circumventing the immigration laws. There is no list of required documents to demonstrate this. In fact, it’s up to the applicant to come up with the evidence to demonstrate that the marriage was entered into lawfully (i.e., with the intent to stay married for a lifetime). The quality and the quantity of the evidence to support a marriage’s legitimacy is up to the applicant. But this is the most important part of the I-751 application and should be taken very seriously.
The process of considering, locating and collecting the documents that help demonstrate that a marriage is “bona fide” should start on day one – right at the beginning of the marriage. Couples not only have easy access to these documents – pictures, bank statements, lease or mortgage contracts – but doing it slowly means being able to collect a large enough size of documents that there can be little doubt that the marriage is genuine.
These documents can include: photographs of the married couple together, at their wedding or other events; financial records showing co-ownership of assets or joint responsibility for bills; lease or mortgage contracts showing co-ownership or co-occupancy of a communal home; birth certificate(s) of children born to the marriage, drivers licenses reflecting the same home address. The list can be long and is only limited by what someone might consider relevant to establish that your marriage was not entered for the purpose of evading U.S. immigration laws. Couples can also obtain letters or affidavits from family, friends or community leaders demonstrating the true nature of their marriage.
For most intact couples, this evidence is easier to gather, and is more effective, if it starts at the time the marriage began up to the moment the I-751 is submitted.