Most married couples live together. That is why USCIS likes to see evidence that a couple lives together when they are applying for a I-130 Petition for Alien Relative based on the marriage. Evidence that your relationship is real (and not just a trick to get papers) is often called “bona fide evidence.” There are several different types of bona fide evidence that are important. One of the main types is evidence that the couple lives together. The most common types of documents we use to prove a couple lives together are:
- Household bills with both spouses’ names (for example, electric, gas, cell phones, internet)
- Mail for each spouse sent to the same address
- Lease with both spouses listed
- Property deed with both spouses listed
But what happens if you don’t live together? Life happens, and sometimes couples must live apart for a while. We see this frequently when one spouse is finishing up school or has gotten another job. Many couples living separately are in a transition period while they are in the process of moving to a new city. The good thing is that you will not be automatically denied just because you do not live together. However, it is very important to submit strong evidence of your relationship, because USCIS will definitely be suspicious.
Another common situation in which a couple is living apart is if they are applying for a fiance visa and live in different countries. Couples applying for a fiance visa also must prove that their relationship is real, and they can use the same types of evidence as married couples who are not living together.
Bona fide evidence for couples living apart
There is one thing that all couples living apart have in common: long distance communication. Even if you aren’t living in the same city, I’m sure you talk on the phone, text, message, Skype, or use your favorite app to stay in contact every day. All of this communication provides a great record of your relationship. You also probably visit each other as often as you possibly can. Proof of visiting each other regularly is also great.
Here are the most common types of bona fide evidence we use when a couple does not live together:
- Cell phone bills showing daily calls
- Printouts of text messages or messaging through apps
- Tickets for flights to each others’ home cities, if you fly to visit each other
- Toll road account records, if you take a toll road on your way to visit each other
- Bank or credit card statements showing you making purchases in each others’ cities
- Photos of the couple together on important occasions
Remember that USCIS makes a decision based on their overall impression of your relationship. We believe that if you are truly in love, there is always a way to prove that. It may be harder for some couples than for others, but there is always a way.