Legal permanent residence is granted based on marriage to a US.citizen upon filing a petition for Alien Relative (I-130) and an adjustment of status application (I-485), and the subsequent attendance by the married couple at an interview with a US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) official to answer questions concerning their marriage, and to produce documents proving their marital relationship.
Much of the documentation required to be supplied in support of a visa petition in which a marriage relationship is claimed centers on one question, ie. establishing the “bona fides“ (genuineness) of the marriage from the beginning. Therefore the procedures used by the USCIS are designed to expose marriage relationships that are a sham or fraudulent. Under the Marriage Fraud Act, the burden is on the visa applicant to prove that the marriage is genuine.
Documents to be provided at the marriage interview to prove the validity of the marriage include, but are not limited to recent utility bills, joint bank statements, wedding photographs,joint tax returns, apartment lease,joint health or life insurance documents and any other document which demonstrates cohabitation.
The petitioner spouse must also demonstrate that he/she is financially capable of supporting the applicant spouse, based upon the most recent official Poverty Guidelines figures. In addition, the couple will be required to answer a set of personal questions about their relationship and married life together.
If the USCIS examiner is satisfied that the marriage is genuine, then the applicant spouse will be issued with a permanent resident alien card (ie.green card) . If the couple have been married for less than two years at the time of the interview, this card will be valid for only two years. and within 90 days of its expiration, the applicant must reapply to the USCIS for a permanent card, valid for ten years.marriage is less than two years.
However, in the event that the examiner is not satisfied with the documents presented, or the answers to questions, or suspects that the marriage is a sham, then a second interview will be scheduled, known as a ”Stokes” interview, whereby the couple will be interviewed separately, and their answers electronically recorded. If the answers to the interviewer’s questions differ substantially or contradict each other, then the application will be denied and the matter may be transferred to immigration court for removal proceedings.