What is a “Bona Fide” Marriage?

Updated on April 4, 2024

At a Glance

  • A bona fide marriage is a genuine and sincere relationship based on love and respect, not for immigration purposes.
  • To prove a bona fide marriage, submit evidence like joint financial assets, communication, shared activities, and joint responsibility for financial liabilities.
  • Additional evidence includes joint lease or property ownership and proof of raising children together.
  • This evidence is submitted with your green card application and may be further evaluated during an interview with an immigration officer to assess the authenticity of your marriage.

What is a “Bona Fide” marriage? Obtaining a green card for your spouse can be taxing if you don’t know the procedure thoroughly. The most crucial step is to prove that your marriage is bona fide or ‘good faith’ as it means in Latin. It is a term used to represent something real or genuine.

Read on to find what it takes to prove your marriage bona fide. 

What is a Bona Fide Marriage?

A bona fide marriage is something that is genuine. It is a relationship where the partners love and respect each other and have pledged to live together forever. This is the exact opposite of a fraudulent marriage that was entered purely for immigration purposes without any intention to stay together.

A marriage certificate is the first and foremost thing that will stand with a bona fide status. But you will need more things that act as supporting evidence. The USCIS can easily recognize if there is any discrepancy, so one has to be very careful. 

What Counts as Evidence of a Bona Fide Marriage?

Proving your marriage as bona fide may require more than just the marriage certificate. If you are yet to be married and want to acquire a green card, you may start collecting evidence in specific documents. In the below list, not all of the documents will be necessary, but it is good to have an idea of what counts as evidence.

Joint Financial Assets

Any financial or bank account together is great evidence to prove the validity of your marriage. The documents include:

  • Joint bank statements of the account
  • Documents of investment accounts like mutual funds
  • Documents that show that one partner has made his/her spouse a beneficiary on the retirement account

Evidence Of The Relationship And Shared Activities, If Any

  • Evidence of any communication between spouses like birthday cards, conversations on social media, letters, etc
  • Evidence of wedding like religious certificate, invitations, newspaper cuttings of wedding announcements
  • Documents that can act as proof that the couple has gone for trips, including flight tickets, passports, hotel stays, car rentals
  • Receipts of gifts that were exchanged
  • Proof of wedding-related expenses like catering, photographer, wedding costumes etc. that bear the name of the couple and the date of the event
  • Photo album containing photos of the couple before, during, and after the wedding, preferably with friends and family. You can insert generic information about the context of the photos
  • Birth certificate of children if you have any together, doctor’s certificate showing that you are pregnant or are undergoing fertility treatment

Joint Responsibility For Financial Liabilities And Welfare

  • Bank transfers, wire transfers, check from one spouse to the other
  • Document from an employer showing that the spouse has been designated as the person to be alerted in case of emergency
  • Joint income tax returns filed with state, federal, or local government
  • Power of attorney, trusts, or wills with the names of both the spouses
  • Insurance documents for home, auto, life, or renter’s insurance
  • Loans taken for a big purchase in the name of both the spouses
  • Credit card statements with both the spouses’ names
  • Documents showing that one spouse has made the other a beneficiary on an insurance

Joint Lease Or Ownership Of Property

  • Copies of any utility bills like electricity, gas, telephone, etc
  • Copies of driving licenses of both spouses with the same address
  • Mortgages or lease agreements in the names of both spouses showing that you live together and/or bought or leased property together
  • Auto registrations in the names of both the spouses
  • Letters or cards from family or friends addressed to anyone or both the spouses sent to the place where they lived together. The letter should have a postmarked envelope to show that you lived together
  • f a joint property ownership or lease document is not possible, the landlord can give a letter saying that the couple live at the apartment or receipts of rent payment with both the spouses’ names
  • Communication in the form of letters between the spouses before marriage with postmarked envelope

Evidence Showing That The Spouses Raise Children Together

  • Birth certificates of children born to the couple with the parents’ names
  • Medical certificate from a doctor showing that you are pregnant or are undergoing fertility treatment
  • Adoption certificate to show that you have adopted a child together
  • Medical or school documents of the child that has the stepparent as an emergency contact

How to Prove Your Marriage is Bona Fide

A marriage green card asks for all evidence that you have entered a bona fide marriage. Therefore, in addition to the marriage certificate you provide with the green card application, you need to provide ample proof that you have been in a relationship and will continue to be spouses for the rest of your lives. There are two things you should do about this.

Providing Documents with Your Application

Your application must be accompanied by a number of documents showing that your marriage is genuine. Apart from one or more of the evidence already discussed above, you can also include an affidavit for the bona fide marriage. These are letters from third parties like neighbors, friends, family, or religious leaders that can authenticate your relationship.

The affidavit must contain the full name and address of the person making it and the place of birth and date. It should detail how the person knows you and about your marriage. He can write about why he believes in your relationship and assert that you have a future together.

Answering Questions at Your Interview

Before processing the application for your green card, you will be interviewed by an officer. You can expect to be interviewed either together with your spouse or separately. The interviewing officer starts with simple questions that couples can easily answer, like where and how you met. It is up to the officer to decide the questions to be asked. You will be fired with questions till he is satisfied that your marriage is real. 

Some of the questions can be:

  • How and where did you meet?
  • What activities do you enjoy as a couple?
  • Who proposed to whom and how?
  • What was the menu for your wedding?

There can be more specific questions like:

  • Who sleeps on which side of the bed?
  • What kind of contraception do you use, if any?
  • Does your spouse have tattoos on his/her body?
  • What are the difficulties you face in your marriage?

Read More


Though you may not have many documents, especially if you are recently married, it is recommended to start collecting the pieces of evidence as soon as possible. This goes a long way in the successful processing of your green card. Also, be as truthful as possible in all your documents and answers to the interviewer. This is the only way to prove your marriage bona fide.

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Frank Gogol

I’m a firm believer that information is the key to financial freedom. On the Stilt Blog, I write about the complex topics — like finance, immigration, and technology — to help immigrants make the most of their lives in the U.S. Our content and brand have been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and more.

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