There is no magical formula that indicates to an Immigration Officer or an Immigration Judge that a marriage is valid. Each officer makes a determination from the responses to the questions posed at the interview and the “gut instinct" she has developed from experience and training. Likewise, experience has taught us that there are some things that should be done to insure the highest likelihood of success:
- Immigration is interested in whetheryou intended to establish a life together at the inception of your marriage. Although you both may have souvenirs of your trip to Orlando this summer, also provide a copy of the menu of your wedding reception that was held three years ago. A couple that worried about whether to serve vanilla rum or blackberry swirl cake and saved the menu would impress.
- Although Immigration will not deny a case outright because the marriage does not seem “normal" tread carefully when deciding to make unusual living arrangements. Prior to the residency interview, I encourage my clients to live in the same home, share expenses, share responsibilities related to the step-children, and know as much as possible about each other’s finances. While you might prefer to take the better job offer on the Gulf Coast while your husband waits for you at the Beach apartment, the Immigration Officer across the desk may wonder about lifelong intentions.
- There is no such thing as being overly prepared: life insurance, health insurance, dental insurance, employer benefits, IDs to gated community, credit cards, joint membership in a sports club, and school records of your stepchildren. If you have it, I will use it. If you do not have it, I will suggest it. The goal is not to portray a life that does not exist. Rather, the goal is to provide Immigration with documents that demonstrate the shared life you do have.
- How did you meet? What did you do on your first date? Do you know each other's family? Why are your answers to these questions different from your spouse's answers? As with insufficient documents, inconsistent responses are a reason for a denial. By the way, lying is the kiss of death. If you think you need to lie, your subconscious is telling you that your case may not be approved. See an attorney.
On occasion, U.S. citizens are upset that Immigration questions the relationship. Being aware that even foreigners with children by U.S. citizen spouses have been denied residency may help to refocus the energy of this rage on preparing the case. Even an avoidable delay will be fodder for many uncomfortable evening meals together.
The above is not intended as legal advice. Exceptions and benefits may apply to your particular case. For further discussion, please schedule a consultation.