By: Janice Dantes
Although I have focused my practice on divorce, I still receive many calls about finding love. Some examples include women visiting the United States from the Philippines and finding love here. Others include divorced or widowed men going on holiday to the Philippines and finding love there. Although love is without boundaries, navigating U.S. immigration laws to remain together can be tricky. There are many people who abuse the system and marriage fraud schemes for profit have arisen. While your marriage may be bona fi de, it does not mean that you can automatically convince Immigration that it is.
Below are some marriages that may raise questions from Immigration:
1. Whirlwind romances. While many people marry after a short courtship, Immigration may question that staying power you have in the marriage. Some of my clients meet their Filipino bride online, chat for a few months, then go to the Philippines to marry her (meeting her only for the first time to get married). With this kind of marriage, you may have difficulty providing proof of your relationship. Perhaps few relatives and friends know your spouse. Also, you probably have never lived together and have few photographs together. You also have limited examples of time spent together. Your case is only as good as what you can prove. Keep this in mind when you are petitioning a spouse you have only known for a few months.
2. Age gaps. I recently received a call from a 76 year old man hoping to marry his 26 year old fiancé in the Philippines and petition her to live with him in Chicago. Age gaps, especially very large age gaps, will raise questions about the legitimacy of the relationship. However, age gaps can be overcome by pictures showing the history of the relationship, affi davits from family members and friends that you are in a committed relationship, shared properties and assets, and the presence of children.
3. Sharing. For the couples who are fortunate enough to be together, you should show that you share things together. Some couples keep all finances separate and also choose not to live together, which suggests that the marriage is a sham. If you are married, there is an expectation that you and your spouse share things together. Don’t be afraid to put your money where you mouth is. If you can show to Immigration that you have shared bank accounts, a shared home, shared cars, or that you cover your spouse on your health insurance and name them as a beneficiary of your estate, you greatly strengthen your application.
If you want to move forward with petitioning a spouse or fiancé to live with you in the United States and you have one of the following issues above, just be aware that you will need to address this with immigration to show your relationship is bona fide. Also, whether you are the U.S. citizen or the foreign national, I do recommend a prenuptial agreement. If you have questions about prenuptial agreements, please contact me at (312) 546-5077 or janice@pinaylaw. com. Thank you for reading. Until we meet again, love one another.