There are several factors that Immigration looks at when deciding if a couple is really married -- what is referred to as a bona fide relationship -- or if it is just a scam or a friend helping a friend. One of the main indicators of a real relationship is that the couple resides together full-time.
Many couples consult us because they believed it would be impossible for them to win their adjustment of status case if for some reason they're in the United States but aren't living together. For example, maybe you are attending different Universities or temporarily cannot move together because you have jobs in different areas and have not yet been able to find a job in the city where your spouse lives.
The good news is that this does not lead to automatic denial of a case, despite popular opinion. However, it IS considered a high-risk type of case that could very easily lead to an accusation of marriage fraud if not handled properly. Immigration considers all the circumstances of a relationship when determining whether it is legitimate. That means that if your application paints a complete and believable picture of your relationship, it doesn’t matter whether you have any of the individual factors that are generally looked at.
When we represent clients who are living apart, we are very careful to provide other extensive documentation of their relationship that explains why they are not currently residing together and how they are making future plans to reside together as soon as possible. In some cases when couples residing apart consult with us, after careful consideration, we recommend that they wait until they’re residing together to file. It is a very individual determination. The stakes of this decision have also significantly increased in the past year due to USCIS's new policy of referring immigrants for deportation proceedings if their applications are denied (even for technicalities) and they do not have any other current lawful status.
If you’re in a long-distance marriage, please don’t assume that there is nothing you can do to apply for your spouse’s green card through an adjustment of status or other marriage petition case. The foundation of your married life together is built on your ability to have a permanent legal status in the U.S., so it's incredibly important to take care of your green card application as soon as legally feasible. We're happy to analyze your situation and give you an honest opinion about whether it makes sense to file now or wait until your situation has changed.