USCIS officers have a tough job – they must decide whether someone is in a real marriage just by looking at some documents and then talking to the couple for about 20 minutes. Many of them have developed a super sharp intuitive ability to spot fake relationships. At the same time, the fact that they have such a limited time to assess a couple means that if you do not make the most of your opportunity to present evidence of your relationship, they may erroneously believe that your relationship is not legit.
One thing that officers strongly consider is whether a couple has joined their financial lives together. Think about it – if you are taking the risk to allow someone else access to your bank account or have them listed as a beneficiary of your life insurance or on your medical insurance it shows that you trust them and it’s not just some random stranger who paid you to marry them for a green card.
That’s why we traditionally submit evidence of joint bank statements, credit card accounts, and joint insurance policies for all of the couples we represent. However, modern couples are much more likely to have separate bank accounts then in decades past. (Cue the song “Independent Women” by Destiny’s Child).
This is not necessarily a deal breaker for filing immigration case. USCIS officers are looking at the overall picture of the relationship. Some of our clients have never joined their financial accounts together but we are careful to document all other aspects of the relationship so that this choice makes sense in context. It’s also very important that couples know about each other‘s financial situations even if they choose not to join their bank accounts.
Do you know what accounts your spouse has? Do you know how much money they make, when they get paid, and whether it's by check or direct deposit? (Yeah, you better!)
Keep in mind that the WORST thing you can possibly do is join your bank accounts in name only but not actually functionally use those accounts. Sometimes couples hear that joint bank statements are necessary for the immigration application process, so they open a bank account together that usually has about $200 in it and they very rarely use it. That is a big no-no! Even if your relationship is legitimate, that piece of evidence could be considered fraudulent because you’re trying to show that you’ve joined your financial lives together when really you haven’t. Don't ever invent any documents solely for immigration purposes. It’s important that any documents you submit reflect your actual reality as a couple. However, if you're just beginning your relationship and trying to decide how to do your financial stuff together, you might want to consider a system that involves either a shared checking account for all of your expenses or a shared checking account that you both put money into and pay your joint household expenses from this account.