Immigration: Alternative forms of evidence of marriage.
August 14, 2007 11:10 AM   Subscribe

My husband and I have been in the process of getting him US citizenship for the last five years. We have been interviewed, submitted reams of forms, the usual. But it's not enough.

We recently received a "Request for Evidence", stating that the documentation we sent earlier wasn't enough. That documentation included joint tax returns, joint ownership of our home, joint bank account. I think the problem is that the home was purchased only recently, and they consider the rest of the evidence too scant. I know the person who interviewed us had no doubts about the sincerity of our marriage--we're pretty obviously in love--but that isn't swaying the paper-pushers.

We are getting affidavits from our friends, but we aren't all that social, so it won't exactly be a pile of affirmation.

We do both have a web presence, email archives, etc., and I'll be digging through them. What I need now is a mefite brainstorm. What are some alternative forms of proof I can submit, short of homemade porn?
posted by frykitty to Law & Government (29 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
Have you considered having a child?

I realize that may sound like a joke, but considering the list of evidence that they rejected as insufficient, it's hard to think what you could provide short of progeny that would convince them.
posted by alms at 11:27 AM on August 14, 2007


I assume you are actually working on the Green Card right now.

Try sending in bills that show that both of you live and have lived at the same address for quite a while. For instance, his and yours cellphone bill, medical bills, etc.
posted by spacefire at 11:29 AM on August 14, 2007


For those of us unfamiliar with immigration, could someone spell out or point to online what it is they are trying to establish? I know you hint at it with "I know the person who interviewed us had no doubts about the sincerity of our marriage" but...well, how do most other couples prove "this", whatever it is... Am I making sense?
posted by vacapinta at 11:33 AM on August 14, 2007


Your immigration lawyer should know exactly what you need. If you don't have one, get one. I've had friends go through this, and they say the money spent on the lawyer was well worth it.
posted by oneirodynia at 11:33 AM on August 14, 2007


I have some friends who are going through the same frustrations right now...though I don't know how long into the process they are, I do remember one member of the couple recounting to me a few small things they did to meet the "yes, this is for real" requirement - getting utilities under both of their names, and bringing in the wedding albums! My friends are Indian and were married there, and have something like 1500 pictures. Good luck!
posted by mdonley at 11:35 AM on August 14, 2007


Brainstorming: Wedding photos. Insurance documents if you have some joint policies. Wills and health-care proxies. Joint leases if you rented before buying your home. E-mail and phone records showing contact during any time you have spent physically apart.
posted by backupjesus at 11:36 AM on August 14, 2007


Photographs of you two together over the span of your relationship are important.
posted by oneirodynia at 11:37 AM on August 14, 2007


Visa Journey did the trick for my wife and I. The forums are chock full of real world advice.
posted by jasondigitized at 11:40 AM on August 14, 2007


Alms: we don't want children.

Oneirodynia: we had a lawyer who really screwed up, so we definitely don't have the same experience as your friend.

I feel absolutely stupid for not getting all the utilities switched to both names as early as possible. I honestly didn't think of it. I think they're still mostly in my name. *bangs head on desk*

These are good ideas! Keep 'em coming.
posted by frykitty at 11:43 AM on August 14, 2007


We "passed" the green card interview without sending additional supporting evidence. I don't remember everything we took, but some of the things were:
-Wedding photos and other photos of us together and with other family members over the years, including some that were taken in far-away places (i.e., we'd traveled together).
-Evidence that we shared the same health insurance and auto insurance policies, and that I was named as his life insurance beneficiary
-Bills in each of our names going to the same address
Sorry, that's all I remember off the top of my head!
posted by textilephile at 11:45 AM on August 14, 2007 [1 favorite]


You are wasting your time dealing with these bureaucrats. To expedite the process, contact your local Congressional Representative for help dealing with the INS.

Take it from me. My family and I struggled for years just to get a relative naturalized and we couldn't even get in touch with the INS at first.

One phone call to our Congressman's office and it was taken care of within a matter of weeks.
posted by chlorus at 11:49 AM on August 14, 2007 [1 favorite]


By the same token, it took me years to get my citizenship *after* I was approved, and that's *with* a US senator running interference on my behalf. I was ultimately told flat out by a kindly INS official who knew I would not ever name him/her that it was solely because I was nominally Muslim and there was a deliberate slowdown in place. Illegally, of course, but welcome to the Bush years. (And I'm from Bosnia, not Afghanistan or Iraq or some place like that.) So my first thought is, is there anything superficially "undesirable" about your husband or his place of birth which might lead a slowdown to occur?
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 12:02 PM on August 14, 2007


Photos.

My (ex)husband and I are the only couple I've ever heard of who didn't even have an interview - we were approved based on nothing but the paperwork. I attribute this to one thing: the mini photo album I submitted alongside the paperwork. It showed pictures of us that obviously spanned some time - different hair styles/lengths, for example - and taken in many different locations. Photos from our trips to various countries (easily identified in the background), with our respective families, from the 'engagement party' and the wedding - basically a visual history of our 3+ years together at that point. I always thought that INS figured that if we could show that kind of history, they'd have a hard time proving that it wasn't real.
posted by widdershins at 12:11 PM on August 14, 2007 [2 favorites]


Nthing the photos - I know some people who went through this and only had to go once, they said the photos were what sealed the deal.
posted by heartquake at 12:17 PM on August 14, 2007


Seconding widdershins. My wife and I submitted the same type of photo album with our paperwork, and an updated one at the (10-minute) interview.

Seriously, anything that plausibly establishes your relationship to each other is fair game. I had flight itineraries, copies of boarding passes, cell phone bills with each other's number highlighted, IM transcripts, shipping labels, and anything else I could think of tucked into our evidence package. Go nuts.
posted by quite unimportant at 12:19 PM on August 14, 2007


Huh. We had a bunch of photos with us for the interview (along with stacks of other stuff), but honestly got the impression we needn't send them in. It's good to know that may make a difference.
posted by frykitty at 12:20 PM on August 14, 2007


Here's a list of supporting documents that you can use.

- Photographs that show both spouses together with family and friends, especially family of the citizen or permanent resident. These can be taken at the wedding, at other functions or events, and throughout the relationship. Please write on the back of the photos the date, place, and the identity of the people.
- Copies of joint income tax returns.
- Evidence of joint checking, savings or brokerage accounts.
- Photo identification cards of both spouses with a new card for the wife showing her married name, and showing same home addresses.
- Driver licenses, credit cards, check cashing cards, employment ID cards, video club memberships, showing common account number, and/or address or both names or wife's name change.
- Real property deeds, mortgage agreements, or property tax statements showing joint tenancy.
- Apartment lease or a letter from the landlord indicating that both spouses live at the apartment or copies of rent receipts showing both parties’ names.
- Employment documentation showing a change in records to reflect new marital status.
- Employment documentation showing designation of the spouse as the person to be notified in an event of an accident, sickness, or other emergency.
- Evidence of life insurance policies where the spouse is named as the beneficiary.
- Evidence of medical insurance plans which name the spouse as a member or beneficiary.
- Evidence of correspondence between the parties, including letters, birthday and holiday cards, telephone calls, and other correspondence addressed to the parties.
- Religious marriage certificate if there was a church wedding.
- Copies of gas, electric, telephone, cable TV and other utility bills with both names.
- Evidence of joint ownership of automobile or car insurance coverage for both spouses.
- Birth certificates of children born of the relationship.
- Evidence of vacations taken together, such as airline tickets or hotel bills.
- Evidence of any purchases made together, such as stereo, television, refrigerator, washer, dryer, computer, etc.
- Automobile, housing, or rental insurance policies in both names.

I have heard of a guy that showed proof the couple adopted a pet together. The interviewer was amused.
posted by crazycanuck at 1:20 PM on August 14, 2007 [1 favorite]


I don't think anyone has yet mentioned affidavits from family members (stating when they were aware you were dating, when they met the new partner, the history of your relationship in their eyes and how they wish you all the best, etc).

And all the photos you have. And do contact your Congressperson--it's the one thing that worked like a charm for some friends of mine. You'll have to ask someone else what to actually say/do in contacting them about this though.
posted by Martin E. at 2:20 PM on August 14, 2007


Is this the 485 or the 751 (removal of conditions)?

If it's the 485, are you certain that the RFE is about the evidence of valid marriage, and not about having enough money to support your husband?

Nth-ing annotated photos.

It's also entirely possible that they don't give a shit what you send them, and that this is a bogus RFE that's not intended to do anything but be a response issued by a certain date that fobs further delays off onto you.

If it's been 5 years and you're not through the 485 process yet, I'd also second contacting your Representative or a Senator; whoever has the best reputation with immigration stuff in your state. Alternatively, if your local office is convenient, make an infopass appointment and see if they can give you any better insight about what they want or otherwise clear up the issue.

If you really are trying to get him citizenship, and not a green card or removal of conditions, just wait until he's been a permanent resident for 5 years and let him re-file on that basis. Then they shouldn't give a good goddam who he's married to.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:03 PM on August 14, 2007 [1 favorite]


You'll have to ask someone else what to actually say/do in contacting them about this though.

(1) Ask around to see who has the best reputation for constituent service among your Representative and two Senators.

(2) Call the district office and tell them you have a constituency service issue.

(3) Fill out some forms, have relevant conversation with staffer. They'll guide you through.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:05 PM on August 14, 2007 [1 favorite]


Nthing call your Congressman/Senator's office - they handle this stuff all the time. Look on his or her website for the closest district office to you and call that number (don't call the DC number) and ask for a caseworker. It looks like Senator Wyden (you are Oregonian, yes?) has an online casework form you can submit if you want, but if I were you I would just go ahead and call - probably will get you on the right track faster. They'll tell you how to proceed from there.
posted by naoko at 3:58 PM on August 14, 2007


What the inestimable ROU_X said. Given the recent spike in AOS applications, I absolutely wouldn't put it past USCIS sending RfEs just to stretch out the processing time and deal with the backlog.
posted by holgate at 5:09 PM on August 14, 2007


By the way, we photocopied the photos we wanted to submit. We took the originals and the photocopies to the interview, but only left the photocopies.
posted by textilephile at 5:48 PM on August 14, 2007


Affidavits from mutual friends. I'm serious.
posted by oaf at 7:21 PM on August 14, 2007


We ended up using a lot of seemingly goofy stuff, like video rental records that showed both of our names on the account, veterinary records with both names, dog-boarding records, etc. We also had copies of info sheets from our employers' personnel files listing each other as emergency contacts. As a jokey wedding gift, my mother gave us a deed to a square foot of land on the moon, and we included that as well. We also had photos, and we had a slew of affidavits from friends. Somehow, it all worked for us.

Pretty much anything you can think of that lists your names together, you can use. Think in terms of quantity.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 8:03 PM on August 14, 2007


Also, I see that you're in Portland. Portland is home to a truly marvellous immigration lawyer named Philip Hornik, who I can recommend wholeheartedly.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 8:10 PM on August 14, 2007


Nthing contacting a member of congress. My grandparents had been married for nearly 50 years and had had four children, and they had to contact a congressperson to get my grandmother citizenship. If you make a nuisance of yourself, I imagine you chances or getting helped would improve.
posted by MadamM at 8:18 PM on August 14, 2007


My husband and I got me into Australia with a lot of the stuff other people have mentioned:
- photos of the two of us together, including vacations
- boarding passes and itineraries from joint travel
- utility bills and bank accounts in both our names
- letters and invitations sent to the two of us
- library cards, Blockbuster cards in our name
- affidavits from friends and family

Luckily we were expecting to have to show all this stuff, which is why we bothered to save it. It's hard when you have to retroactively prove your relationship.
posted by web-goddess at 8:55 PM on August 14, 2007


And if all the previous wonderful suggestions don't do the trick, see if a local TV station or newspaper has a consumer advocate (maybe called Help Line or Sound Off). Sometimes, media guys can shame an agency into admitting they're jacking people around.

Oh, and cry when you tell a reporter the agonizing wait is making your hair turn gray, is giving you acid reflux, your spouse is near suicidal -- whatever works. Weep and tell the reporter you wonder how many wonderful would-be Americans are being treated this way. Is the agency being racist or is such treatment epidemic, and isn't the TV station eager to do an expose? (Yes, I admit this may be a dumb idea ... but what if it works?) Good luck!
posted by Smalltown Girl at 8:07 PM on August 15, 2007


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