As an immigration attorney in Boston, I've helped countless immigrants navigate through the process of becoming permanent residents through marriage to a U.S. citizen. One of the most frequent questions I get is whether you can successfully obtain a green card through a marriage petition if you and your spouse aren't living together.
The answer is yes . . . and no. Let me explain.
I answered "yes" because there is absolutely no legal requirement that you and your spouse have to be living together in order for you to get a green card through a marriage-based immigration petition. The only requirement is that you and your spouse must persuade U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) or an Immigration Judge that your marriage was entered into for good faith reasons. You have the burden of proving that your marriage is based on a relationship that is genuine and bona fide. And to meet that burden, you don't have to show cohabitation.
Is it possible to persuade immigration authorities that your marriage is bona fide even if you don't live with your spouse? The answer is really depends on the facts of your case. Perhaps you and your spouse have extensive documentation such as jointly-held insurance, leases, tax returns, bank account statements, which definitively shows that the two of you intend to establish a life as a married couple. But, for whatever reason, life's circumstances require your temporary separation. I've gotten green card cases such as this approved.
But remember: your marriage certificate doesn't entitle you to a green card. And if you do file a marriage-based immigration petition while separated from your spouse, proceed with caution. Marriage fraud is rampant. You shouldn't be surprised if USCIS takes a skeptical view of your relationship. In my experience as an immigration lawyer, you should have a well-documented and compelling reason for living apart.
One final piece of advice: if you are seeking a green card through marriage--whether you live together with your spouse or apart--the absolute worst thing you can do is to claim to be living together with your spouse when, in fact, you are not. Falsely claiming to live with your spouse will doom your chances for a green card. And a denial of your immigration case will likely result in a trip to Immigration Court for deportation proceedings.
If you are thinking about applying for permanent residency through marriage and would like the advice of an experienced immigration attorney, call my Boston immigration law office today at 617-722-0005.