5 Common Reasons Why Marriage-Based Green Cards Are Denied

Posted by Ally Bolour | 27 May, 2021 | 0 Comments

denied marriage-based green card

If you entered the U.S. legally and are married to a U.S. citizen you may be eligible to apply for adjustment of status (permanent residency). You begin the process by filing Form I-130, along with Form I-485, and the required supporting documents. When everything is filed properly, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will adjudicate your case – the last step is scheduling your green card interview.  

Unfortunately, not every spouse of a U.S. citizen is approved for a marriage-based green card. Below are the common reasons for denials.

Inability to Demonstrate a Bona Fide Marriage

Before granting a green card based on marriage, USCIS will scrutinize whether the marriage itself is genuine and not a scam to secure permanent resident status. In addition to submitting your marriage certificate and proof that any previous marriages ended prior to your current marriage, you and your spouse will need to provide evidence that you share a life together.  

Documentation can include titles, deeds, leases or mortgages to joint property; joint tax returns; joint automobile, health or home insurance policies; and life insurance policies listing each other as the primary beneficiary. If you and your spouse have a child together, the child’s birth certificate or adoption record listing both of you as parents is very convincing evidence that your relationship is genuine. Additionally, wedding photos, honeymoon itineraries, and cards and letters that you received as a couple, at the same address, can provide supporting evidence of a bona fide marriage.  

You will also have to answer questions about your relationship and marriage at the green card interview. This allows the adjudicator to determine whether or not your marriage is bona fide.  Having your attorney properly prepare you for this interview is extremely important and will greatly increase the chances that nothing goes wrong at the interview that could have been avoided. 

Health Reasons

Green card applicants must demonstrate that they do not pose a danger to U.S. society on health, financial, security, immigration violation or criminal grounds. With regard to health, you may be deemed inadmissible if you have a communicable disease of public health significance or if you cannot prove you have received medically and age-appropriate vaccines against vaccine-preventable diseases. Currently, this list includes mumps, measles, rubella, polio, tetanus and diphtheria, pertussis, haemophilus influenzae type B (HIB), seasonal influenza, hepatitis A and B, rotavirus, meningococcal disease, varicella and pneumococcal disease, but not COVID-19. Your application requires a medical exam, during which you can request vaccines that you are missing. 

Additionally, applicants with harmful behavior associated with a physical or mental disorder are inadmissible, as are applicants who are found to be drug abusers or drug addicts.

Financial Reasons

USCIS will deem you inadmissible if it believes you are likely to become a “public charge,” or someone who is primarily dependent on the government for subsistence. USCIS will require that the petitioner (your U.S. citizen spouse) demonstrate that he or she has sufficient income or assets to support you. The petitioner, who must file Form I-864, Affidavit of Support, must show that he or she meets at least 125 percent of the U.S. poverty guidelines in order to sponsor you. If your spouse’s income falls shy, but he or she has significant assets such as real estate or certain investments, this may be applied to supplement the income. However, if this too falls short, a joint sponsor – any U.S. citizen or permanent resident who does meet the 125 percent of U.S. poverty guidelines – will be required. 

It is important that your case be properly prepared in order to demonstrate that the petitioner meets this requirement or that the joint sponsor qualifies you. 

Immigration Violations

Generally, to adjust your status to permanent resident, you must be present in the United States after being “inspected and admitted” or “inspected and paroled” by an immigration officer. Gaining entry unlawfully or through fraud or willful misrepresentation or abusing the terms and conditions of your visa are grounds for inadmissibility and may therefore result in the denial of your adjustment of status application (permanent residency). The same applies to foreign nationals who may have triggered the 3- or 10-year bar on account of their unlawful presence in the U.S. and subsequent departure and possible re-entry. It is important that you go over your immigration history in detail with your immigration attorney before applying for adjustment of status so to determine whether your past immigration history has resulted in any inadmissibility grounds. 

Criminal History

Criminal history is another factor that can lead to denial of your adjustment of status (permanent residency) case. Being convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude or controlled substances usually qualifies as grounds for inadmissibility. While the term “crime involving moral turpitude” is not clearly defined, it generally refers to conduct that shocks the public conscience as being inherently base, vile or depraved, and contrary to the rules of morality. Crimes that the courts have ruled as involving moral turpitude in immigrant cases have included spousal abuse, child abuse, robbery and fraud, among other serious crimes. For other crimes, immigrants who have been convicted of two or more offenses with an aggregate sentence of five years or more are considered inadmissible. For instance, someone with multiple DUI convictions may have their application denied. 

For these reasons, it is important to go over your criminal history with your immigration attorney so that he or she can properly determine whether or not your adjustment of status case may require a waiver or if the adjustment of status case can proceed without a waiver. 

Your Application

Some applications are denied because they are incomplete or do not contain the requisite fee – ideally they are simply bounced back and the applicant only loses time, but USCIS can deny, which would result in the applicant losing the filing fees and needing to re-file. 

At Bolour/Carl Immigration Group, we always review your application to ensure its completeness in addition to assessing the facts of your case to determine whether or not a waiver is needed and, more importantly, if you are eligible to adjust status to permanent residency.  Again, many grounds of inadmissibility can be waived, and we will help determine whether a waiver is needed in your case. Further, if your application has already been denied, we can help you challenge that denial. 

If you would like to speak to a marriage-based green card lawyer, contact Bolour/Carl Immigration Group at 323-857-0034 or [email protected].

For more information on other immigration laws and updates such as how to remove the conditions of your marriage-based green card, check out our blog section.

About the Author

Ally Bolour

Ally Bolour has been practicing immigration law since 1996. He is the Founding and Managing Partner at Bolour / Carl Immigration Group, a full service immigration law firm based in Los Angeles with satellite offices in Salinas, CA and Palm Springs, CA. He is an Elected Director at the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA). Previously, he served on the Board of Trustees at the American Immigration Council. He is a member of the LA County Bar Association & the LGBT Bar Association. Ally is a frequent speaker on immigration issues for AILA and other local, national, and international organizations. He is fluent in Persian.


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