“What does bona fide mean when I am dealing with USCIS?” We are often asked this question by our readers. And although we go into considerable detail explaining this concept in our Green Card Through Marriage guide, we wanted to dedicated this post expounding on this concept. Once you understand the meaning of the bona fide in general, translating it for the purposed of the USCIS should be relatively straightforward.
So Really, What Does Bona Fide Mean?
Translated from Latin, “bona fide” means “good faith.” According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, “bona fide” definition include three related concepts: (1) made in good faith without fraud or deceit; (2) made with earnest intent (sincere); and (3) neither specious nor counterfeit (genuine, authentic). In this particular context, it is being used as an adjective, which pretty much is designed to qualify or describe a noun, which can be an object, person, document or status, etc.
“Bona fides” can also be used in the context of a noun, in which case “bona fides” become the actual subject, which defines one’s honesty and sincerity of intention. And in a more specific case, “bona fides” means set of documents or documentary proof demonstrating one’s identity and credentials or proving one’s legitimacy. Sometime, “fides” are used as a brief version of “bona fides” referring to one’s credentials.
What Does Bona Fide Mean for the Purposes of USCIS?
So, here you have the actual meaning of the phrase. How is that translated into the USCIS context? According to what is a green card and the green card definition, you can’t just apply for a green card simply because you desire to have it and enjoy all the green card benefits. You have to qualify in order to apply for a green card and then follow the green card process. How do you qualify? You demonstrate that your personal circumstances meet a series of criteria defined by the USCIS allowing you this immigration benefit. As we discussed in How to Immigrate to USA, the major buckets of such circumstanced involve immigration through family relationships or employment, and if you qualify as a refugee or an asylum seeker. And you may ask how “bona fide” is applicable for all these categories in the green card application process? Let us review.
Green Card through Employment
For the purposes of green card through employment, in most cases an employer has to sponsor the green card applicant. The employer has to provide adequate bona fides demonstrating that the firm has a valid business and sustainable business model in the short or medium term. In short, they have to provide evidence that the firm is not organized for the sole purpose of sponsoring the intending immigrant for green card.
Refugee and Asylum Green Card
For the purposes of refugee and asylum green cards, you’d have to prove that you qualify by demonstrating that there is a real risk to your life, health or well-being or your family’s if you return to you home country. The adequate bona fides in such cases may include records of imprisonment or medical records signifying the physical abuse. You probably don’t find a lot of instances when one applies for refugee or asylum green card that such documents are called bona fides. However, probably most often “bona fides” are used in the context of bona fide marriage.
Green Card Through Marriage
The USCIS pays special attention to the bona fides about the marriage when such marriage is used as a basis for applying for a green card. Why? Because marriage, as much as it is public, primarily is a private matter between the spouses. The true nature of it is revealed only between the two of them and, perhaps, to some near family members. Immigration officers do not have an easy and transparent way to verify whether the marriage is real, genuine or authentic.
Besides, it is also very easy to marry someone for the purposes of getting a green card (see how easy it is in Marriage Between a U.S. Citizen and a Foreigner in the United States). So adequate bona fides are a must for a green card through marriage application. Such bona fides can be established during the initial permanent resident application through supporting documents. The appropriate evidence can and should also be supplied during the green card marriage interview. One must be prepared to provide such bona fides during the immigration appointment because it is rare that the USCIS would issue a marriage based green card without interview. The absence of such bona fides in the application and in the supporting documents is a frequent reason for denying of such application.
We’d like to draw a distinction here between the fraud marriage and true marriage, where the couple fails to provide adequate bona fides. A fraud marriage is entered into for the sole purpose of securing immigration benefits in the U.S. As a matter of fact, this is what USCIS investigates in every single application it receives. Every year approximately quarter of a million marriage green cards get approved. And only 200 (two hundred) gets rejected because they are deemed to be based on fraudulent relationship.
On the other hand, there are plenty of couples who are married for the purpose of being married. But they do not provide adequate bona fides that their relationship is real. This is also a basis for the green card application denial. To avoid such mistakes in providing adequate marriage bona fides, download Do It Yourself Green Card guide now.