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are joint finances necessary

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This is a guest post from Living Almost Large about finance and the American Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS)

Sort of a financial topic but a funny spin on it. I have to say joint accounts are absolutely necessary when you are marrying a foreigner. Sounds counterintuitive, that you should have separate accounts, but actually when you are doing the INS paper work you WANT joint accounts. Otherwise you will be crying I promise!

Since I have experience with this area, I’ll tell you a story. When you are married to a foreigner, everyone else who is thinking of marrying a foreigner or dating a foreigner will ask you what the process is like. For us it was easy-peasy compared to most!

Probably because everything was joint, we were really married, and we documented everything. I did cry at the INS, but heck we had been waiting hours only to find out we hadn’t filled out all the paperwork necessary.

At the time we were too broke to afford a lawyer so we had to sit and meticulously fill out everything. We carried a box with EVERYTHING. We had our mortgage, bank statements, copies of credit cards, titles of cars, pictures, etc. You name it we had it.

But back to why you want a joint account. Our friends got married at the same time and were interviewing at the same time, etc. Except the man was an American and the woman Brazilian, and they had meet while he was vacationing in Brazil. My DH and I met while in school and were living together. They were “long distance” dating and then got married.

So we had everything together because well we lived together. We knew the day was coming so we set up everything joint, insurance, car titles, bank accounts, etc. But our friends well it was hard to do everything because they had to apply for a fiance visa, then get married, then start making everything joint after the wife moved here. And they had only been dating 12 - 18 months or something short. We had been living together almost 5 years prior.

Anyway, the husband hadn’t had time to add his wife to his accounts, she wasn’t on the mortgage, not on the car, not a beneficiary for life insurance. And it looked bad. They had a very rough time with the interview and getting their spousal green card.

For us it took us 6 months to get the card, they waited over 1 year. They were investigated and interviewed more intensively than we were. Our interview was 15 minutes and basically the person just reviewed all the paperwork. You submit everything, wait a long time, then go back for an interview. They review everything, then get back to you.

As we were relating our stories, they admitted they hadn’t planned or thought through the process at all. Hence the difficulties. After 2 years of green card you get to remove the conditional status and apply for permenant status.

Anyway, the moral of the story? After hearing their story and others similar to it, we figured our we had cruised through our interview and process WITHOUT a lawyer. Yep we were probably more married than the rest of them. So if you are considering marriage and getting a green card, tip - start setting things up joint asap. Trying to show you are married with all seperate accounts is more hassle than it’s worth.

Beside you have to talk finances eventually. And it should be done before marriage anyway.

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28 comments for “are joint finances necessary”

  1. This is a important information.Thank you for posting.It will help the readers to understand joint finances.

    Posted by Instant Loan | September 26, 2008, 1:51 pm
  2. Great post, I had to admit I laughed at the line “I did cry at the INS”. As someone who is currently trying to immigrate with another foreigner I so understand. I also have several Canadian friends who are married to Americans and who have gone through this.
    We don’t have joint accounts just a joint credit card which we have been told is sufficient. I think the hardest thing is having your relationship judged by a stranger based on bits of paper and bank statements.

    Posted by Looby | September 26, 2008, 2:05 pm
  3. What I would really like to see is someone making the INS people cry. My husband tried a few times but never managed it.

    I am on the record, stridently and regularly, about my opposition to joint accounts for everyone but paperwork tieing you together is definitely pretty important for immigration.

    We had leases, life insurance info and all sorts of other garbage when we applied as “common law partners” for Canuckistani permanent residence - including domestic partnership stuff. The person who signed our domestic partner certificate in NY told us we were the only straight couple he’d done it for :)

    Posted by guinness416 | September 26, 2008, 2:19 pm
  4. Thanks for allowing the guest post Plonkee.

    I cried because we were sitting there from 8 am till 3 pm and were told we hadn’t filled out one form. And I was crying because we might have to take a new number in line or come back another day.

    We sat in one room with a number to go to another room with a number to wait to see someone. Yes 2 rooms with numbers. And then we had to wait longer once we got actually inside the INS.

    I don’t think the INS has ever cried but certainly a lot of people are crying there!

    Posted by LAL | September 26, 2008, 3:30 pm
  5. I have a friend who made ICE cry in court. We bought her 15 rounds of drinks, haha.

    Having joint finances makes sense in this case. But I think it also helped that LAL’s spouse was already living in the US and in school. With the friend’s situation (especially when the foreigner is a woman), ICE automatically assumes she’s a mail-order bride.

    Posted by deepali | September 26, 2008, 6:47 pm
  6. A very informative post. Thanks LAL.

    Posted by Austin, TheOrangePaper Guy | September 27, 2008, 1:36 pm
  7. This is really informative in general. I’ll be moving to the UK with my boyfriend next year. He’s English so I’ll be applying for the spouse visa. We have one joint account now but we’ll be checking out what else we can do to ease the application. Thanks for that!!

    Posted by jill | September 28, 2008, 7:20 am
  8. My husband just recieved his citizenship. He missed the questions about our wedding date, kids b-days, taxes and basically anything personal. The INS interveiwer just laughed and said he was a typical American male! Since we also have joint accounts, joint mortagage(s), joint partnership in our business, joint children :o) we had no problem with the green card or citizenship. We also never hired a lawer.

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  22. I knew that this is a hard and long process but after you told us your story it seems a lot easier. For lot of people is easier to just hire a lawyer and wait for everything to just happen but that also means more money spent.

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