Why Having Separate Bank Accounts May Hinder Your Immigration Process

Nov 26, 2023 | Finances, Immigration

Immigrating to the United States is a complex and nuanced process that involves navigating various legal, financial, administrative, and even emotional hurdles. If you are bringing your partner to the U.S. (or you are the non-U.S. partner) then you understand this well. One aspect that you may not be thinking of, but which can significantly impact your relationship-based immigration application, is having separate bank accounts. That’s right, having a separate bank account can negatively affect your U.S. immigration application, according to Julia Funke, Esq., an experienced immigration attorney. While having separate bank accounts may seem like a smart financial decision, it is crucial to understand how keeping all your finances separate can potentially impact your immigration application.


Why Have Separate Accounts? 

First, let’s talk a little bit about why couples may choose (or not choose) to have separate bank accounts. And by “separate accounts” we mean any type of account that has monetary value, such as a checking account, retirement account, investment account, etc. So, why do people choose this? Well, separate bank accounts allow couples to have financial autonomy in a relationship. What’s mine is mine, and what’s yours is yours. It can also avoid the argument of “you spent HOW much on a purse?” for our shopping lovers out there. But in all seriousness, it is an important decision in a relationship and has many benefits. 

There are also drawbacks to having separate accounts, such as not having the feeling of growing something together. When you have joint accounts, and you both are contributing to it, you foster a sense of togetherness and teamwork, and are building toward a shared future vision. There could also be financial drawbacks if one person makes significantly more than the other, where a joint bank account could ease some financial burdens of one person. 

At the end of the day, it’s usually a decision a couple makes together based on their personal preferences and relationship style. However, this decision could actually play a role in how your immigration application is processed. Let’s discuss. 


How Having Separate Accounts Can Impact Your Immigration Application

If you or your partner is immigrating to the U.S. based on a relationship visa, such as the K-1 visa, CR-1 visa, or the IR-1 visa, you will be required to show proof of an ongoing and genuine relationship. The evidence required for this may include wedding photographs, wedding invitations, joint lease agreement, screenshots of regular communication, and even commingling of finances (i.e., joint bank accounts). 

Why is this required? Well, the U.S. government wants to ensure that your relationship is real and it’s not just a ploy to get a  person to the U.S. without reason. So, the U.S. government wants to see cold, hard evidence that you and your boo are a real couple. And if you’ve seen 90-Day Fiancé, you know that this can be a struggle for some couples where the foreign partner is likely scamming the American (we’re looking at you Mohamed and Danielle). 

So, the U.S. government likes to see commingling of assets (i.e., mixing of funds), such as joint bank accounts, because this makes it more likely the relationship is bona fide. If the relationship isn’t real or was entered into solely for the purpose of gaining an immigration benefit, it’s highly unlikely either party would mix their funds. Thus, joint accounts are often considered strong proof of financial interdependence and can bolster your immigration case. Without shared accounts, you may find it challenging to demonstrate the depth of your relationship, potentially leading to delays or even denials in the immigration process.


Why Is This A Problem? 

Having a joint bank account can be a problem for many people who want to maintain financial autonomy in their relationship and not mix funds. However, the immigration process may compel them into creating joint bank accounts when they never wanted that for their relationship, particularly for newer relationships where there may not be sufficient alternative evidence to bolster the case.. Here are some more reasons why people may not want to have a joint bank account:


Lack of Financial Privacy

One significant drawback of joint bank accounts is the decreased level of financial privacy. Both partners have access to the account and can monitor each other’s spending habits, which might lead to some uncomfortable conversations. 


Potential for Arguments

If you’re a spender and she’s a saver, these differences in spending habits can lead to arguments. Having a joint bank account requires significant open communication and aligned financial goals to avoid conflict. 


Dependency and Control Issues

A joint bank account may indirectly create a sense of financial dependency from one spouse onto the other. If one partner manages the finances more actively, it could lead to an uneven power dynamic, potentially causing strain in the relationship or for one person to feel out of control completely. 


Complications in Case of Separation

In the unfortunate event of a relationship breakdown, dividing assets in a joint bank account can become complex, especially without a prenup. Deciding how to split the funds fairly may require legal intervention and can add emotional stress to an already challenging situation.

How a Prenup Can Help 

So, let’s say you feel compelled to utilize joint bank accounts with your partner for the sake of immigration, to ensure the smoothest process possible.. While that may not be your first choice, there is a silver lining: a prenup! A prenup can make sure that all of those joint accounts are split up the way you would want them to in the event of a divorce, and sometimes in death. 

For example, you can add a clause to your prenup that dictates that the joint account should be split 50/50. This can be beneficial for several reasons. For one, both partners go into the marriage knowing that their money deposited into the account could potentially be split 50/50. In other words, it sets expectations within the couple, potentially avoiding conflict. Second, it can ensure your money is being split the way you would want it to be, instead of letting a court decide how to split it up (which may be more or less than 50% depending on your state). 


Final Thoughts

While the decision to have separate bank accounts may seem like a personal choice, for some international couples, this may be a tricker decision for immigration purposes. Demonstrating to U.S. immigration authorities that your relationship is real may entail proving you and your partner have  commingled your finances and assets, a.k.a. joint bank accounts. Before embarking on your immigration journey, make sure you carefully evaluate the implications of maintaining separate/joint bank accounts and, if necessary, explore options to address these concerns and strengthen your case. As always, consider speaking with an immigration attorney to discuss your questions. You can book a FREE 15 minute consultation with an immigration lawyer today

You are writing your life story. Get on the same page with a prenup. For love that lasts a lifetime, preparation is key. Safeguard your shared tomorrows, starting today.
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