Help save Bruce Sterling and Jasmina Tesanovic from US immigration hell!

Bruce Sterling and Jasmina Tesanovic have run into a little trouble with the US immigration people. Because they are "internet people," their marriage has not left the kind of paper-trail that the authorities like to see, and now Jasmina is under threat of deportation. But there's a solution: if you've spent any time with Bruce and Jasmina since their marriage, you can swear out an affidavit to that effect and send it to Bruce before April 15, and save their asses. Bruce doesn't mention it, but other friends of mine who've been through the same thing have benefited from the production of photos of them together, like these two that I took, so you might send those on to Bruce, too.

Surprising news has just arrived for us at our American home address. Although we have been married for four years now, the American Immigration services can't find any paper trail for the two of us.

We have no joint bank account, no insurance accounts and no joint children. The authorities therefore suspect that our marriage is a phony "Green Card marriage," and they would like to have Jasmina deported from the USA.

This is not too entirely surprising a mistake, since we're an Internet couple. By our nature, we just don't generate much paper.

We use electronic banking. Bruce uses American banks, while Jasmina uses Serbian banks. Why would anyone want to make his or her alien spouse use an American or Serbian bank?

There's no reason for us to jointly speculate in American real-estate, since we each already own places to live. No sane European would ever want American health insurance. And so forth.

Like a lot of geek couples, we live out of our cellphones and laptops. Furniture, wedding china, massive home improvement loans: we don't even go there. We have a light material footprint that'll generally fit onto a couple of rollaboards.

We're nevertheless a genuine married couple. Any reasonable Internet person would recognize this fact in two minutes...

We must therefore implore your help. Have you ever witnessed the two of us hanging around together? Were you convinced that we're the real deal, spouse-wise? Do you have solemn, impressive, legal-looking letterhead? For instance, are you some kind of American federal agent yourself? Lord knows we know some.

If so, then, please -- write us a testament to that effect. It's meant for the American authorities, and will be using your own letterhead. Please tell them we are, indeed, a "bona fide marriage." You are talking to the "UNITED STATES CITIZENSHIP AND IMMIGRATION SERVICES" in Vermont, USA. Our lawyer will see to it that they get it.

Bruce Sterling and Jasmina Tesanovic Request Your Moral Support

Our Immigration Lawyer Suggests This Template



  1. I wish both of you the best of luck and am astounded that US immigration can be so pig headed about the entire thing

  2. As far as I know, in France you can prove what they call “community of life” by presenting years of utility and internet bills with both names on it. An appartment renting contract with both names is also an good evidence. Proving that both spouses have been sharing home is enough for French immigration. Maybe this could help defend their case. Good luck to them, administrations are Brazil-like these days.

  3. Interesting that the template seems to rest on the fact that the marriage is based on “love”. Surely there might be other, valid (i.e. non-green-card-focused) reasons for getting married.

  4. I realize that in a vacuum, two rational people may decide that it’s better to have a low impact marriage, but this is not a vacuum. As I am sure their immigration lawyer told them when they applied for her green card, there is a very real purpose to having joint bank accounts and other indicia of marriage, namely, convincing the BCIS that their marriage is legitimate. I find it really hard to be sympathetic to them.

  5. Let me start out by saying I have no reason to doubt anything Bruce Sterling said, and if I had any documentation of him and his lovely wife Jasmina together, I’d eagerly supply it, but I have none.

    Having said that, if you met someone, and said this is my wife, but we don’t have a joint home, no joint bank account, no children, and no material assets to speak of (furniture, etc.), your first reaction might be are they getting ready for divorce?

    It’s not fair, and it reflects an “older” way of thinking about marriages and relationships, but I think it is pretty common.

    I once worked for a fellow who had a stay-at-home wife and a couple children, they maintained two distinct retirement and savings accounts (one of each for the husband, and another of each for his wife), both funded from the husband’s income, and at the end of each month, they reconciled so that each spouse’s accounts matched the other’s. It made perfect sense, it took money arguments off the table, but when I told others about my boss and his wife, their first reaction was “Are they getting a divorce?”

    And just to pick some nits, from Bruce’s note:

    This is not too entirely surprising a mistake, since we’re an Internet couple. By our nature, we just don’t generate much paper. [emphasis added]

    Yes you do – “paper” is a euphamisim for records, and almost 100 percent of all “printed” records come from computers, just like the ones you use when you bank on the internet, etc. I would argue that your personal matters are probably better documented since you “live” online – you likely have fewer cash-only transactions, and those transactions are the only ones that escape documentation or “papers”.

  6. From what is said above and even what you are looking for is probably not going to cut it.

    Go and get the bank accounts in both names, get all the bills in joint names and all the housing.

    I have been through this before and you have to face facts. You are working against/with a bunch of bureaucrats.

    Sure you can say “We are a modern couple” and whatever, hell you can even take it to the supreme court if you like. Just spend some time and paperwork and change some things to both names.

    Changing a bit of paperwork is lot easier than spending years fighting whatever government department to try and make some point.

    The lawyer they are working with should know all this. He probably wants to milk this for all its worth.

    My partner and I did it ourselves and ended up getting accepted/approved. She even got a nice letter suggesting that she take english lessons, even though she is from an english speaking country.

  7. Let’s hope they acknowledge the validity of digital photos — the government moves in slow and ponderous fashion, and probably still has handling and authenticity verification rules for daguerreotypes.

    (I have to go and prove the validity of my own marriage in a couple of months…)

  8. I like this notion of ‘Internet couple’ so much, I wish I could help em out but I’ve never met them, let alone have any evidence.
    This is challenging so many convictions concerning love, relationships, marriage, immigration, nationality, andsoforth.
    This is a married couple. By law.
    They probably have a more succesfull marriage than the majority of people who are actually on each others lip all the time.
    Uh-oh. Confusion. Gotta redefine reality. Marriage is when……
    Love is when……..

    I love the times we live in.

    Lotsa change is afoot.

  9. This sucks and I’ve had acquaintances in similar situations. However, what does any of this have to do with the internet? Is he using “internet” as a metaphor for non-traditional, non-conforming, or abnormal?

    An internet couple would be people who met online and got married but have never seen each other face-to-face.

  10. I hope this will work on time, with the help of all the others who have met them and can attest.
    I think it’s important to tell and wish them well, for I and you may be in a situation like that to come.

    Lots of love to you!

  11. My wife and I went through something similar when we applied for her green card.

    We were ultimately successful, but we had to provide a lot of materials to establish our bona fides.

    Things we included:

    emails, chat transcripts, cell phone records, notarized statements from family and friends, printouts of digital photos. Even if you like having separate accounts, you should consider adding each other to them so that you can show co-mingling of assets.

    Good luck!

  12. dude they have an interview together? how did immigration miss that, even if it is in new zealand? it would appear they really don’t google those names

  13. maybe the name of the INS guy who can’t use Google should get his own wikipedia entry with appropriate text a la Homer Simpson. “Mr. so and so: to be a techno-peasant par excellence, a web boob”

  14. My wife and I just went through this ourselves and thanks to a detailed description of requirements by our lawyer and our knowledge of such cases, we had everything prepared but only at the last minute.

    First off, as it has been suggested above, call your bank and add your wife on your accounts. Takes only a few minutes and is totally painless. Secondly, call all of your credit cards and do the same. They will send you the joint credit cards. Use them as evidence. Thirdly, call your life insurance (if you have one) and have your wife’s name added as sole beneficiary. You can always change it later. Fourthly (is that a word?), PRINT your digital pics that show your together, especially where you are with family and friends. Print lots of them and send them with the final package.

    We are very much ‘internet people’ as well and we are not even born Americans (me Pakistani, she Italian…try going through US immigration these days with my passport :-). I am sure you know that almost all banks with internet banking allow you to print your monthly bank statements. So, add your wife on your accounts and then print some latest statements.

    Also, visit some internet forums and get advice from others in the same situation. Us Pakistanis, Indians, Chinese, unfortunately, know a lot about this hassle than Americans. One such forum that was very helpful for me is

    Lastly, talk to your lawyer. He is clearly not doing his job of informing you of what is needed in such situations. I would even suggest that you are better off finding lawyer who is a non-American as they naturally deal with more of such cases and sometimes have even gone through this themselves and know all the potholes, so to speak.

    PS: Always funny to read comments by ‘born Americans’ on such situations. Yes, my friends, it happens on a daily basis and there are much worse cases than Bruce’s unfortunately. So speak up for the rights of all. We are all ‘internet people’ afterall :-)

  15. Do you think we might be able to use the same kind of narrow minded, blind logic to cleanse the INS of idiots and megalomaniacs? A classic example of “absolute power corrupts absolutely”. This is bureaucratic featherbedding at its finest and a perfect example of why and what we need changed in government.

  16. It shouldn’t be necessary to say this, but please don’t be tempted to make something up in order to help a beloved writer. Immigration officials have no sense of humor and they’re looking for inconsistencies.

  17. the stupid, crooked bastards will make up the inconsistencies if they think they can get away with it, I’m sure they routinely do since any victims are ffectively up against the resources of the whole government and have no real appeal if they are ordinary folks.

  18. I love this line: “No sane European would ever want American health insurance.” But it also makes me cringe, because I’m an American with no health insurance.

    1. because I’m an American with no health insurance.

      Is it too much to ask that some smart insurance company targets BB and Mental Floss and a bunch of other big blogs and offers us a group rate? My premiums are $425 a month, which I really, really, really don’t have.

  19. Do you think we might be able to use the same kind of narrow minded, blind logic to cleanse the INS of idiots and megalomaniacs?

    It could make for some good Sci Fi.

  20. This is Loudmouthman of .. I didnt want to create an account to comment ( im too lazy ).

    It seems because they have kept their privacy, managed their anonymity and maintained their fences they are unable to prove anything conclusively since the only people they can argue with are the ones seeking to export.

    Privacy needs a rethink I keep arguing for a rethink on the benefits of privacy and heres an excellent example of how the State benefits from us managing our privacy and our secrets. It leaves you defenseless.

  21. The Ontario, Canada government (used to, maybe still does?) implement the opposite form of this to its social assistance program — if one resident of a ‘college’ house (you know, a house where every bedroom is rented to a student) needs them, they query every opposite-sex resident using this bizarre questionnaire:

    Do you do each others’ laundry?
    Do you open each others’ mail?
    …and my fave,
    Do you eat together?

    In this way, they can establish a ‘spouse’, rather than a friend or roommate, who is obligated to support you financially.

  22. How did it ever get to the point that a bureaucrat at INS can judge whether a marriage is legitimate or not? Even more, why should it matter? If I wanted to serially marry foreigners for money so they could get US citizenship and then divorce them would it really matter in terms of immigration? It would practically be a rounding error. And why should it be any of the government’s business so long as I pay my taxes? I know, I know, I have silly, unreasonable ideas about open borders and free movement of people and government minding it’s (legitimate) business. And yes, you wouldn’t know what kinds of people you would get with the money-marriage-citizenship deal, except for them being resourceful and wanting to be citizens that badly, which frankly I take to be a good thing, can’t have too many resourceful people around.

    I can’t wait for the can of worms that will come about when a gay married couple wants citizenship, if it hasn’t already.

  23. @Neoncat: DFMA legally defines a marriage in the USA as between a man and a woman. Even if you’re a legally married same-sex couple in another country, the USA does not recognize the legal contract.

    (s), Mary Sue

  24. I had to go through a similar process and generate some documentation that shows proof of “co-mingling”. It’s not hard to do. Just like it was mentioned above, you’re dealing with bureaucrats, so do the things that are necessary to show a paper trail like a traditional married couple would have.

    – Open a joint checking account with $100
    – Get a term life insurance policy and put your spouse as the beneficiary
    – Get a renters insurance policy in both your names
    – Did you buy her an engagement ring? Put that on the policy as well
    – You subscribe to the internet at home I presume; put it both your names on the bill.
    – Compile a nice little photo album of pictures from the time since you’ve met or been married. I had one printed through iPhoto and it’s a great keepsake

    This stuff is pretty obvious for those that do some research on the internet, even if you don’t consult with an immigration attorney. I personally use

  25. “No sane European would ever want American health insurance.”

    It is not my impression that European health insurance systems typically cover treatment in the US for people living there.

    Assuming this is true any European living in the US who doesn’t want American health insurance is insane.

    You think the ambulance is going to take you across the Atlantic if you get hit by a car? Nope. You are going to be treated here, at least at first. And get the bills for it. I’m pretty sure the bill collectors would decide they are married.

  26. I gather they applied without an attorney. I know this is self serving since I am an immigration attorney, but it isn’t terribly bright to try such a thing yourself since the immigration laws have even been described by federal judges as the most complex of those on the books with the possible exception of the tax code. In any event, if the Bruce or Jasmina want to talk with someone about this I’ll give them some advice for free. They can email me at I handle this kind of situation all the time. One side point about the previous posts… nobody gets citizenship through marriage (at least not initially). The status obtained is termed “lawful permanent residence”. On another side note the “green card” (the document proving lawful permanent residence) is not green, nor has it been for many years.

  27. I have to say that even if you are an “internet couple,” and even if you value your privacy, and husband and wife should be the beneficiary for each other’s assets. There should be a will naming each a beneficiary of the other’s assets and they should be the named beneficiary of each other’s bank accounts.

    I am not a lawyer, but married to one and got the lecture after we married.

    Something like this (a will and being named the beneficiary of assets) would probably help to convince someone that the pair was married.

  28. Sounds like another case of the law failing to keep up with the times. How sad, and how sad that the government is practically a monolithic luddite waiting to pounce on anyone who manages to live outside of its strictly prescribed lines.

  29. Anonymous wrote:

    This is Loudmouthman of .. I didnt want to create an account to comment ( im too lazy ).

    But obviously not too lazy to make sure your thoughts have attribution…

    Antinious wrote:

    Is it too much to ask that some smart insurance company targets BB and Mental Floss and a bunch of other big blogs and offers us a group rate? My premiums are $425 a month, which I really, really, really don’t have.

    I take it you are paying the $425/month now, despite your “really, really, really” not having it, correct? Have you considered getting Comprehensive Major Medical insurance that covers all medical expenses above a certain threshold ($5,000/year), and once your expenses exceed that amount the insurance kicks in 100%? My brother works for himself and this is his coverage, he says it’s fairly inexpensive (since few people run up bills in excess of $5K/year), and since he is paying doctors, labs and hospitals cash, he usually gets a discount.

    Your maximum annual out-of-pocket will be your self-selected maximum ($5K in my example) plus the cost of the insurance – you’re currently paying $425/month ($5,100/year) plus co-pays and Dr. visit fees…

    Also, if you are currently covered by your employer’s plan, they are likely subsidising it, and some employers will give the employee a small portion of the savings if they forgo the health insurance…

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