Validity of Marriage for United States Immigration Purposes

Marriage is a special and unique bond that many people will experience in their life. Naturally, the idea of marriage has manifested itself in many ways—from monogamous to polygamous marriages.

However, the validity of marriages for US immigration purposes has clear and explicit guidelines that should be considered when undergoing the US naturalization process. In general, the validity of marriages for immigration purposes is often contingent on the laws in place where the marriage was celebrated.

In other words, a valid marriage in the place where the ceremony took place would support USCIS' definition of a valid marriage. On the other hand, a marriage that is deemed illegitimate in the jurisdiction where the ceremony took place, would have a much harder time establishing its validity in the court of law.

Naturally, the association between marriages and US green card has elicited many false marriages for the sole purpose of immigration. As a result, the legal validity of a marriage is often dependent on a required period of time. The time requirement is set in place to deter marriages that are driven by ulterior motives.

Despite the general rule of upholding the validity of marriages in places where it is deemed acceptable, USCIS firmly does not recognized the following relationships as marriages. These types of relationships are deemed as illegitimate, even if it is valid in the place where the marriage took place.

  • Polygamous Marriages

USCIS does not uphold marriages that involve more than one spouse or partner. In cases where there are multiple partners, the relationship is deemed as polygamous, and illegitimate for immigration purposes.

  • Certain marriages that violate the strong public policy of the state of residence of the couple
  • Civil unions, domestic partnerships, or other such relationships not recognized as marriages in the place of celebration

This follows the general rule, where if a marriage is not accepted in the jurisdiction it took place, it will be deemed illegitimate for immigration purposes.

  • Relationships entered into for purposes of evading immigration laws of the United States.

Relationships that are created for the main purposed of avoiding the immigration laws of a non-married applicant. These marriages are commonly referred to as “green card marriages”, are is not acceptable in the eyes of USCIS.

How does international politics and USCIS categorize a marriage between two persons of the same sex?

As a result of the Supreme Court decision in the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), USCIS will determine the validity of same-sex marriages by the “place-of-celebration” rule. In essence, it same-sex marriages falls in the same general category where the validity is mainly dependent on the jurisdiction where the ceremony took place.

What about previous marriages and divorces? Will it affect my eligibility for naturalization with a U.S. marriage?

USCIS has outlined numerous options for applicants who have previously been married, but now intend on marrying a US citizen. In cases such as these, the legitimacy of the new marriage may actually be dependent on the individual's past divorces.

If a former divorce occurred in a jurisdiction where divorces are simply not legal or accepted, the new marriage's validity may consequently be undermined. This application of law and thought is very similar to the “place-of-celebration” rule; except, in this case it is applied to the laws of divorce.

Naturalization through marriage is ultimately a very complicated process that may be different for every individual. An applicant's unique circumstances and stories will inevitably influence their future US immigration process.

If you are considering US immigration through the various marriage pathways, it is highly advised that applicants seek legal counsel before starting the process. The right legal team can provide you with a tailor-made plan that highlights the important characteristics USCIS officers look for when reviewing application.

It is advisable to seek legal guidance from our office today as we strive to help guide you with your specific case. 

Attorney Ramona Kennedy cares about your case and will fight for you.

You can contact attorney Ramona Kennedy Law Offices (Kennedy Law LC) for an initial consultation and case evaluation. The first consultation is free of charge. 

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