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If I married outside of the US and only did the religious ceremony but did not get the official governmental marriage license in the respective country, does the US consider me married or just engaged? Should I apply for a fiancé visa or a spousal visa and do the court ceremony here?

Thank you!
 

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Does the country you had the ceremony in consider you married?

If yes, then the USCIS will recognize it, if no, then they won't.

It may also be that the country you had the ceremony in recognizes that you are in a de-facto/common-law marriage.

If the country you are in recognizes common-law marriages, then you may still qualify as a married for immigration purposes.
 

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Where did you get married?

For immigration applications you need official documents proving the marriage, so if you don't have a marriage licence you won't be able to prove this.
 

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Does the country you had the ceremony in consider you married?

If yes, then the USCIS will recognize it, if no, then they won't.

It may also be that the country you had the ceremony in recognizes that you are in a de-facto/common-law marriage.

If the country you are in recognizes common-law marriages, then you may still qualify as a married for immigration purposes.
The USA does not recognize common law marriages though....
 

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Except that it does...

9 FAM 102.8-1 Marital Relationship
9 FAM 102.8-1(A) What Qualifies as a Marriage?

(CT:VISA-367; 05-26-2017)

The term “marriage” is not specifically defined in the INA; however, the meaning of “marriage” can be inferred from INA 101(a)(35), which defines the term “spouse.” Relationships entered into for purposes of evading immigration laws of the United States are not valid for visa adjudication purposes.
<snip>

9 FAM 102.8-1(F) Common Law Marriage

(CT:VISA-863; 06-17-2019)

In the absence of a marriage certificate, an official verification, or a legal brief verifying full marital rights, a common law marriage or cohabitation is considered to be a “valid marriage” for purposes of visa adjudication only if it is legally recognized in the place in which the relationship was created and is fully equivalent in every respect to a traditional marriage. To be "fully equivalent", the relationship must bestow all of the same legal rights and duties possessed by partners in a lawfully contracted marriage, including that:

(1) The relationship can only be terminated by divorce or death;

(2) There is a potential right to alimony;

(3) There is a right to intestate distribution of an estate; and

(4) There is a right of custody, if there are children.

9 FAM 102.8-1(G) Civil Unions and Domestic Partnerships

(CT:VISA-863; 06-17-2019)

Similar to common law marriages, a civil union or domestic partnership only qualifies as a "valid" marriage for visa adjudication purposes if the place of celebration recognizes the status as equal in all respects to a marriage. See 9 FAM 102.8-1(F) above.
I grant you that the FAM was "retired" in May this year, so this is no longer authoritative, and I also grant you that this approach would be difficult as the burden would be is on the applicant to establish the bona fides of the relationship to a standard acceptable by the field adjudicator.

So it would not be an easy route to take, if there was an alternative is to walk into a registry office.
 

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Except that it does...



<snip>



I grant you that the FAM was "retired" in May this year, so this is no longer authoritative, and I also grant you that this approach would be difficult as the burden would be is on the applicant to establish the bona fides of the relationship to a standard acceptable by the field adjudicator.

So it would not be an easy route to take, if there was an alternative is to walk into a registry office.

Interesting.... as the US does not have an unmarried partner visa as the UK does, and you can only apply for a fiance or spouse visa, then having to prove your common law relationship (based on the rules of another country) would certainly prove onerous. Have seen many threads on immigration forums where responders have said being unmarried won't get you a visa and advised marriage.
 
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