U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services regulates many different aspects of immigration to America, including the kinds of marriages that the country recognizes as part of a pathway to citizenship or resident status. Depending on the nature of the marriage itself and the country where the marriage took place, some marriages may not receive recognition under the law within the U.S.
The country where the marriage originates, known as the “place of celebration”, may recognize different standards of marriage than the U.S., and in some cases, a marriage that one country recognizes does not receive full legal recognition for immigration purposes. The USCIS generally does not recognize:
- Marriages or relationships specifically entered into for the purpose of circumventing or manipulating U.S. immigration laws. These are commonly referred to as “Green Card” marriages.
- Polygamous marriages, or marriages among three or more individuals.
- Marriages, domestic partnerships, civil unions, or other similar arrangements that may receive legal recognition within the U.S., but are not recognized as legitimate in the place of celebration.
- Marriages that violate the laws of the state where the couple chooses to reside.
- Proxy marriages, or marriages in which one spouse was not physically present at the marriage ceremony, unless the couple has already consummated the marriage.
If you suspect that your marriage may not qualify as a legally recognized union for the purposes of immigration, it is wise to make sure that you understand how to move forward and protect your interests and the interests of your spouse or partner. An experienced immigration law attorney can help assess a marriage or other partnership in light of the law and offer insight as you build a strategy to protect your rights and privileges during your immigration journey.
Source: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, “Chapter 2 – Marriage and Marital Union for Naturalization,” accessed March 30, 2018