A Complete Guide to Marriage Visa in USA

Updated on 11/15/2023

Foreign citizens married to a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident can obtain lawful permanent residence (or called green card), providing they fulfill the requirements. In such cases, the U.S. citizen is referred to as the petitioner or sponsor, and the foreign spouse is called the beneficiary or applicant. This guide will discuss getting green card, the general documentation and marriage conditions that must be met.

Marriage Visa

Marrying a U.S. Citizen or Permanent Resident

If you want to obtain a marriage Visa in USA for your spouse, you must be a U.S. citizen or a U.S. permanent resident.

There are several types of documents which can prove U.S. citizenship, including a copy of valid U.S. passport, certificate of birth issued by any state of United States, certificate of naturalization, certificate of citizenship, Consular Report of Birth Abroad (FS-240).   

A legal U.S permanent resident is an individual who has a green card and because of that can live and work in the United States. If your U.S.-based spouse loses their permanent resident status, a problem may arise in terms of the foreign spouse obtaining a green card. A U.S. permanent resident can lose their status if they move to another country or commit a crime that makes the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services deport the individual.

Spouses Must Be Legally Married to Obtain a Marriage Visa in USA

Spouses who qualify for a marriage green card or marriage-based visa must be legally married. A legal marriage is one that is recognized by the country’s government where the marriage was performed. In most cases, a legal record of the marriage may be obtained, and the spouses should be able to procure a marriage certificate.

Are domestic partnerships and common law marriages accepted?

Some spouses might live in a non-formalized domestic partnership. They will be unable to apply for a marriage visa. However, if the country where they lived together recognizes common law marriage, it is possible to show that the marriage was legally viable in that country. If that is the case, the common law marriage would allow the foreign spouse to enter the United States under a marriage visa.

Does the couple need to be married in the United States?

Marriage in the country where either party is living is acceptable for the purposes of obtaining a marriage visa USA. The wedding may vary according to the country’s traditions where it was performed, including tribal weddings and others.

Are same-sex marriages accepted?

Same-sex marriages have been accepted since 2013 and are treated in the same way as opposite-sex marriages under immigration law. If a spouse is legally married to a United States citizen or one who has achieved permanent residence in the United States, it does not matter whether they are both the same sex or not.

Are proxy marriages accepted for a marriage visa?

Yes and no. Generally, proxy marriage is not acceptable when applying for a marriage visa. In such cases, a proxy is the person who stands in for one of the spouses. Usually, this occurs because the spouse is unable to travel to the country to participate in the ceremony. There is one condition where a proxy marriage may be acceptable, and that is if the spouses consummate the marriage after the ceremony is concluded.

Is a marriage certificate the only proof of a legal marriage?

Yes, in most cases. Different countries have their own procedures to get married and format of marriage certificate. In the United States, there is a difference between a marriage license and a marriage certificate. A marriage license is a document that couples must obtain in advance to get married. The marriage certificate is sent to the couple after the marriage ceremony and proves they are married. It is a complete documentation of the marriage and is considered sanctioned by the country where the ceremony was performed.

Other documents, such as a form filled out by the captain of a ship or a church without an official marriage certificate, will not be considered proof of the marriage.

The Spouses Cannot Be Married to Someone Else

Polygamy, which is the practice of having more than one spouse at the same time, is not legal in the United States. Thus, it will not be acceptable if a spouse is married to others aside from their chosen partner even if their home country permits multiple marriages.

For a marriage visa to be granted, neither spouse can be married to another person. The couple must present a divorce paper, annulment or death for the previous spouse or spouses.

Marriage Must Be Bona Fide

In the case of a marriage visa USA, the marriage must be intended as a way for the spouses to build a life together. Specifically, the couple is expected to enter into a full-fledged marital relationship. In this way, the couple will prove their marriage is real not only in terms of a wedding and a marriage certificate but also by their actions.

If the marriage is intended to procure a green card for the other spouse, it is not bona fide. Instead, it is considered fraudulent and will likely be investigated by the USCIS. Such a marriage is regarded as a sham that seeks to undercut the immigration laws.

The USCIS roots out fraudulent marriages by using heavily documented applications and the required interview. Evidence of bona fide marriage must be provided. The initial interview is required for all marriage visa applications. If the immigration authorities are still concerned, they may call you back for a second interview called a Stokes interview. This interview is more intense than the initial interview. It may be appropriate to have interview training with a skilled immigration lawyer prior to attending the interview.

While the U.S. government does not usually interfere in the spouses’ lives, if they believe that the marriage is a sham, they might talk to friends, visit the spouses at home and talk to employers.

Financially Supporting Your Spouse

The U.S.- based spouse must be able to financially support their spouse. They must file an I-864 affidavit of support, in which they promise to support their spouse. In order to do this, the sponsoring spouse must be at least 18 years of age.

The sponsoring spouse must also show sufficient income and/or assets that they can support themselves, their spouse and their household. This includes children. According to the USCIS, this amounts to 125 percent of the federal poverty level. If the sponsor is in the active military, the percent of the federal poverty level drops to 100 percent.

Disqualification of the Sponsoring Spouse

There are several reasons why a sponsoring spouse may be disqualified:

  • The sponsor is a green card holder, which they obtained by marrying a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident. They will not be able to sponsor another spouse unless they are legally divorced and five years has passed or widowed since they became a legal permanent resident.
  • If the sponsor has been convicted of offenses against a minor, they will be unable to sponsor a spouse.
  • If the sponsor is considered to be a risk to the beneficiary, the USCIS will deny the marriage visa application.

Disqualification of the Green Card Applicant

If the green card applicant is inadmissible to the United States, they are not eligible to obtain green card unless a waiver is granted. Inadmissible is a very complicated concept in the immigration law. Commonly known grounds of inadmissibility include:  criminal history, visa fraud, membership in certain groups such as communism, involving in terrorist activities, infectious diseases such as syphilis, and so on. In addition, foreigners aged 18 or older have been unlawfully present in the United States for more than 180 days or 1 year and then left the United States will trigger 3-year or 10-year inadmissible bar. Some grounds of inadmissibility can be waived if USCIS grants the waiver application. Unfortunately, the requirements for a waiver are extremely demanding.  

If you are about to apply for a marriage visa in USA, let us help you. We DYgreencard.com provide a free check eligibility to see whether you are eligible for a marriage visa. Learn more if married a U.S. citizen, or learn more if married a permanent resident.  

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