Marriage Certificate in Green Card or Other USCIS Applications

Updated on September 13, 2020

There are many types of immigration-related application forms which require a copy of a marriage certificate. For example, Form I-130 immigrant petition for spouse, father or step-child, which is the first step of applying for green card for the relative of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (green card holder); Form I-485 adjustment of status application filed by a fiancé(e) with K-1 visa or by a spouse of alien worker based on follow-to-join benefits. Even some categories of I-765 application for employment authorization document (EAD) also need a copy of marriage certificate. Here, we provide the answers to the most common questions applicants ask for.

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1. How to get married in the United States?

In general, it is very straightforward to get married in the United States. As long as you are 18 years of age or older, you can marry no matter what immigration status you have in the United States. In some states, like California, same-sex people can also get married. For immigration-related purpose, if you have marriage before, you must legally terminate all of your previous marriages before you remarry.

You may get married in any of the states in the U.S. no matter where you physically reside. However, due to marriage laws in the U.S. are established by the individual states, you must follow the procedures and requirements in that state where you plan to get married.

For most states, you will need to obtain a marriage license from the county or city in that state. You’d better to check its website first before going there in person to make sure you know the correct procedure and which documents you will need to bring with you. Both parties must normally be present when you apply for your marriage license. A witness is also required for some states.

You need to bring a valid photo ID with you. If either of you married before, it is recommended to bring the marriage termination documents with you, even if it is not mandatory to do so for most states. In any event, you should remember the date that the most recent marriage ended. No single/non-marital status certificate is needed to get married in the U.S.

You must have a wedding ceremony to finalize your marriage. In the U.S., a wedding ceremony is a ritual that must be conducted by people who has been authorized by that state to perform weddings, i.e. a religious minister, justice of the peace, etc. Good thing is that most counties or cities have such kind of people available on-site to perform the wedding ceremony for people. So it is possible to obtain a marriage license and a marriage certificate on the same day.

Do not get confused wedding ceremony with wedding reception. A wedding reception is just an event to celebrate the wedding with families, friends, and other close people.  A wedding reception can be considered as a wedding ceremony if it is conducted by people who have been authorized by that state to perform weddings.

2. Should we get married again in the United States if we have been married abroad?

As long as you have been duly married in the country or region where your marriage took in place, it is unnecessary for you to get married again in the United States because in most cases your marriage abroad is recognized under the marriage laws of each state in the U.S.  “Duplicate” marriage will cause confusion even trouble in some situations. So you’d better avoid it.

3. How to get a copy of marriage certificate if we married in the U.S.?

As mentioned above, you will get a marriage certificate issued by the county or city where you get married. As such, if you lost the original marriage certificate, you may request an official copy from a county clerk, city or town hall, or a civil registrar in the place where you were married. Alternatively, because a marriage certificate is one of vital records, you may also visit the office of vital records in the state where your marriage took place. You may locate each office through the website of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

4. How does a U.S. citizen get married with non-U.S. citizen abroad?

Generally, you must comply with the marriage laws where you get married. Accordingly, you should consult the local civil authority in the country or region where you plan to get married. The marriage laws, its requirements and procedures to get married vary significantly as there are more than 195 countries and regions in the word.

When registering a marriage, some countries need a single/non-marital status certificate to prove the U.S. citizen party is single and thus eligible to get married. Essentially, it is a notarized statement issued by the U.S. citizen party to certify he or she is single or in non-marital status. Practically, there are two ways to obtain such single/non-marital status certificate. One is to contact the embassy or consulate of this country in the United States to get such certificate. Another way is to contact the U.S. embassy/consulate in the country where you plan to get married.

5. How to get a copy of marriage certificate if we married abroad?

The simplest way to get a copy of marriage certificate is to contact the civil authority where you get married. If you are uncertain which office is the civil authority in certain country or region, you may check through the left column of the U.S. Department of State’s Reciprocity and Civil Documents by Country page. It clearly tells people the document format, issuing authority, fees, and other information for each type of civil document, including marriage certificate.

If the marriage certificate is not in English, you must submit its original language copy and its certified English translation. A certification by translator shall be attached to the translation.

6. What if a copy of marriage certificate is not available?

If a copy of marriage certificate is not available to you upon exhausted efforts, USCIS allows you to submit alternative evidence to prove the existence of a marriage. Such alternative evidence including:

  • A notarized sworn affidavit in which you describe the facts of your marriage and the reason you’re unable to obtain an official copy of your marriage certificate; and
  • A certified statement from the civil authority that explains why your marriage certificate is not available.

If you can’t obtain a certified statement from the civil authority, you must instead provide at least two additional notarized affidavits from other people, such as one of your parents who are living or a pastor who ever conducted the wedding ceremony for you. In the affidavit, they must attest to having personal knowledge of your marriage in detail.

7. What if no marriage certificate because of religious and traditional weddings?

First, you must figure out whether the country or region recognizes religious and traditional weddings. If it does recognize, then you may submit alternative evidence as mentioned above. If it doesn’t recognize, you should be able to get a marriage certificate if you register marriage in such country or region.  Consult the local civil authority where you plan to get married always remains as the best solution.

8. Is it possible that my marriage not recognized by USCIS?

Surprisingly, for immigration purpose, there are various situations that your marriage is not recognized by USCIS. Not be recognized by USCIS means that, even if your home country allows certain types of marriages, they may not be recognized by USCIS for the purposes of immigration-related applications.

The following marriages will not be recognized by USCIS, even if it is valid in the place it was celebrated:

  • Polygamous relationships;
  • Underage marriages;
  • Civil unions, domestic partnerships, or other such relationships not recognized as marriages in the place of celebration;
  • Proxy marriages where one person was not present during the ceremony;
  • Married in the U.S., but either of you divorced in the place where neither of the divorcing party settled at the time of divorce; or
  • Relationships entered into for purely immigration reasons.

If you are not sure whether your marriage will be recognized by USCIS, you may consult an immigration attorney to help you figure out.

With DYgreencard, you get an independent immigration lawyer who will answer your questions and review your entire application package for accuracy and completeness. Only after the lawyer has confirmed the readiness of your application package, DYgreencard will mail it to your doorstep for filing with USCIS. Learn more, or get started today.

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