Many immigration attorneys in the United States will agree that the process of marriage-based petitions for permanent residence is straightforward, at least when compared to other forms of immigration. The concept of marriage may be international, but its nature and legality are not universal. Not all marriages will be considered valid under the policy manual of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Chapter Two of Volume 12 of this manual establishes that the burden of proving the validity of marriage falls on the applicant, and it also lists the types of unions that will not be recognized. The trusted San Diego immigration lawyers at KS Visa Law have put together a list of five marriage situations the USCIS will not recognize as valid.
1. Green Card Marriages
Spouses who marry for the sole purpose of getting immigration benefits are effectively entering into a fraudulent agreement. Marriages of convenience are invalidated by the USCIS, and they may also be subject to investigation and criminal prosecution.
2. “Shotgun” Weddings
In the U.S., a shotgun wedding is a marriage forced by families who wish to avoid social embarrassment, typically unwanted pregnancies. This arrangement is not considered to be a valid civil union. Spouses must enter the institution of marriage of their own volition. If a citizen of the U.S. is forced to travel abroad and marry a foreigner under duress or coercion, the marriage will not be considered valid. Likewise, a foreigner who is forced to go through the K-1 visa process will render the marriage invalid.
3. Bigamous and Polygamous Marriages
A marriage is only recognized when it is consummated by two individuals. A 1962 case decided by the U.S. Bureau of Immigration Affairs deemed polygamous unions to violate federal laws irrespective of religious beliefs. In some cases, a battered spouse who was victimized by a bigamous marriage may still be eligible to receive immigration benefits, but this will often require a thorough legal review and adequate attorney representation.
4. Unrecognized Civil Unions
Marital relationships that are not recognized in the jurisdiction of a spouse’s origin will not be treated as valid by the USCIS. One example in this regard would be the United Kingdom, where a religious or civil ceremony must take place for the purpose of establishing the marital union. In other words, British law does not recognize common law marriages, which means the USCIS will not validate this situation because it is not recognized in the place of celebration.
5. Marriage by Proxy
This unusual marriage arrangement involves a ceremony whereby any of the spouses were not present. There are rare situations that may declare a proxy marriage valid: for example, a couple in a common law marriage that has lasted for many decades going through a civil or religious ceremony that one spouse cannot physically attend due to medical reasons. The legal basis in this case would be Act 101(a)15P of the Immigration and Naturalization Act.
Luckily, there are plenty of instances where a legitimate marriage grants U.S. citizenship to a foreign spouse. If you’d like to know more about family immigration services in San Diego, reach out to KS Visa Law today. Call 858-874-0711 to schedule an appointment.