To obtain a green card based on marriage, the couple must be legally married before filing the application for permanent residence. However, COVID related travel restrictions have caused many couples to postpone wedding plans. This has caused some couples to ask, are proxy marriages valid for obtaining an immigrant visa?
What is Proxy Marriage?
Proxy marriage is when a marriage ceremony is performed, even if one member of the couple is not present. A double proxy marriage is when neither members of the couple is present where the marriage is being performed. In that case two stand-ins are present for the couple, who sign the marriage certificate for them in front of the officiant. Proxy marriage differs from a Zoom wedding, where the entirety of the wedding performance is done remotely, as seen on the Father of the Bride reunion that came out in 2020.
Proxy marriages have commonly been very helpful for couples in the U.S. military, where people may be deployed for months at a time but want their loved one to experience military benefits, or to accelerate the military placing the couple in the same location for orders.
But proxy marriages have also seen a resurgence in the immigration context, as engaged couples have had to deal with closed borders and travel restrictions due to the pandemic. Couples who want to benefit from the immigration rights of spouses may look to proxy marriage as a way to expedite their loved one's immigration process to get to the United States.
Does U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Recognize Proxy Marriage?
If you are thinking about proxy marriage as an option, it's important to note a few things:
In general the U.S. recognizes the validity of a marriage based on the law of the place where the marriage was celebrated, but not all states recognize proxy marriage. Currently about 5 states allow the performance of proxy marriages, with a couple others making exceptions for military service members. Montana is the only state that allows a double proxy marriage.
- USCIS recognizes proxy marriage, but for purposes of obtaining a green card, you must prove that the marriage was consummated. You can show evidence of this through a personal affidavit or attestation, as well as proof of a bona fide marriage, like photos together, plane tickets, and things that show a long-lasting relationship.
Another option to consider is a K-1 fiancé visa. The fiancé visa allows a U.S. citizen to bring a fiancé to the U.S. to get married in the States. The marriage must occur within 90 days of the foreign national's admission to the U.S. (Hence, the name of the reality show, 90 Day Fiancé). After the marriage, the application for permanent residence can be filed.
If you are considering proxy marriage or are wondering whether a fiancé visa might be a better option, schedule a consultation with us at (757) 422-8472, or send us a message on our website. You can also schedule an appointment with one of our attorneys by clicking on this link.