For a foreign national and a U.S. citizen thinking of getting married, a not too uncommon question is, “Can we have a proxy marriage?” And their follow up question, “Will immigration accept the proxy marriage?” This question is a bit more common following a New York Times article highlighting proxy marriages in the immigration context. The article, at least in my opinion, leaves the wrong impression that immigrating through a proxy marriage is a simple matter – and no different than immigrating after a traditional marriage ceremony. The truth is much different, and many facets concerning immigration proxy marriages must be considered before the ceremony occurs.
What is a Proxy Marriage?
A proxy marriage is a marriage ceremony performed without one (or both) of the marrying couple being present. Proxy marriages fell out of favor in the United States one or two centuries ago. In fact, most states do not allow them anymore, including New York State. However, states do recognize marriages that are valid in the place where they are performed. For example, while it is not possible to have a proxy marriage in New York State, New York will recognize a valid proxy marriage performed at a location where it is legal.
Does the United States Recognize Proxy Marriages?
Within the United States, it is up to each individual state to recognize a proxy marriage. The United States government only makes a determination of whether or not to accept a proxy marriage when it comes to federal government programs. In most instances, it does recognize valid proxy marriages.
Does the USCIS Recognize Proxy Marriages?
Contrary to popular believe, the USCIS does recognize proxy marriages. But there is a catch! The USCIS does not recognize proxy marriages until they have been consummated. The requirement of consummation is stated in the Immigration and Nationality Act at Section 101(a)(35). Thus, even if a couple participates in a proxy marriage ceremony, they will not be able to gain any immigration benefits until they have been physically together after the ceremony. Further, they must attest to the consummation of the wedding in their immigration application.
Should I Have A Proxy Marriage Or Traditional Marriage Ceremony?
If a couple is marrying, and they will need to seek a marriage visa to be together in the United States, the question of whether to have a proxy marriage or a traditional marriage ceremony should be carefully analyzed before the event. For immigration purposes, the marriage does not count until the couple is physically together after the proxy ceremony. Although the ultimate decision is up to the couple, this immigration lawyer suggests that it may be best to wait until the couple is together to perform a traditional marriage ceremony. Why muddle an immigration application? Or, are there external factors to consider?
Assistance for Filing a Marriage Visa.
If you are thinking of marrying and immigrating to the United States (either through a proxy or traditional marriage ceremony), please contact this marriage visa lawyer for assistance. Located in New York City, the law firm can assist immigration clients throughout the United States and the world.