For many foreign born individuals seeking to obtain residence in the U.S., marriage to a United States citizen or green card holder may open up the doors to this process. The regulations may vary depending on the country the individual is from. In this case, we are going to discuss the procedures required for marrying an individual from the country of India.
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MARRIAGE AND IMMIGRATION STATUS
If you and your significant other have not tied the knot quite yet, you have the option of petitioning for him or her to be able to leave India and enter the U.S. as your fiancé so that you may have your ceremony in the U.S. You may also choose to get married in your fiancé’s country of origin. In both cases, your fiancé may then apply for a green card once you are married. This petitioning is only possible however if you are a United States citizen, not if you are a green card holder yourself. In order to do this, you must prove:
- The legal status of the petitioner (either citizen or lawful permanent resident)
- A legal marriage ceremony will occur in the future, or has already occurred
- The marriage is not a fraud (a deceptive attempt to obtain a green card)
- The foreign individual is not deemed “inadmissible” by the government
The fiancé visa is referred to as the K-1 visa. It lasts for a 90 day period for the purposes of holding the wedding ceremony. The fiancé will have to apply for this visa after his or her significant other files a visa petition with the I-129F form and submits it to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) before leaving India.
FROM INDIA TO THE U.S.
The process differs slightly for a couple who has already been married and is now applying for a green card for the foreign born individual. This requires filing an I-130 form with the USCIS. Individuals applying through a spouse who is a U.S. citizen may often proceed to the next part of the application process. Individuals applying through a spouse who is a lawful permanent resident however may have to wait for up to two years to enter into this next stage of processing. The next stage involves the foreign spouse submitting forms and holding an interview at the U.S consulate in either Mumbai or New Delhi, India, otherwise known as consular processing. It is important to file the correct forms at the consulate so that they can properly process your request and you can avoid legal trouble upon entry into the U.S.
VALIDATING THE MARRIAGE
According to information provided by the U.S. consulate, Indian marriages can take the form of either a religious or a civil ceremony. Some, but not all religious ceremonies will lead to a certificate that is considered sufficient for U.S. immigration and other legal purposes. You may be asked to provide a “no objection letter,” an affidavit in which you state that you are not currently married, and are eligible to marry. The U.S. consulate can help you prepare this letter.
If you and your intended spouse are of different religions, you may also be asked to register your marriage under a law called the Special Marriage Act. Plan ahead, because this involves a marriage officer publishing a newspaper ad allowing people to object to the marriage within 30 days from the date of your initial application.
In the United States the laws will vary depending on which state you decide to hold your nuptials. It is important to view the marriage laws in your state so that you may be fully equipped to perform your ceremony, whether in India or the United States.
HELPFUL INFORMATION: MARRIAGE REGULATIONS IN INDIA AND THE U.S.
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Carl Shusterman served as an INS Trial Attorney (1976-82) before opening a firm specializing exclusively in US immigration law. He is a Certified Specialist in Immigration Law who has testified as an expert witness before the US Senate Immigration Subcommittee. Carl was featured in the February 2018 edition of SuperLawyers Magazine.