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 Kenya.
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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 Kenya 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 Kenya.
FROM KENYA 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 Nairobi, Kenya, 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, Kenyan marriages require that you both be at least 18 years old and that you prepare or do the following:
- Bring your U.S. passport.
- If either of you has been previously married, prepare evidence that these marriages were terminated (such as death or divorce certificates).
- File a “Notice of Marriage” with the Registrar General’s office and pay a fee. (This notice gives people an opportunity to object to the marriage.)
- Complete an affidavit to satisfy section 11 of the Marriage Act, and get it commissioned by the Registrar (only after 21 days have passed since filing the Notice of Marriage)
- Complete a Marriage Certificate Form, pay a fee, and book a date for the marriage. (Date must be within three months from the date you filed the Notice of Marriage.)
- Bring two witnesses to the scheduled date at the Registrar’s office Or, you can get married in a church, though you will have to pay an extra fee for this.
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 Kenya or the United States.
HELPFUL INFORMATION: MARRIAGE REGULATIONS IN KENYA 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.