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how to marry a non-citizen

International love: How to marry a foreigner or non-citizen

If you are a non-citizen or plan to marry a non-citizen, you may want to know how to have a wedding that is legally recognized. You may also have questions about immigration and how marriage might impact the status of your spouse. While non-citizens can legally marry in the United States, marriage does not automatically change the immigration status of either spouse. Along the same lines, the marriage is not guaranteed to be recognized in the non-citizen spouse’s home country. With that in mind, here are a few important things to know about preparing for marriage when both parties are not US citizens.

How do I marry a non-citizen?

To marry a non-citizen in the US, you’ll first need to discover what kind of identification is required to apply for a marriage license in the county you want to get married in. In many cases, a valid passport can be used to prove identity. A birth certificate may also be required to verify that the participants are of legal age to marry. To discover the local marriage requirements contact your local county clerk’s office for specific details.

If you are looking to change legal citizenship status (naturalization), you may benefit from working with an immigration lawyer.


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What is a marriage-based visa? What is a fiancé visa?

Marriage or fiancé(e) visas are used to allow a spouse or future spouse to enter the United States with a temporary visa. To obtain a fiancé or marriage visa, you first need to prove that you are a “real” couple who plan on building a life together in the United States. You can apply for and obtain a fiancé visa before you are married. A marriage-based visa can be applied for and obtained after you are married. The marriage must be considered valid and legal in the US.

The process to obtain a green card or to become a citizen can be complicated. You will need to provide proof of citizenship, pay fees, and prove income to sponsor a person in the US. Visit the US Citizenship and Immigration Services website to learn more about the current requirements for a fiancé(e) visa.

How do I bring a non-citizen spouse to the US?

US Citizenship and Immigration Services can help guide you through the process of bringing your spouse to the United States. Generally, you need to file the forms listed below.

If you are US citizen lawfully inside the US:

  • Form I-130
  • Petition for Alien Relative
  • Form I-485
  • Application to Register Permanent Residence or to Adjust Status

If you are US citizen lawfully located outside of the US:

  • Form I-130
  • Petition for Alien Relative

If you are a green card holder or permanent resident legally inside the US:

  • Form I-130

If you are a green card holder or permanent resident located outside the US:

  • Form I-130

Can two non-citizens marry in the US?

Yes, non-citizens can marry within the US. Keep in mind that marriage does not change your immigration status and the marriage may not be recognized in your home country. To get married in the US, you simply need the proper identification to apply for a marriage license in the county in which you are to be married. In most cases, you’ll need to provide a valid passport. You may also need to prove that you are old enough to be legally married and that you are not already married. Your country may have additional requirements to validate your marriage abroad.

With the proper valid identification, it is not difficult to get married in the United States. If you need to change citizenship status, you’ll benefit from consulting with an immigration lawyer. Check out our guide to Immigration Law to learn more.

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