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What types of marriages are valid for immigration purposes?

These are uncertain times for immigrants in the United States. Even people who previously thought their status was safe are now fearing trouble from immigration authorities. With this in mind, now is a good time to review some basics of immigration law, including how marriage can affect immigration status. In this post, we will concentrate on the question of what types of marriages are considered valid for immigration purposes.

Immigrants who are married to a U.S. citizen may apply for naturalization. However, generally, they must be already married and living together at the time they apply. Heterosexual and same-sex marriages are recognized in all 50 states and under immigration law, but the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services may refuse a marriage-based naturalization application in cases involving polygamous marriages, civil unions, domestic partnerships, marriages where one partner was not present for the ceremony, certain marriages that violate the public policy of the state where the couple resides, or marriages that the USCIS determines were entered into only to evade immigration laws of the United States.

Note that the burden is on the applicant to show the validity of his or her marriage. This typically means showing a marriage license. In some cases where it is impossible to produce an official marriage license, other evidence may be allowed.

Immigration laws can be confusing, and immigration authorities are not always working for the best interests of immigrants or their loved ones. It can be crucial for immigrants and their families to have the help of a skilled immigration attorney.

Source: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, "Policy Manual, Chapter 2 -- Marriage and Marital Union for Naturalization," accessed July 28, 2017

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