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Religious Marriage at USCIS

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Hi, I'm Jim Hacking, an immigration lawyer practicing law throughout the United States at our office here in St. Louis, Missouri. 

Key Takeaways:

  • The USCIS only accepts a legally valid marriage.
  • Religious-only marriage is fine, but not for immigration purposes.

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Can I rely on a religious marriage only for purposes of immigration? 

Right now, a lot of people are having a hard time getting a marriage license or getting their marriages processed. They're actually having a hard time having wedding ceremonies, so they're wondering, “If we just do a religious ceremony, will that allow me to sponsor my spouse for a green card or for an immigrant visa?” 

The answer to that question is no

For the most part, religious marriages will not work at USCIS. You have to have a legally valid marriage. 

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What makes a marriage legally binding?

  • It has to be legal in the country in which it is performed or legal in the state in which it was performed, so the parties have to be free to marry. 
  • They can't be married to somebody else. 
  • They have to have all divorces finalized. 
  • They have to be eligible to marry under the law of the land where they're getting married. For instance, if they're first cousins, and such marriages are not legal there, that wouldn't be recognized. 
  • The marriage has to be legally recorded and documented. If you don't do that, you're not going to be able to apply, so a religious marriage ceremony will not work for most immigration cases. It has to be recorded with the government.
  • It has to be done in front of someone who's licensed and authorized to conduct legal marriages, and it has to be properly recorded, and it's not until you get that recorded certificate back that you're going to be able to apply for an immigration benefit for your loved one.

Don't waste ... I mean, it's fine to do religious services, but that's not your official marriage date for purposes of immigration. That's not what's legally binding, and that's not what's going to be able to help you get your spouse here.

If you have questions about legal marriage, marriage patterns, civil marriage, or anything about getting married for immigration purposes, give us a call at 314-675-7595. We'd be happy to help. You can email us at [email protected]. Be sure to join us in our Facebook group, which is called Immigrant Home, and if you like this video, we ask that you please subscribe to our YouTube channel and share it out on social to all your friends and neighbors. Thanks a lot. Have a great day.

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