How do you prove the validity of your foreign marriage to immigration if you don’t have a marriage certificate?
Marriage certificates (duly recognized and recorded by that nation’s government) are basically the “gold standard” for evidence that a bona fide foreign marriage actually took place. However, the absence of one is not fatal to your spouse’s immigration and green card dreams.
Why wouldn’t a marriage certificate be available?
It’s not uncommon for marriage certificates to be hard to get from foreign lands. In some countries, for example, marriage contracts are simply not recorded by the government in the first place. In other countries, war may have caused marriage records to be destroyed. Immigration authorities are aware of these problems.
So, what sort of documents can you use instead? Essentially anything that speaks to the validity of your marriage can help. Some of the things that might be used are:
- Whatever documentation you do have of the marriage. That may include religious certificates and civil contracts, such as a Nikah, as well as photographs and affidavits from witnesses who were present at the wedding
- Records of correspondence that shows the progression of the relationship, including letters or social media conversations
- Evidence of joint travel, such as plane ticket records and hotel records
- Evidence that you have commingled your finances, including bank statements, joint utility bills, joint leases, joint credit cards and beneficiary designations on accounts
- Financial records that show that one spouse has given the other financial support during the marriage, including wire transfers or canceled checks
- If you have children, your child’s birth certificates, medical records and school records may provide additional evidence if they reference both parents.
- Letters from friends, family members, religious authorities and others who can attest to the validity of your marriage because they have firsthand knowledge your daily life as a couple
If you find yourself unable to obtain your foreign marriage certificate for one reason or another, don’t assume that your immigration situation is hopeless. You are definitely not the first person to encounter this issue. Seeking experienced legal guidance can help you navigate the process of obtaining first a visa and then a green card.