Many people in California have unique ways of defining their relationships. For some, it is important to have a formal ceremony to officially united them. Others may reject the idea of needing a piece of paper to confirm their relationship. Still, others may push the boundaries of conventional marriage in other ways.

However, for those wishing to enter the United States through the immigration system, especially by obtaining a green card through marriage, having a validly recognized marriage is essential. If you are seeking lawful permanent residence through marriage to a U.S. citizen or green card holder, you will want to be certain your union is legal to avoid any complications during the process.

Is my marriage legal?

You may believe your love is a strong enough bond for you, but the government wants something more before it will consider approving your application for permanent residency. Immigration agents will agree that your marriage is legal if it meets the following conditions:

  • You and your spouse married for genuine reasons and not merely so that you could obtain a green card. Immigration officials do thorough investigations to determine whether a couple is trying to commit fraud by marrying simply to obtain permanent residence status.
  • The country where you married, whether the U.S. or elsewhere, recognizes your marriage as legal and valid. This may include common law marriages as long as the country where you married acknowledges such unions as valid.
  • You and your spouse were not related prior to your marriage even if your country’s laws allow marriage to relatives.
  • Neither you nor your spouse has other spouses from which you are not divorced even if multiple marriages are legal in your home country and even if the other spouses are not immigrating to the U.S.

In addition to these qualifications for a legal marriage, your efforts to gain lawful permanent resident status in the U.S. may be in vain if your spouse is not a citizen, either native or naturalized, or a green card holder. However, even if you meet all the above requirements, you are likely to face trials and frustrations since the immigration process is notoriously complex.

To maximize your chances of successfully obtaining a green card, you would be wise to seek the assistance of a California attorney who is devoted to helping those with immigration challenges. Your legal advisor can walk you through the process and advocate for you along the way.