Can I get married online and then file for a spouse visa that way?
A lot of people are asking this because the fiancé visas require you to have met in person within the two years before you filed for your fiancé visa. Some people have not been able to meet in person unfortunately because of the pandemic and travel bans. It’s put a lot of people’s relationship plans on hold.
Some people are wondering, can I just marry at a distance and then go ahead and start our visa process? That’s definitely a reasonable question to ask. Supposedly, there are some people online who have done this. I don’t know if that’s really true because I’ve never seen one in person.
What I do want to talk about is the actual law which is what we always come back to as lawyers not what’s on the internet that they did successfully. The government does sometimes make errors. Sometimes people hide things on their cases and the government didn’t know the whole story and didn’t get approved but it should’ve had been. I would say take those purported stories with a grain of salt.
There’s a law called the Immigration and Nationality Act. It’s part of the US Federal Law and it’s the main source of law that we use when we’re talking about visa regulations and things like that. The law provides a general overview and from there different cases and forms that the government creates and regulations interpret what the law means. But at a very high level, there is a rule about proxy marriages or distance marriages.
It says in INA 101 a(35), which is the definition section, “The term “spouse”, “wife”, or “husband” do not include a spouse, wife, or husband by reason of any marriage ceremony where the contracting parties thereto are not physically present in the presence of each other, unless the marriage shall have been consummated.”
In general, they don’t consider you two married if you weren’t married physically in the presence of each other under the laws. Of course, there are a lot of other laws that have to do with what makes the marriage legally binding. There might be a few states in the United States that actually allow proxy or distance marriages and a lot of them don’t allow that. Some foreign countries may allow that.
The reason that the US does not want to encourage that in the immigration laws is because there are a lot of concerns with human trafficking. People being married against their will and being sent to the United States. There are concerns with fraud. People marrying people they don’t know. It seems like a pretty lose standard.
Obviously, we are in a really weird time right now. A lot of people who legitimately would love to be physically present for their wedding but can’t are asking these questions. We’re always looking for a way to work around this and is it in the best interest of my client to try to lawyer this up and make it work.
In this case, we’ve got this first part of it here. You have to be physically present with each other. If you’re in a situation where you’ve never met and you can’t get the K1 because you haven’t met in person, marrying over Skype or through webcam places is not going to fix this situation because you are not in each other’s presence and you’ve never been together so you can’t have consummated the marriage.
For those of you who aren’t aware, consummation of marriage means that you had sexual relations with your partner before. Let’s say you’re in a situation in which you weren’t physically present at the wedding but you’ve been present before and you’ve allegedly consummated your marriage. First of all, I don’t know how I would prove that to the government other than showing that you have been physically in the same location previously.
Maybe there’s some wiggle room there if you could find a legally binding online marriage in a state that allowed it or a country that allowed it. Say the country of your fiancé allows online marriages, potentially you could do it and say our marriage was over there.
My main concern would be that the immigration process takes so long. Say that, “We’ve consummated our relationship.” Obviously, we don’t have evidence of that. But we’re gonna argue that we’ve been together and that the relationship has been consummated and this is an online legally binding wedding. I could see a potential there. Though I’ve never personally seen a case that that was done in my entire career or heard of another attorney doing that.
My concern would be you don’t know what the government’s going to say about that for another two years potentially. Say you decide, ” We’re gonna have this online marriage. We’ve consummated our marriage. We think this is gonna work.” And then you go through that whole process.
They might deny it at the petition stage. But if you get through the petition, it doesn’t mean you’re okay. They might deny it at the national visa center stage but it doesn’t mean you’re okay if you get through the national visa center. They could still deny you at the very end, at your interview at the US embassy. They could say, “No, this doesn’t qualify. How are you gonna prove you consummated this? We don’t think this qualifies under the law.”
At which point, your only option would be to go meet in person, marry again and start from the very beginning. You can’t say at the very end, “We’re gonna remarry right now and we’re still gonna keep our slot here at the end of the interview.” It’s important that people understand what you would be risking if you tried a novel approach to it.
There are some people out there in their very specific situation, that would be the way to approach it. I would suggest you get legal help from an attorney who does that specifically. That is definitely outside the immigration box. You don’t want to hide this fact from immigration because they’d be very suspicious of you if you had a proxy distance relationship. If it casually came out at the interview, they’d be like, “These people are suspicious.” You wouldn’t want that.