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Q: marriage abroad ( Answered,   2 Comments )
Subject: marriage abroad
Category: Family and Home
Asked by: alleybella-ga
List Price: $10.00
Posted: 02 Feb 2006 18:26 PST
Expires: 04 Mar 2006 18:26 PST
Question ID: 440727
My girlfriend is from South America. I am from the U.S. We'd like to
marry in South America through the Catholic Church. If we do not have
a civil wedding, will the catholic wedding be valid in the U.S. as the
civil wedding and will my girlfriend be able to get her citizenship
with this catholic wedding?
thank you.
Subject: Re: marriage abroad
Answered By: alanna-ga on 02 Feb 2006 20:42 PST
Hi alleybella-ga -

The usual sequence of events for citizenship for a spouse is first, an
immigration visa for US residency and later, after a period of
residence in the US, application for citizenship.

For your (future) spouse to get an immigration visa for the US, you
must file form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative.  This form (Item 7)
requires a marriage certificate as proof of marriage; also a photo,
and biographic information.

Form I-130 and instructions may be downloaded from

Scroll to the bottom of the page and click on I-130.  Information on
the requirements for the photo may be found by clicking on
"Informational flyer" towards the bottom of the same page.

Form G-325A Biographic Information may be downloaded from:

Scroll to the bottom of the page and click on G-325A.  

As to your question as to whether a church wedding will be regarded as
legal, that will depend on the country in which you are getting
married.  Usually churches can supply a legal marriage certificate. 
The US government requires just a legal certificate and does not
specify civil or church.

The downloadable files mentioned above are PDF files and require the
Adobe Reader.  If you don't already have it, you may download the
Reader from:

Thanks for your question.  It just so happens that I married abroad to
a foreign national who then came back to the US with me as a permanent
resident.  However, I looked up the most current information for you
(like a good Google Researcher).

There's a lot of paperwork involved, but I'm sure it will be worth it.
Good luck and all the best for a happy married life.


Request for Answer Clarification by alleybella-ga on 03 Feb 2006 20:05 PST
Hi allana-ga,
Thanks for the answer to my question.
I'd like to know though, what form we must fill out or whom do we need
to contact so my girlfriend can come back ino the U.S. after we marry.
The thing is she is in the U.S right now with a student visa but it
will expire soon when she graduates. She has a turist visa still but
will also expire soon. We want to marry in her country and right away
come back to the U.S. and start here the paper work.
Who do we have to ask for a permit so that she can come back to the
U.S with me right after the wedding?
Thank you so much

Clarification of Answer by alanna-ga on 03 Feb 2006 21:52 PST
Hi again alleybella-ga,

As I said, I am not a lawyer, but it would seem that your wife can
come back to the US right after the wedding only if she has a valid
visa, which would be a new tourist visa .  Once back in the States,
you can file Form I-130 with the Immigration and Naturalization
Service.  They have a number to call for further questions: 1-

The crux of it is this: in order for you to be able to start the
paperwork,  you have to be married as you are petitioning for a
relative, your wife.  If your wife can re enter the US after the
wedding, you can do the paperwork in the US.  If she can't, you must
do the paperwork (the same forms) in a country for which she has a
valid visa.

If you want to go beyond these facts, perhaps you should consult an
immigration lawyer.

All the best,

Subject: Re: marriage abroad
From: irlandes-ga on 18 Feb 2006 19:43 PST
I would say, yes, you need an attorney. This topic comes up on Mexico
Forums a lot, and the usual recommendation is:

if you apply for a K-1 fiancee visa, while your fiancee is in her home
country, this takes a few months. if you first marry in her country,
then it takes a LOT longer to get the visa for her to come to the US.

My niece in Mexico City is working on this right now, and her research
showed that the K-1 visa is the  fastest way to go, that is, don't
marry before taking her to the US.

The risk that some won't like over the years some men have taken
fiancees to the US then sent them back home pregnant, and unmarried.
Sad but true.

In any case, due to the seriousness of this case if you make mistakes,
better spend a few dollars for an immigration attorney to make sure.
Subject: Re: marriage abroad
From: mbib-ga on 21 Feb 2006 17:45 PST
Once she leaves the country and you then get married in her home
country, you need to apply for a spouse visa, which I believe is a K-3
visa.  My wife came on a K-1 fiancee visa and I concur with the
previous comment that it is faster and easier to bring your fiancee
here than your spouse.  DON'T try to make sense of it.  BCIS is not
the easiest to deal with.


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