Below are five tips from my recent Newsletter – The Marriage Issue
- Talk to an immigration attorney before you get married and file paperwork – There are different strategies that you can take to petition a spouse or fiancée. What strategy you take depends on whether one spouse is a U.S. citizen, whether the couple is married yet or not, where the couple resides, etc. Talking to an attorney beforehand can actually help simplify your wedding and life plans and prevent headaches in the future.
- Have a simple wedding ceremony first and the fancy one later – I always advise my clients who are applying to come in to the U.S. as fiancées to have a simple civil service first, and a vow renewal (usually religious) later, if they wish. People who enter on fiancée visas must marry the petitioner within 90 days of entry to the U.S. I also need the marriage certificate within that time period, and it takes time to get it. Because the fiancee’s date of entry is uncertain, it is hard to plan a big, fancy wedding and coordinate travel for loved ones. My advice is to have a simple and lovely civil ceremony. San Francisco City Hall and Marin City Hall are gorgeous venues, the latter providing outdoor ceremonies. Although not lovely, those pressed for time can marry at Oakland City Hall. I had clients who drove up, parked in front, and were married within half an hour!
- You don’t have to spend a lot of money – I’ve seen pictures of hundreds of weddings in my practice. My favorites have always been the ones that are simple and heartfelt. For some, marrying at a city hall will be their only wedding, which is perfectly appropriate. A particular favorite was a Scottish-American couple where the bride wore a red column gown and red fascinator (very chic), and the bridegroom wore a kilt. They married at San Francisco City Hall. Many couples have a simple cake and champagne reception or a luncheon or dinner at someone’s home. Additionally, these days, brides don’t even have to buy a dress. You can rent a beautiful gown at places like Rent the Runway. As I’ve heard people say, “Save the money for a down payment on a home!”
Rainbow wedding cake and a glass of bubbly
- Have someone you love officiate your wedding – I recently officiated a wedding for my younger cousin. The ceremony was personalized, meaningful, and even funny. If you are having a civil ceremony, a friend can officiate for you. I am ordained as a minister (don’t laugh) by the Universal Life Church. It costs next to nothing to obtain the credentials and took only a few minutes online.
My first time to officiate a wedding!
- Prepare ahead for the next stages of your immigration case – If you have been granted conditional residence because you were married to your spouse under two years at the time of your approval, plan ahead for the follow up petition to remove the conditions on residence. Keep a folder or large envelope and begin to collect continued proof of bona fides, proof of commingling of assets, and proof of joint residence. When the time comes to file the joint petition, you will have your documents ready to present to your attorney and it will help make the process less stressful for you. The same goes for if you will apply for citizenship after three years of residence based on living in marital union with a U.S. citizen. For that, in particular, I recommend that you obtain transcripts of your joint tax returns from the IRS at its website or by calling (800) 908-9946. The transcripts help to prove that you have actually filed those copies of joint returns that you will be presenting.