Love, Marriage and the Greencard!
Marriage is a very important concept and establishment in the United States and as such Congress has determined that a foreign national who marries a United States Citizen spouse has the immediate ability to file for a permanent residence under a first category preference. It is good to know that a permanent residents (“greencard” holders) can also file a marriage petition however the waiting time for the priority date is long and therefore does not confer immediate ability to obtain a greencard.
The first consideration in marriage cases is that the marriage has to be bona fide (literally in “good faith”) or a marriage not with the intention of solely getting immigration benefits. A good faith marriage is predicated on the intent of the bride and groom to establish a life together at the time that they were married. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) formerly the INS (“Immigration”), has various criteria for determining if a marriage was entered in good faith. These include but are not limited to commingling of assets, joint leases, joint financial responsibilities, and pictures. It is generally accepted that a couple knows the most intimate affairs of each other. This is why it is very important to document your marriage in order to present evidence of your bona fide relationship. It is imperative that a person does not enter into a fraudulent marriage. A fraudulent marriage will penalize both the petitioner (US Citizen spouse) and the beneficiary (the person obtaining the benefits) and might even result in criminal charges including prison time. While Immigration does not recognize fraudulent marriages, they will recognize an arranged marriage as long as it is entered in good faith.
In order to file for a marriage petition, one should have a valid marriage. A valid marriage is one which is recognized in the State in which it takes place. For example, if Ram gets married to Anita in Nevada and moves to California, this marriage will be recognized by the Immigration. However, if Ram and Anita are first cousins, Nevada will not recognize the marriage and thus Immigration will also not recognize this marriage. This is very important because you might not know this fact until you file your petitions with the Immigration. Also if the marriage takes place, for instance, in Fiji, Immigration will recognize the marriage as long as the marriage is recognized in Fiji. Note that a proxy marriage will not be recognized. A proxy marriage is one where the bride and groom did not meet on the wedding day. The exception to this rule is if the marriage was consummated after the proxy marriage.