Post # 1
Situation #1: American-born Indian female co-worker met an Indian-born Indian in the US off a matrimonial website. After being in a long distance relationship for a year, he proposed and she accepted. She wanted to get married in the US but he convinced her to get married in India and to time the trip to when he needed to be in India to get his immigration paperwork straight, which was much sooner than she expected. She sponsored his green card after they returned to the US and now they have a long distance marriage.
Situation #2: China-born Chinese male co-worker (came to the US when he was young and has full citizenship) met a China-born Chinese girl through mutual friends. A few weeks ago, he mentioned they had eloped to Vegas over the weekend. They too, had been dating for about a year. When I congratulated him, he told me it was for green card reasons.
I realize I am an outsider looking in and only the couples involved know the dynamics of their relationship but I find these setups unusual. Or am I being insensitive to the difficulties of obtaining citizenship? I can understand getting married for health insurance reasons, I guess this isn’t much different. I didn’t really think much about situation #1 until the coworker told me in the heat of an argument, her brother said her now-husband only married her for his green card. He later apologized but the damage had already been done.
Post # 3
Yes, you are underestimating how difficult it is to obtain citizenship/a green card. It makes your life 20 times easier and it takes a long time even after getting married. They’re marrying for a purely romantic reason: wanting to be together.
Post # 4
Getting a green card or citizenship in general can be incredibly difficult if you go through “normal” channels. Marrying a citizen makes it a hell of a lot easier.
Post # 5
- Wedding: June 2014 - British Columbia
I don’t know much about obtaining American citizenship other than having read part of Elizabeth Gilbert’s second book. It seems incredibly tough; the immigration officers at the US border are very strict.
I’ve observed similar situations happening in Canada. HOWEVER, I would say this to add perspectives to the “easiness of getting a citizenship by marriage”: I cannot imagine what it is like to sacrifice true love to find a new life in a different country. Most of the time, immigrants don’t get to reap the benefits of what they have to go through; only their kids do.
Either way, both aren’t easy alternatives.
Post # 6
@flummoxed: Agreed with PP, it is REALLY hard to get a greencard. My DH and I might have preferred to wait until he had a job and a settled place to live before we got married, but we had to essentially reverse the order, since he couldn’t get a job WITHOUT the greencard, and even then, we’ve been at this process now for 14 months still waiting for our greencard interview. I can say, throughout my life, this process is overwhelmingly the most stressful thing I have ever gone through. It was awful, and heartwrenching, to know that the decision or suspicions of some stranger can keep you apart from the person you loove.
For us, we essentially had to get married to just be in the same country together, which sounds a lot like your situation 1. It might sound more practical than romantic, but what is more romantic than rearranging the normal order of things (meet, fall in love, live together, get a stable life, get married) so you can be with the person you love?
Post # 7
It’s definitely much easier. However, if you’ve been married for less than 2 years, the immigrating spouse would only get a conditional green card, which has to be “regularized” when they have been married for that long if the sponsoring spouse is still ok with that. This is so folks don’t get scammed into sponsoring and left. A previous co-worker had this happen – she sponsored visa of her new spouse right away, and six months in, he left her and told her he only married for visa – didn’t care for her. She called up Immigration and reported his fraud. He had his greencard pulled and was also barred from entering US for a couple of years.
Post # 8
It isn’t unusual. I have a friend who was in a similar situation do that. They had been together a few years. Got engaged. Got married secretly at the courthouse, then had a more elaborate wedding.
Post # 9
Sorry this is kind of bothering me: these people are getting green cards via marriage, not citizenship. You have to be a perm resident for years before you can get citizenship. Citizenship also usually means renoucing your citizenship of other countries which some people (like me) aren’t willing to do.
This practice is pretty normal. When marriage is a necessary step so that you can live together it gives you motivation to get thigns under way. Of course, when things move as quickly as you’ve described it does look a bit suspicious. You hope that both parties are in it for the right reason. The sponsoring party will be pretty screwed otherwise.
I’m Canadian and my husband is American. We are very fortunate to be from countries that share a border, so we were able to do a cross border relationship for several years. For us, the visa situation did not change when we got engaged, but it did change the length of our engagement. Our engagement was only 5 months…but we actually had a quick civil ceremony 2 months before our wedding in order to allow us to get our paperwork under way. It’s now been 7 months and we haven’t heard a word. We are crossing our fingers that we’ll get the visa around the 1 year mark, but it’s not looking great. :/
Post # 10
I found myself in a similar but different situation not so long ago..
I knew I was going to marry my husband before we even decided he was going to accept a job opportunity and relocate overseas for an undertermined amount of time. We weren’t even engaged yet. Knowing that I would have trouble finding a company to sponsor my visa, could be deported at any time after my traveler’s visa was expired, could be denied entry back into the country when I tried to renew said visa, couldn’t have a bank account, or really exist in the country, I still wanted to go. We even “joked” about eloping just to get me a dependent visa. But I wouldn’t hear any of it. I wanted to “do it right” and “I’m not getting married for a visa” etc etc.
Needless to say, 2 weeks before we left the states, he proposed! And after much deliberation (and a lot of “I don’t want this to be a marriage of convenience!” from me), we made it official. We agreed that we were going to do it eventually anyway, didn’t know how long we would be away, didn’t want to wait 2/5/10 years to start planning… and so we had a small 5-minute ceremony in which his best friend got officiated (overnight, somehow! this made it REALLY special), and then went to dinner with 40 of our closest friends and family and are going to have a wedding later.
I have to say, as much fuss as I made about it, and no, it wasn’t a fairytale story… but it was the best decision we could have possibly made. We are able to be together and enjoy our life here, instead of constant worrying about my legal status in the country. I’m able to work, and have an identity.
I think that while it *sounds* like one thing… there may be so much more to the story than you know. If you love the person and know you want to be together, sometimes it’s the only way.
Post # 11
@cbgg: Good point, but you don’t have to renounce citizenship to become a US citizen, after becoming a permanent resident, you have to reside in the US continuously for a certain period of time (last I remember it was 5 years). Other countries might make you renounce your citizenship, but the US does not.
BTW, I’ll send you good wishes while you wait for your visa. Waiting for my husband’s visa was close to torture, especially since the USCIS has been on such a delay recently…
Post # 12
I think it’s pretty normal. International relationships can end up being a nightmare of paperwork. We ended up having to get legally married before our ceremony because of visa reasons. It’s not ideal, but sometimes you just have to do what works.
Post # 13
Aside from the fact that they need to be married to be together, both couples you mentioned come from more traditional cultures. In many of those cultures, dating for years before marriage isn’t really common.
Post # 14
Like PPs have said, it’s very difficult to even get an American visa. You have to keep in mind, more people immigrate to the US than all the countries in the world, combined. It is a maze of paperwork and requires a lot of waiting.
Post # 15
@cbgg: +1. I was going to make the same point about greencard >< citizenship. You can’t be in a long distance marriage and qualify for citizenship from my understanding, you still have to follow the residency rules for naturalization.
Honestly, these couples sound pretty normal to me. They dated for about a year, and both are from cultures where that’s about the right length of time or even a bit long. Could these marriages fail? Absolutely, but so can any marriage. Neither sounds like a scam, and from what my friend has told me, it’s so absurd of a process to prove your marriage is real that no one would really want to go through it otherwise.
Post # 16
Things are a whole lot more difficult when you are in a relationship with someone from another country. My son is married to an American girl. They had the choice of marriage in the US and him getting a green card in order to work and live anything resembling a normal life or her getting a UK FI visa and then applying for her work visa after their wedding in the UK – they opted to do this since she loves the UK and wants to settle here. Neither countries are easy to get into so far as work visas are concerned! Luckily her UK work visa has now come through only a month after their wedding.
Also, you really have very little choice about marrying unless you plan a seemingly endless LDR. My son and his wife were together for over 2 years before they married. Fortunately, nearly a year of this was spent in NZ where they both had work visas. The rest of the time was spent crossing the Atlantic. He has a good job with generous vacation allowance and also has multiple entry to the US because he originally had a 6 month visa. But while they might have chosen to live together for longer if they were both either UK or US citizens, the respective Border Agencies really don’t make this possible.
So don’t dismiss marrying for a green card as some sort of unromantic option. There are enormous hurdles to jump, most of them aimed at checking you are not marrying for convenience.