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Posts Tagged ‘Thai Wife’

27th May 2009

Although it seems like a simple issue, discerning the difference between a fiancée and a wife for the purposes of US Immigration can be crucial, and oftentimes less than straightforward when looked at from the perspective of International law.

The reason for the unexpected ambiguity stems from the fact that different countries have different legal systems and as a result, there are different methods for legalizing marriages. The English common law is in place in the United States, as in many former British Colonies and current members of the British Commonwealth. As a result, in many of these countries the principle of “common law marriage,” has either been in previous existence under the law or is currently still good law. In either case, in common law countries, the concept of “common law marriage,” is a widely understood notion amongst laypeople.

In civil law countries, there is usually no history of judicial recognition of anything akin to a “common law marriage.” That being said, not all civil law countries deal with marital issues in the same way. There are instances where an otherwise “civil law” country will promulgate “common law,” legal mechanisms by statute (an example being where a civil law country adopts trust law via statute).

In countries that have no history of “common law marriage,” a marriage is only legalized upon compliance with whatever rules govern marriage formalization. For instance, in the Kingdom of Thailand a marriage is only legalized by registration at the local government office (known as an Amphur office in Thai). Failure to register a marriage results in a situation in which the couple may consider themselves married, but they are legally unwed. For more on this issue please see:  Marriage Registration Thailand

Deciding whether a couple is legally married is important from a US Immigration perspective because a couple’s marital situation can have a major impact upon their ability to obtain certain types of visas. Marital situation can also impact the processing time of a US visa. Therefore it is important to be clear on the couple’s marital situation upfront. In Thailand, for example, many couples engage in a ceremonial or customary wedding ceremony, but never formalize a marriage. Filing for a marriage visa rather than a fiancee visa can lead to a great deal of wasted time and resources because USCIS and the US Embassy are unlikely to grant the marriage visa because the couple is not legally married.

(Please be advised that all of the information contained in this writing is for educational use only and does not constitute legal advice. Legal advice should be obtained in a one-on-one consultation with a licensed attorney. No attorney client-relationship is formed between any reader of this piece and the author.)

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