Depending on the circumstances, there are marriage requirements that foreigners must follow if they wish to marry in the U.S. There are also separate requirements for U.S. citizens who want to marry in a foreign country. Overall, there are three situations involving marriage requirements for foreigners:

  1. When two U.S. citizens get married in a foreign country.
  2. When a U.S. citizen marries a foreigner.
  3. When two non-citizens want to be married in the U.S.

What Happens If Two U.S. Citizens Get Married in a Foreign Country?

One version of the first situation is when two U.S. citizens desire to get married abroad, usually somewhere exotic, tropical, or romantic.

Popular choices include the Bahamas, various Pacific Islands, and countries in Europe like Italy and Spain. The Department of State offers marriage information for U.S. citizens on the most popular countries via their website.

The United States recognizes all marriages abroad so long as the marriage is done in accordance with all local laws and procedures of the foreign country.

This may include lengthy residency requirements, unusual documents such as an "affidavit of eligibility to marry," and the translation of documents. A United States Consular Officer abroad can verify and authenticate the marriage documents of the foreign country.

What Happens If a U.S. Citizen Marries a Foreigner?

According to the U.S. State Department if you are a U.S. citizen, then you have two ways to bring your foreign spouse to the United States to live. The first way is by an “Immigrant visa for a Spouse of a U.S. Citizen”.  The required forms are:

  • Immigrant visa for a Spouse of a U.S. Citizen (IR1 or CR1)
  • Immigrant Petition for Alien Relative (Form I-130)

Additionally, if you are a U.S. citizen, then you may bring your fiancé(e) to the United States to marry and live here, with a nonimmigrant visa for a fiancé(e) (K-1). However an I-129F fiancé(e) petition is required.

Any person entering the US under a K-1 Visa must marry within 90 days of entry. If they do not then they must return to their country of origin. If they marry within 90 days, then the non-citizen can apply for a green card.

Same-sex spouses are also able to take advantage of these immigrants benefits. However, you must keep in mind that sham marriages are taken very seriously and the K-1 Visa should not be used solely for immigration.

What If Foreigners Want to Get Married in the U.S.?

A minority of states have a residency requirement but, the key issue that foreigners face is whether their country recognizes U.S. marriages. Foreigners who plan to be married in the U.S. should look into their country’s laws and regulations concerning marriages outside of the country.

Your local registry office or your nation’s US based embassy may be able to help. Be prepared for a large amount of paperwork and a long process, so plan ahead!

Should I Contact an Attorney?

If you have issues with a K-1 Visa (fiancé visa), then you may need the help of a local immigration attorney in the U.S. If your future spouse is having issues in their country of origin, then it’s best if they contact a local immigration lawyer or go to the local U.S. embassy.

If you are a foreign visitor who wants to marry in the U.S., then it’s more important for you to follow the marriage requirements of your home country.

If you have concerns about the legality or the legal implications of your marriage, then you should contact a local family law attorney. Your attorney can help you resolve any potential legal issues can also advise your with issues such as prenuptial agreements, child custody, and estate planning