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First Cousin Marriage Under US Immigration Law

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Is First Cousin Marriage Valid Under US Immigration Law?

For immigration purposes in the United States, a valid marriage is necessary to legalize unlawful presence or status, obtain a family-based visa or work authorization, or seek various waivers. It can also protect you against deportation. One type of marriage of interest to the USCIS is first-cousin marriage.

Marriages between cousins are considered valid when performed in the state where the couple lives or plans to live. A marriage between first cousins that doesn’t meet these conditions will be deemed void by the immigration services. Consult skilled immigration law attorneys in Houston for further guidance on what to expect if you’re in such a marriage.

What does the USCIS consider in Marriages between First Cousins?

US immigration services seek to establish if a cousin-to-cousin marriage is or was valid at the location where it took place. If it happened in a country where such marriages are allowed, it would pass the first test of being legal. It would also be valid if it occurred in a State in the US.

However, marriage-based immigration lawyers in Houston explain that the marriage must also be valid where the couple lives or intends to live in the US. The validity of first-cousin marriages depends on state, not federal law.

What Are Some State Provisions for First Cousin Marriages?

In states like Texas and Oklahoma, first-cousin marriages are considered criminal and therefore illegal. On the contrary, Alabama, California, and Vermont are some of the states in the United States with no prohibitions against first-cousin marriages. Nonetheless, some states that recognize these marriages may have strict restrictions.

For example, while the States of Arizona, Indiana, Illinois, and Utah have legalized first-cousin marital union, the wife has to be infertile, or both spouses must be over 50 or 65 in some states. In Maine, first-cousin marriage is only legalized between couples who can provide proof of genetic counseling from a genetic counselor.

Does Texas Recognize Cousin Marriages from Other States?

While some states ban marriage between cousins, they don’t have a problem recognizing such marriages if they happen elsewhere. Texas is not one of those states, as evidenced in an immigration case in 2012.

Two first cousins wanted to relocate to and settle in Texas after getting married in Indiana, but the US immigration officials required them to show that Texas would legally recognize the marriage. No support was forthcoming from the Texas Attorney General. The case highlights the differences between public policy in conservative and less conservative states.

If you wish to relocate to a state where your cousin-to-cousin marriage will be legally recognized, consult skilled Houston marriage-based immigration lawyers. They can help you understand the requirements of the states you wish to relocate to and what to do to avoid violating the marriage laws in your preferred state.

What Types of Cousin to Cousin Marriages Are Not Valid in the United States?

Houston marriage-based lawyers explain that applicants of marriage-based immigration visas must establish the validity of their union. The applicant carries the burden of proving that the marriage between them and their US citizen spouse is valid for the required time. In most cases, a marriage certificate is the primary evidence that the marriage was performed legally.

The USCIS doesn’t recognize the following relationships as valid marriages, even if they are legal where they were celebrated:

  • Polygamous marriages
  • Marriages that violate the firm public policy of the state where the couple resides, such as underage marriages between cousins
  • Unions where one party was absent during the marriage ceremony and the marriage has not been consummated yet
  • Civil unions or domestic partnerships that are not recognized as legal marriages in the place where they were celebrated
  • Relationships entered to evade US immigration laws

Is First-Cousin Marriage Between Two Persons of the Same Sex Valid?

The Supreme Court ruled that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional in June 2013. The section had confined the terms marriage and spouse to opposite-sex marriages in relation to all federal laws. The law now recognizes same-sex marriages as valid based on the place-of-celebration rule in the same way it determines the validity of opposite-sex marriages.

Therefore, if you’re in a same-sex cousin-cousin marriage, the USCIS officials will review the jurisdiction where the marriage happened to determine its validity. Unless the marriage falls into the categories not recognized as valid, the legal validity of same-sex marriage between cousins is determined exclusively by the law of the jurisdiction where it took place.

However, if you reside in a jurisdiction different from the one where you celebrated the marriage and the jurisdiction doesn’t recognize cousin-to-cousin same-sex marriage, the agency will overlook the laws and policies of that state on same-sex marriages. They will not affect the USCIS’s decision to recognize your marriage as valid.

A Skilled Immigration Lawyer Helping You Navigate First-Cousin Marriages for Immigration Purposes

Immigration laws in the United States are complex. Marriage-based immigration has several crucial factors you must consider if you apply for a visa based on this option. If you’re in a first-cousin marriage, the USCIS officials will determine its validity based on the rules and policies of the jurisdiction where the marriage happened and where you intend to live.

Several other factors also have a role to play in influencing the agency’s decision on whether to approve your application or petition. Skilled Houston immigration attorneys can help you navigate the complexities to save time and resources. They know how immigration laws work nationwide and can provide crucial legal insights.

The marriage-based immigration lawyers at the Law office of Shelle-Ann Simon, PLLC, can help you. Contact us at (281)-606-0800 to schedule a consultation.

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