Monthly Archives: March 2010

Considerations When Eloping to a Foreign Land

It’s a romantic idea to ditch the big wedding plans and elope to Paris, Tuscany or an Isle in Ireland, isn’t it?  Going to Vegas is always an option, but if Elvis chapels and drive-thru style weddings aren’t your thing and you don’t have the desire or stomach to sort through guest lists, tastings and registries, eloping to another country may sound like a dream wedding and honeymoon in one.  Just make sure you check and double check all requirements in both your own domicile and your wedding locale BEFORE you go.

A marriage performed anywhere is recognized legally anywhere else, as long as you didn’t circumvent laws to marry outside your own domicile, generally.  So if you aren’t hopping the state line to get married to your third husband (without divorcing the first and second) or your wife isn’t 15, or something like that, as long as you follow the local laws to make your marriage legal you will come home man and wife.

You generally need:

  • Original or certified birth certificate
  • Divorce decrees
  • Passports
  • Proof of residence
  • Death certificate of deceased spouse


  • If you want to be married in a church, you must first prove you’ve had a civil service, because church weddings are for fluff in France
  • You may do a civil service at home and bring the paperwork with you to do a blessing ceremony in a church in France
  • You may have a French mayor perform a civil service in France and call it a day, you’re married
  • Make sure the locality doesn’t have any specific rules.

This is because even couples in France have a civil service before they may have a church service.  Wonder what couples do when they don’t want a church service at all?  Evidently, in France, only 3 out of 4 couples ever have a church service because it has no legal significance there.


  • First contact the vital statistics office in the locale where you wish to marry, because rules may vary
  • You must bring with you your birth certificate, your passport and 4 witnesses who know you well to attest that there is no impediment to your being married and take all of that to the Italian Consulate…omgosh, really?
  • Then you must go to the American Consulate to have them create a sworn statement that certifies that you are not marrying in Italy to violate or avoid any law in your domicile
  • Next, you must get the sworn statement authenticated at the local immigration office
  • Next, if you’re both not from Italy, you must go to the Civil Registrar in the locale where you will marry with an interpreter and declare your intent to marry with all of your documents, and set a date for your civil ceremony
  • Then the registrar will post a notice on the commune for 1 – 12 days (presumably, if no objections, you can marry); some locales waive it, check your intended locale
  • The mayor or an assistant will then perform your civil ceremony on your date when you appear together with your interpreter and two witnesses over 18 years old with identification
  • If you want a religious ceremony as well, that can be arranged, but Italy does not legally recognize non-Catholic religious wedding ceremonies, so you will be required to do a civil ceremony for your marriage to be legal.
  • If you wish to have a Catholic ceremony, it will take a month minimum to get the correct paperwork, including documents from your local parish, and approval from the Italian archbishop, however, this marriage is legal, so a civil ceremony isn’t necessary if you are both Catholic or if one of you is not Catholic but your local parish sent a Non-Objection Declaration and if neither of you is divorced, unless you have a valid annulment recognized by the Catholic church.  What a mouthful.  Gives me  a headache to read the requirements

Italy looking good to you about now?   How about…


  • Officials in Ireland want to know 3 months before you plan to marry, notify the local officials.  They will inform you about paperwork, fees, and any other requirements of their locale
  • Weddings are only allowed in a church or a registry office, otherwise you can do a civil ceremony first and then a blessing outside
  • Paperwork must be perfect or you have to start over, 3 months, remember?
  • Residency – you must live where you intend to marry for at least 7 days, even foreigners.  Even then, they impose a 21 day wait period after you meet the 7 day residency to apply for a license.  Long pre-honeymoon?
  • Bonuses – Ireland is full of castles, and they come cheap for a wedding blessing ceremony or reception…but you’re eloping, right?

Makes Napa Valley sound pretty nice right about now, doesn’t it?  Maybe a honeymoon in Paris, the Irish Countryside or the Amalfi Coast would be more relaxing?

Wherever you elope, make sure you know before you go.


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Get A Professional Opinion Before Marrying an Alien

Sounds funny, doesn’t it?  If you are engaged to or marrying or recently married to someone who is either not able to legally be in the United States or who is here on another type of visa for work or tourist visits, etc, you have yourself an alien fiancé or spouse.

A woman I know came to me and asked me what she could do about the fact that her husband is stuck in another country and they haven’t applied for a status adjustment to alien fiancé or to alien spouse yet because they were afraid he’d be sent back to his country until approval.  They are young newlyweds and they are very much in love.  He had only visited with a tourist visa prior.  They met on Facebook, of all places.  I met my sweetie online too, so I know it can be love at first sight even miles away through an avatar.

Unfortunately, the adjustment of status or immigration process can be hairy to navigate if you are unaware of the pitfalls and stops that could pop up after you file an application for adjustment.  There are financial sponsorship requirements, timing considerations, long waits and other things that can affect whether your new spouse or fiancé will be easily approved to join you in the United States.

Be aware that you will need to seek legal advice to make sure that the facts of your particular situation are combed through so that an attorney can advise you about issues such as potential criminal history, waiting periods, requirements, restrictions, and any other important information that will help you streamline your spouse’s adjustment.

Most people think that if you simply get married, your spouse can live here with you the day you’re married and you just file an application and wait for approval.  It isn’t quite that simple, and it can take up to a year or more to get approved.

A petition for alien fiancé status is available and is often the best route when you decide you’re going to marry someone from outside the U.S.  It can be quicker and easier, not that the process is ever that quick or that easy.  Some people get  a tourist visa, then get married, then file an I-130 to adjust status as a sponsor for their spouse but don’t realize that this could raise red flags and result in consequences with immigration officials making decisions about your loved one’s status.  In effect, your spouse has lied on the tourist visa (in some cases) because they intended to stay here to get married and were not here to simply visit like they declared.

People do apply for adjusted immigration status on their own, but just beware that legal advice can save you stress and headaches if you don’t know the proper way to navigate the system for optimal ease and success.  At least a paid consultation with an attorney well-versed in handling family immigration matters may be well worth the money spent.

This article is for general information purposes only.  It is not intended as legal advice and it does not constitute establishment of an attorney-client relationship with anyone who reads it or an attempt to create an attorney-client relationship.  Keep in mind that the law changes frequently based on legislation and case law.  If you have a legal issue that relates to this article’s subject matter, please consult with a licensed attorney to determine your individual rights and to clarify the law with respect to your particular set of facts.  If you live in another state, please consult a licensed attorney in your state.  Dana Boyle is licensed in the state of Wisconsin.

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