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  • Religious (not civil) ceremony

    My fiancee would like to have a Buddhist wedding ceremony in Japan before she comes to the US on a K-1 (Application pending in Nebraska). As I understand it a religious wedding ceremony in Japan is not legally recognized unless it is registered with some official office where her family has their records. I have talked to a Catholic priest in Japan and he gave me the same story, any marriage he performs is not legally binding, the couple must register to be married in the eyes of the government. In fact you don't even need a ceremony, you just need to register. Now for my question... Is it wise to have this ceremony before we are legally married in the US after she enters on the K-1? If, when my fiancee enters on the K-1 and during questioning mentions that we had a wedding ceremony in Japan, will BCIS turn her around because they think she has the wrong visa? After it comes out that you went through a wedding ceremony how do you prove that you are not legally married? Any thoughts would be appreciated. Thanks!

  • #2
    My fiancee would like to have a Buddhist wedding ceremony in Japan before she comes to the US on a K-1 (Application pending in Nebraska). As I understand it a religious wedding ceremony in Japan is not legally recognized unless it is registered with some official office where her family has their records. I have talked to a Catholic priest in Japan and he gave me the same story, any marriage he performs is not legally binding, the couple must register to be married in the eyes of the government. In fact you don't even need a ceremony, you just need to register. Now for my question... Is it wise to have this ceremony before we are legally married in the US after she enters on the K-1? If, when my fiancee enters on the K-1 and during questioning mentions that we had a wedding ceremony in Japan, will BCIS turn her around because they think she has the wrong visa? After it comes out that you went through a wedding ceremony how do you prove that you are not legally married? Any thoughts would be appreciated. Thanks!

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    • #3
      In the U.S., as in most secular countries, a marriage is not recognized until it is recorded with the civil authorities. So you could have a religious ceremony abroad and then come to the U.S. and get married at the courthouse. If you are asked about the ceremony, you need to point out it is religious only and it was not recorded civilly. This is an important distinction; in secular countries a marriage is like a contract. Therefore, a marriage is not valid until the civil authorities recognize it. You could have all sorts of religious weddings and, while you would be married according to your beliefs, you would not be married according to the state.

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