Are Online Marriages Recognized by Immigration Authorities? (US & Canada)

January 9, 2023
4 min

Online marriage, also known as virtual marriage or remote marriage, can be a convenient and effective solution for international couples who wish to legally wed. One of the main benefits of online marriage is the ability for the couple to complete the marriage process remotely, without the need for one partner to travel to the other's country. This can save the couple both time and money, and can be particularly useful for those who may face obstacles obtaining a visa or other travel documents.

Another benefit of online marriage is the ability to conduct the ceremony and related legal proceedings entirely online, using video conferencing technology. This can make the process more accessible for couples who live in different time zones or have scheduling conflicts, and can also help to ensure that the ceremony is conducted in a secure and private manner.

Couple getting married remotely via Zoom

Are online marriages recognized in the United States by USCIS?

The U.S. immigration law generally recognizes virtual weddings, but it has to be legally valid in the jurisdiction it was held. 

According to U.S. immigration law, an online wedding or marriage where the groom and bride are not physically present at the time of marriage can be legally valid. However, the U.S. government will not recognize the marriage as a basis for granting a lawful permanent residence (a green card), unless the couple consummates the union after the marriage takes place. “Pre-consummation” does not count in this context.

According to Section 35 of 101(a)(35) of the Immigration and Nationality Act or “I.N.A.”, the marriage must be consummated before the couple can be considered as a husband and wife.

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What does consummated mean?

In the context of a marriage contract, consummation occurs when everything required to be done in relation to a contract has been accomplished.

Therefore, proof that the marriage has been consummated after you got married online is important if you and your spouse are planning to apply for U.S. visa. You can prove this by showing that you have been in the same place at the same time at some point during or after your online marriage, and before you apply for a U.S. visa.

The following are some of the documents used as a proof that your online marriage has been consummated:

  • Copies of airplane ticket
  • Hotel reservation
  • Photos together
  • Shared bills
  • Shared lease
  • Personal affidavit of the couple
  • Affidavit from neighbors
  • Affidavit from your landlord

Your affidavit will be more reliable if you can explain that the marriage is a result of your continuous long relationship together. You can also add photos of your personal meetings before the marriage to show that the marriage is all real.

As an additional supporting document to prove that the marriage has been consummated, you can also add the birth certificate of your common child after your online marriage. Children before the wedding can also be included, but the value as evidence of consummation may not be as great. Why? Because consummation is completion of a contract or of your marital union. Therefore, your child produced after your online marriage is considered more valuable evidence as a result of your consummation.

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Are online marriages recognized in the Canada by IRCC?

In Canada, a marriage that is performed legally overseas is usually recognized in Canada as valid. You do not need an apostille, and you do not need to register it in Canada. You may read more about this on the Canadian government's website.

However, the IRCC, or Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, does not recognize online marriage as valid under most circumstances.

You may be exempt from this rule if you are a member of the Canadian Armed Forces. You can read more about the requirements on their website.

Should you get married online?

Many international couples get married with the plan of eventually immigrating to another country. Although immigration is determined on a case-by-case basis, in general, immigration officials tend to look more strictly towards online marriages because it can be harder to determine if the marriage is an accurate representation of a couple's relationship. That's why some countries have emphasized specific requirements that an online marriage must meet before a couple can apply for a Spousal Visa.

Overall, online marriage can be a useful option for international couples who wish to legally wed, providing a convenient, cost-effective, and secure way to complete the marriage process and obtain legal recognition of the marriage in both countries. Whether you are seeking immigration or not, getting married online is still a great option for most couples. Skip the bureaucracy and headaches. Get married with Courtly and we'll coordinate with the authorities for you.

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