With over 2 million marriages taking place in the United States each year, states have made it relatively simple for a couple to be able to marry (as evidenced by the drive-thru and 24 -hour chapels all around Las Vegas).

Still, Legal Language Services knows that you already have enough to think about without worrying about how to apply for a marriage license, let alone what requirements you must meet to even be allowed to apply for one in the first place.

That’s why we’ve compiled this page which includes different states’ marriage requirements, how to apply for a marriage license, and even how to bring your fiancé(e) to the United States, if they are not yet a legal resident.

Marriage Requirements

Before you can actually get married, there are certain requirements the two of you must meet. They vary a little from state to state, but most include:

  • Being of consenting age (usually 18, though with parents’ consent, you may be able to marry younger)
  • Not already being married
  • Not being closely related to your intended spouse (All states will prohibit a person from marrying a sibling, half-sibling, parent, grandparent, great-grandparent, child, grandchild, great-grandchild, aunt, uncle, niece, or nephew. Some states may have additional prohibitions)
  • Being sober at the time of the marriage
  • Having an acceptable mental capacity. Meaning, the ability to understand what you are about to do, and any consequences your actions will have.
  • Obtaining a marriage license, and
  • Getting a blood test*

*Most states no longer require a blood test prior to marriage. A few, however, still do. States that still require blood tests are: District of Columbia, Georgia, Indiana, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Montana and Oklahoma. A blood test is used to check both partners for any venereal disease or measles. The test can also disclose the presence of any genetic disorders.

If one of you tests positive for a venereal disease, what happens next will depend on the state in which you are marrying. Some states will refuse to issue a marriage license, while others will allow you to marry as long as you are both aware that the test was positive.

Obtaining a Marriage License & Certificate

If you wish to be married, the first step is to apply for a marriage license at the county clerk’s office in the state where you wish to marry. Depending on the state, you may be required to pay an application fee. You may also have to wait for your license to be issued (usually a few days).

Although they are sometimes confused, a marriage license is not the same thing as a marriage certificate. A marriage license authorizes you to get married; a marriage certificate is proof you are married.

What usually happens is a couple will obtain a marriage license, have their wedding ceremony, and then have whoever performed the ceremony file a marriage certificate within a few days. The married couple is sent a certified copy of the marriage certificate a few weeks after the marriage ceremony.

Most states require the couple getting married, the person who performed the ceremony, and one or two witnesses to sign the marriage certificate. This is usually done right after the wedding ceremony.

Who Can Perform My Marriage Ceremony?

A non-religious or civil ceremony must be performed by either a judge, justice of the peace, or court clerk, while a religious ceremony must be conducted by a member of the clergy (i.e. a priest, minister, or rabbi).

With the advent of the internet, and many people wanting someone “personal” to perform the marriage ceremony, it is relatively easy to have anyone you would like become an ordained minister to marry you. However, you should always check with the county and state in which you are getting married to double check what requirements need to be met for the person to legally join you and your fiancé(e).

Bringing My Foreign Born Fiancé(e) to the US

If you wish to bring your fiancé(e), who is currently not a citizen of the United States, into the country for the wedding ceremony, then you must first file a petition (Form I-129F – Petition for Alien Fiancé) with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) on their behalf.

After you get the petition approved, your fiancé(e) must then obtain a visa issued at a US Embassy or consulate abroad.

Your marriage has to occur within 90 days of your fiancé(e) entering the United States. If the marriage doesn’t take place within the 90 days, or your fiancé(e) marries someone other than yourself, your fiancé(e) will have to leave the United States.

Until the marriage is completed and official, your fiancé(e) will be considered a nonimmigrant. A nonimmigrant is a foreign national seeking to temporarily enter the United States for a specific purpose. Your fiancé(e) will in no way be able to extend the 90-day original nonimmigrant admission.

If it is your fiancé(e)’s intent to permanently reside and work in the United States, they should immediately apply to become a permanent resident following the marriage. If your fiancé(e) will not apply to become a permanent resident, they will have to leave the country within the original 90-day nonimmigrant admission.

Your fiancé(e) will first have a conditional permanent residence status for two years following your marriage. Conditional permanent residency is given when the marriage that creates the relationship is less than two years old at the time of initially filing for permanent resident status.

Your fiancé(e) will only be allowed to enter the United States once with a fiancé(e) visa. If they leave the country before you are married, your fiancé(e) may not be allowed back into the United States without a new visa.

Requirements to Petition

Any US citizen who is marrying a citizen of another country in the United States is eligible to petition on behalf of their fiancé(e). You and your fiancé(e) must be either unmarried, or prove that any previous marriages have ended, whether through divorce, annulment, or death.

You also must have met your fiancé(e) face-to-face within the last two years before you may file.

This second requirement may be waived if meeting your fiancé(e) in person would cause any long-established customs to be breached, or if meeting with your fiancé(e) would be financially impossible.

You are also eligible to apply on behalf of your fiancé(e)’s unmarried children, provided they are minors (under the age of 21), so that they may join you in the United States for the wedding.

How Do I Apply?

The US citizen filing the petition must provide the following items to the USCIS:

  1. Form I-129F Petition for Alien Fiancé(e). If you wish to petition on behalf of your fiancé(e)’s unmarried children (under the age of 21), you should say so on this form.
  2. Proof of your US citizenship. This can be your US birth certificate (original copy), your US passport, your Certificate of Naturalization, or your Certificate of Citizenship.
  3. 2 Form G-325A Biographic Data Sheets. One for you and one for your fiancé(e).
  4. A color photo of you and a color photo of your fiancé(e), each taken within 30 days of filing the petition.
  5. A copy of any divorce decrees, death certificates, or annulment decrees if either you or your fiancé(e) have been previously married. If they are in a foreign language, LLS can translate them for you.
  6. If you or your fiancé(e) are subject to any age restrictions, you must also provide proof of permission to marry. (In some US states, for example, you must receive special permission from your parent(s) or legal guardian(s) to marry if you are under the age of 16.)

Will My Foreign Born Fiancé(e) be Eligible for a Work Permit?

Once your fiancé(e) arrives in the United States, they will be able to apply for a work permit. Your fiancé(e) should fill out Form I-765 (Application for Employment Authorization) in order to apply for a work permit. If your fiancé(e) is planning on applying for permanent resident status, they have to re-apply for a new work permit after your marriage takes place.