If you are applying for a permanent resident card, commonly referred to as a green card, you will need supporting documents. A marriage certificate, or marriage contract, will be required for your petition if you are applying for a green card through marriage. Lost or stolen certificates must be replaced.
Challenges may stand in the way of getting a copy of your marriage certificate. For starters, marriage is regulated at a state level. Getting a marriage certificate copy depends on where you reside. Find out if you need to obtain a copy of your marriage certificate and how to go about it.
What Is a Marriage Certificate?
A marriage certificate is often confused with a marriage license. A marriage license is a document that authorizes you to get married. A marriage certificate is legal proof that you got married.
Couples and their witnesses normally sign a marriage license after their wedding ceremony. The wedding officiant signs and submits the marriage license to a county office. The county then issues you a marriage certificate by mail within a few weeks. Your marriage certificate should be kept in a safe place.
Who Needs to Get a Copy of Their Marriage Certificate?
A marriage certificate is proof of your marriage. If you are applying for a green card through marriage, you will need to send a copy of your marriage certificate to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) when you submit Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative. You will bring your original marriage certificate with you to the interview.
If Your Marriage Certificate Is in a Foreign Language
If your marriage certificate is in any language other than English, you must have it translated. Submit your marriage certificate with a certified English translation.
Obtaining a Copy of Your Marriage Certificate
If you still have your marriage certificate and need a copy, you can simply photocopy it. If your marriage certificate has been misplaced, you can obtain a certified copy to replace it. Use the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website to look up where to write for vital records.
Marriage is managed by each state, so you need to follow the instructions specific to the state in which you were married. Depending on your state, you may need to fill out a form and mail it to the county where your marriage took place. If you are asked to write a letter to request your marriage certificate, be sure to include:
- The date you were married
- The location including city, county, and state
- Your full name as it appears on your marriage certificate
- Your spouse’s full name as it appears on your marriage certificate
- Birth dates of both spouses
- The reason why you are requesting a marriage certificate
- Your current address
- Your phone number
It’s essential that you follow the instructions listed for your state. For example, if you were married in California, you need to fill out a marriage certificate application, sign a sworn statement, and have it notarized. If your statement is not notarized, your application will be returned to you without being processed.
How Much Does a Copy of a Marriage Certificate Cost?
Fees for a certified marriage certificate typically range between $5 and $30. How much a copy of your marriage certificate will cost depends on the state where you were married.
For example, a certified copy of a marriage certificate will cost $15 in Missouri. Similarly, Dupage County (Illinois) charges $14 for one copy and $2 for additional copies you request at the same time.
What if This Is Not Your First Marriage?
If you or your spouse have been married before, you must provide proof that past marriages are dissolved. Submit a copy of a deceased spouse’s death certificate or a copy of finalized divorce papers.
What if You Have a Same-Sex Marriage?
For immigration purposes, USCIS does not recognize civil unions or domestic partnerships. If you were married before the legalization of same-sex marriage, you may be able to have a civil union converted a marriage. Otherwise, you will need to get married to obtain an official marriage certificate.
If Your Marriage Certificate Is Not Available
If for some reason, your marriage certificate cannot be replaced, your immigration petition will require alternative documentation to prove your marriage.
Submit a notarized affidavit describing the circumstances of your marriage and why you cannot obtain a copy of your marriage certificate. You must also submit a government agency statement explaining why your marriage certificate is unavailable.
If you cannot submit an official government agency statement, obtain two additional affidavits from your parents or senior relatives. Their statements must include:
- Their name, address, and birth date
- Their relationship to you
- How closely they know you
- How they know you are married
- The names of both spouses
- The date and location of your marriage
The purpose of your marriage certificate is to establish the legitimacy of your marriage. If you cannot obtain a copy of your marriage certificate, make your alternative documentation is detailed and accurate.