‘Proxy marriages’ via Skype used to gain US citizenship

proxy weddings
Photo Credit: New York Times

What’s the easiest way to become an American citizen? Marry an American. Online. Via Skype.

Insane, but proxy online marriages are on the rise as immigration officials obviously don’t oversee video-chat weddings.

The Daily Mail reported Wednesday that Colorado, Texas, Montana, Alabama, Missouri and California allow proxy marriages. In all other states, the practice is illegal “unless one partner is in the military.”

The Daily Mail also found:

In countries such as India, England, and Israel, proxy marriages via Skype are legally-binding. And because the U.S. recognizes a legal overseas wedding between an American and their foreign fiancé, many are saying ‘I do’ via Skype and registering the wedding on foreign soil so that the marriage is considered legal.

Punam Chowdhury, an American citizen, married her Bangladesh-based fiancé, Tanvir Ahmmed, via Skype last month from a mosque in Jackson Heights, Queens, according to The New York Times.

In order for the wedding to be recognized in the U.S., their Indian marriage certificate simply states it ‘took place’ in Bangladesh, where it was legally registered, instead of New York, where the practice is illegal.

Needless to say, cases of marriage fraud and sex trafficking are on the rise with the ease of marrying online: “Such convenience has also raised concerns that it will facilitate marriage fraud — already a challenge for immigration authorities — as well as make it easier to ensnare vulnerable women in trafficking networks,” the New York Times reported.

skype wedding bride
Photo Credit: Weddings Illustrated

Oversight of proxy marriages from immigration authorities is lacking. According to the Times, “The practice is so new that some immigration authorities said they were unaware it was even happening and did not typically provide extra scrutiny to ensure these types of marriages were not misused to secure citizenship.”

“All people applying for American citizenship through marriage must first be interviewed by officials from the Homeland Security or State Department who are charged with rooting out fraud,” the Times article said.

But immigration officials don’t often ask questions about the actual wedding ceremonies. Learning a wedding took place via Skype “would raise a red-flag,” U.S. immigration officials told the Times.

Read more from the New York Times here.

Read the Daily Mail article here.


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