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emmaface

U.S. Marriage Ceremony on International Bridge

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I couldn't find this info anywhere else, so after I got information from the county clerk and the justice of the peace, I just wanted to share this information if anyone else is in a similar situation on the border. I had another topic from a few months ago about proxy marriage, and I posted this there, but it's actually a completely different topic. No proxy stuff.

Long story short, it is possible (and easy) to have a U.S. marriage ceremony performed on an international bridge, without the foreign citizen needing to cross over into the States.

It's not a proxy marriage, it's a bonafide 100% authentic American wedding recognized by the State of Texas and the US Government. I don't know if other border cities have a similar process, or if the same thing is even possible in New Mexico, Arizona, or California, but in El Paso County, it's quite commonplace for couples planning on immigration, and according to lawyers I've asked and anecdotal evidence, this United States marriage is a bit BETTER for immigration proceedings than a Mexican marriage. No need to translate or notarize or apostille any marriage documents, no medical exams, no prenuptual family talks, no special government permission.

Now, the details on how it works:

First, a marriage license in Texas (El Paso County anyway) is $72. To file for it, if the MX citizen can't cross, they fill out an Affidavit of Absent Applicant for Marriage License. This is NOT the same as proxy marriage! Absent for the marriage license application, NOT absent for the marriage. In the space for the reason for absence, the county clerk instructed me to write "No visa to cross to United States yet." (anything feasible is valid: hospital stay, army deployment, unexpected out of town trip right before a planned wedding, whatever - it's not scrutinized much) Any mobile notary can walk to the center of an international bridge to notarize it with the MX citizen's signature. There are tons of notaries public in El Paso who do this. (it must be a United States notary. I'm shopping around for prices, first notary I asked charges $125, second charges $75.. waiting on more answers, but notaries are pretty much free to charge whatever they want, so I could find a cheaper one). The US Citizen brings the notarized affidavit, original birth certificates, original divorce papers (if necessary - in TX, you have to be divorced at least one month), and original IDs to the county clerk and files for the marriage license (must be an original ID even for the absent person - but a passport is valid, I specifically asked since I don't want to take my fiance's ID card with me to El Paso for a day. I do still need to ask if his birth certificate and divorce papers need to be translated to English and/or apostilled).

Texas has a 3 day waiting period before the license is issued, then the wedding must be performed within 30 days. Unlike Mexico, it doesn't matter one bit if one person isn't American. No special permission is needed, no nada. Texas doesn't care. I assume the US Citizen has to be a Texas resident, but I didn't ask about that since I hold TX residency.

Once you have the marriage license, one El Paso County judge, Judge Guadalupe Aponte, performs marriages on the Cordova International Bridge (the free bridge, the only one without a toll, at the end of US highway 54). The ceremony costs $155. Just like the notary, she walks halfway across the bridge to the international line, and performs the marriage ceremony exactly the same she would in any Texas courtroom, church, or backyard.

And there you have it. How to have a bonafide United States wedding without technically being on United States soil, with no proxy business. This happens ALL the time in El Paso, and the vast majority of the couples I know personally who have gone the marriage route for immigration have done it this way, including multiple members of my fiance's family.

I hope this can help someone!

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Moved from IR-1/CR-1 Process & Procedures to Mexico, Latin & South America regional forum; topic is a "how-to" for getting married in a specific area under certain circumstances. Also sending suggestion to Moderation Team to pin the topic in this forum.


Our journey:

Spoiler

September 2007: Met online via social networking site (MySpace); began exchanging messages.
March 26, 2009: We become a couple!
September 10, 2009: Arrived for first meeting in-person!
June 17, 2010: Arrived for second in-person meeting and start of travel together to other areas of China!
June 21, 2010: Engaged!!!
September 1, 2010: Switched course from K1 to CR-1
December 8, 2010: Wedding date set; it will be on February 18, 2011!
February 9, 2011: Depart for China
February 11, 2011: Registered for marriage in Wuhan, officially married!!!
February 18, 2011: Wedding ceremony in Shiyan!!!
April 22, 2011: Mailed I-130 to Chicago
April 28, 2011: Received NOA1 via text/email, file routed to CSC (priority date April 25th)
April 29, 2011: Updated
May 3, 2011: Received NOA1 hardcopy in mail
July 26, 2011: Received NOA2 via text/email!!!
July 30, 2011: Received NOA2 hardcopy in mail
August 8, 2011: NVC received file
September 1, 2011: NVC case number assigned
September 2, 2011: AOS invoice received, OPTIN email for EP sent
September 7, 2011: Paid AOS bill (payment portal showed PAID on September 9, 2011)
September 8, 2011: OPTIN email accepted, GZO number assigned
September 10, 2011: Emailed AOS package
September 12, 2011: IV bill invoiced
September 13, 2011: Paid IV bill (payment portal showed PAID on September 14, 2011)
September 14, 2011: Emailed IV package
October 3, 2011: Emailed checklist response (checklist generated due to typo on Form DS-230)
October 6, 2011: Case complete at NVC
November 10, 2011: Interview - APPROVED!!!
December 7, 2011: POE - Sea-Tac Airport

September 17, 2013: Mailed I-751 to CSC

September 23, 2013: Received NOA1 in mail (receipt date September 19th)

October 16, 2013: Biometrics Appointment

January 28, 2014: Production of new Green Card ordered

February 3, 2014: New Green Card received; done with USCIS until fall of 2023*

 

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This is a very interesting concept. I like the idea and can see this as a valid and valuable option for many folks.

I wanted to correct a bit in your statement. The marriage license is issued IMMEDIATELY, but after it is issued, THEN you have to wait 72 hours to marry.

Texas Marriage License FAQ's

Additional note:

If you ARE planning to marry in Texas and you need to have your proof of marriage in a "timely fashion", don't get your license in a heavily populated city. We bought ours here in our neighborhood and were told that we'd have the documents back within 30 days. On day 31, it was available for us to purchase a COPY, but the originals were still being held hostage somewhere. The official copies were 7$ each and we got 4 of them for filing AOS and my insurance company and other places. The woman who waited on us was the same one who sold us the license and this time she told me they don't have to have it ready for us for NINETY DAYS!

Federal law (IRS) dictates payroll deduction rules for insurance changes and if you plan to add your new spouse to your company's plan, you have to provide proof within that 30 days from the event. Usually you can file for an exception, but that was an added stressor that we didn't need to deal with.

Delays caused by my county's bureaucracy:

Filing for AOS held up a month (He has to return to Perú this fall to finish one semester of college so we were in a panic! )

Adding him to health ins

My name change requirements. THIS delayed:

My Driver's License

My passport change

My CCL (gun permit)

Adding him to my bank (required the social security card for both of us-time consuming so we went once, together)

My professional licenses

etc.

If you live in a bigger city, go to the next county over and get your license. You will probably save time that day from not needing to stand in line. Good luck, everyone.

Edited by EminTX

Perú's K-1 embassy packet can be viewed in our photos.
Travel Tips for Perú (& South America)
Our Immigration Experience
Seat Guru Flight seating!
Airport Processing Times - http://awt.cbp.gov/
POE-Houston? Pictures and info.....POE-Houston (other languages)....


Attention NEW K-1 Filers: (2012) Possible 1st year costs = Possibly 3K+$ for first year including fees for mailing, documents, supplies, etc.. NOT including travel costs. Process: 1.)Apply-340$ 2.)RFE? 3.) Med-300??$ 4.)Interview-350$ 5.)Surrender passport. 6.)Get Visa. 7.)Fly here. 8.) Marry in 90 days. 9.) Submit apps to stay, work, & travel-1070$ 10.) Biometrics-More fingerprinting 11.) GREENCARD ISSUED APR 9TH, 2013-11 MONTHS FOR AOS!
I've lived in Houston for 10 years. If you have any questions about the city, please message me. :)

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EminTX: great info! I hope it's useful for others out there too! For the record, I didn't have any of those delay problems with our marriage license here in El Paso. We're the smallest big city, I suppose.

I don't have health insurance so that one wasn't an issue for me, and I did not change my name partly because of the issues it would cause with all my documents. The El Paso County Clerk told me I can change my name at any time - there isn't a time limit after the marriage, so once he gets here THEN I'll change my name.

Sorry to rez a dead topic, but I kinda just wanted to add our actual experience with this process, since we finally completed the process and got married on the international bridge!

The process basically followed the idea I had in my first post, unfortunately we did have a few hangups. It's fairly long, but I sure wish I had someone else's story to get an idea of what would happen before we did this - so I hope my long story will help someone else out there living on the border!

1. Find a Minister and a Notary

We found a minister who is also a notary. Handy. One fee for both the ceremony and the notarization of the Affidavit. He recently had another minister join him in his practice, I don't recall his name but this other minister just recently became a notary. (new notary, new at notarizing things - that's a key point later in my story and becomes an awful hangup)

I paid upfront about $250. I had recently checked and the County Judge who performes bridge weddings has raised her price to $180 for a ceremony on the bridge, and the cheapest notary service I found charged $60. So $250 for one person to handle both wasn't bad at all.

2. Get an Affidavit of Absent Applicant for Marriage License from the County Clerk.

This form is no longer downloadable in El Paso County, it must be obtained in person from any County Clerk's office. The clerk initials the original form and that original form must be returned. (Anyone in El Paso - I had good luck with the office on Socorro Road - no lines, unlike downtown at the Courthouse)

3. Have the absent applicant complete the form in the presence of a U.S. Notary.

This can happen in the lobby of the immigration office at the Stanton Street / Paso Del Norte bridge. (This is no longer allowed at the Cordova/Free bridge nor the Zaragoza/Ysleta bridge, ONLY downtown!) We parked in a nearby parking lot, paid the toll to walk across the bridge, called the minister from about halfway (as soon as my phone had service) and he and the other minister/notary (minitary? notister?) met us in the waiting area for the immigration office. There was a long line of people waiting to enter the POE on foot, but we went straight to the front of the line, told the agent we needed to check on some paperwork in the immigration office, and he let us pass into the office. There we waited a few minutes and the ministers arrived. They had copies for Axel to practice filling out completely - if you make an error on the original, you have to request a new one and start over. Poor Axel was SO nervous - he has fairly chickenscratchy handwriting and he was terrified that it wouldn't be legible. After trying 3 or 4 times, he gave it a shot - seemed ok. The main minister then instructed the new minister on what to do. He was telling him, "Ok now check for this, verify that it matches the ID, get your stamp ready," etc. etc, guiding him through the process. Didn't think anything of it at the time.

4. Return the completed Absent Affidavit to the County Clerk with absent applicant's ID, birth certificate, and $72.

We found an older copy of Axel's birth certificate, and I brought both his MX Passport and credencial (photo ID). Nothing needed to be translated into English nor apostilled. I handed everything over to the County Clerk... they looked over the affidavit and approved it, but the birth certificate we had was an abstract, and they require the long form. So I rushed back to Juarez to pick up Axel so we could go to a Registro Civil and buy the right one. By this time it was about 4:45 PM. Whoops, the Registro Civil closed at 2:00 PM. We'd have to wait until tomorrow.

(this is a good time to mention that this was all happening on Monday. We had already scheduled our ceremony for Saturday. The 3 day waiting period means we MUST have the marriage license on Tuesday or first thing Wednesday morning, or pay a $50 rescheduling fee for the ceremony. So.... no pressure...)

5. Go to Registro Civil first thing in the morning to get a long form birth certificate.

We got there extra early to make sure we were first in line. Axel got his birth certificate, it's 80 pesos, about $7 dollars.... But oh no. They don't take dollars. And we have no pesos. And they don't take cards. Oh dear god. Thankfully, the lady at the counter was an angel and exchanged my dollars for pesos from her own purse. Crisis averted!!

6. Repeat step 4 with the proper birth certificate

I got to the County Clerk, proudly handed in everything, totally confident that it was fine - they did tell me the form was fine when they looked at it the day before, after all.....

“These ID documents are fine, but I can’t accept this affidavit, ma’am.”

WHAT.

“If you look here, the notary wrote the date as MARCH 18th, not May 18th. I’ll have to void this. Here’s a new one. Try again.”

I could not believe it. I was SO pissed. I finally had everything right and the NOTARY messed up?? The notary, whose job it is to make sure everything is legal and correct??? ......The new notary, who hadn't notarized many things before and had no experience. On top of that, another County clerk told me the day before that the form was fine!

I called them up, of course they were SO embarrassed and ashamed, and thankfully they bent over backwards to get it all done again the same day without an appointment.

7. Repeat step 3 and make. sure. the notary. does it. CORRECTLY.

8. Try step 4 again. For the third time.

Finally, Tuesday afternoon, they accepted the documents and my money and handed over the marriage license!

9. Get married!

Saturday, May 25th, we returned to the Downtown bridge. We brought his parents and his son, since they likely won't be able to attend our proper wedding in El Paso someday. Right in the center of the bridge, there's a little photo-op area where there's a US flag and a MX flag, and the plaque marking the center line of the bridge. We met the ministers there. They took some pictures for us, we took a video. It was brief, about 5 minutes. But it was a sweet little ceremony, short but meaningful, and the minister was very kind and said some beautiful words. It was beautiful. It was simple. No more hangups. The minister signed everything properly and wrote the correct date on our marriage license.

10. Register marriage license at County Clerk

This is the part that I was afraid would be awful, but just like the wedding, it went off without a hitch. I went to the County Clerk office, waited maybe 2 minutes in line to see a clerk, and handed over the license. He scanned it into their system, stamped it, and handed it back to me. All done!

EminTX's post is great, it illustrates the huge differences between cities - keep it in mind, if you're anywhere near El Paso, you don't give up your marriage license once you have it the first time. You give it to the minister to sign, and you give it to the County Clerk to scan for filing - it is never taken from you, no waiting to have it returned!

TL;DR: In theory, it's very easy, and it's pretty straightforward on paper.

Important lessons learned:

Abstract birth certificates are useless.

ALWAYS double check your notary's work!!

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I see this post was in 2012. How long after your marriage did the visa process take?

Thanks for the post. Very helpful and detailed!

We haven't filed the I-130 yet. After I learned I could file for an ITIN for my husband in order to send a joint tax return, I was waiting for that, to include with the I-130 as proof of bonafide marriage. Now that I've filed the taxes, we just need to get our passport photos taken, and the papers will go in the mail! :)

Since I cross to Mexico so frequently, we've never really felt a lot of pressure to file the papers as fast as we possibly can. I've been crossing the international bridge from my house to his house 5-6 days a week for almost 4 years now - it's just another toll road on my commute at this point!

Edited by emmaface

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A few posts have been removed for cluttering this pinned thread.


06-04-2007 = TSC stamps postal return-receipt for I-129f.

06-11-2007 = NOA1 date (unknown to me).

07-20-2007 = Phoned Immigration Officer; got WAC#; where's NOA1?

09-25-2007 = Touch (first-ever).

09-28-2007 = NOA1, 23 days after their 45-day promise to send it (grrrr).

10-20 & 11-14-2007 = Phoned ImmOffs; "still pending."

12-11-2007 = 180 days; file is "between workstations, may be early Jan."; touches 12/11 & 12/12.

12-18-2007 = Call; file is with Division 9 ofcr. (bckgrnd check); e-prompt to shake it; touch.

12-19-2007 = NOA2 by e-mail & web, dated 12-18-07 (187 days; 201 per VJ); in mail 12/24/07.

01-09-2008 = File from USCIS to NVC, 1-4-08; NVC creates file, 1/15/08; to consulate 1/16/08.

01-23-2008 = Consulate gets file; outdated Packet 4 mailed to fiancee 1/27/08; rec'd 3/3/08.

04-29-2008 = Fiancee's 4-min. consular interview, 8:30 a.m.; much evidence brought but not allowed to be presented (consul: "More proof! Second interview! Bring your fiance!").

05-05-2008 = Infuriating $12 call to non-English-speaking consulate appointment-setter.

05-06-2008 = Better $12 call to English-speaker; "joint" interview date 6/30/08 (my selection).

06-30-2008 = Stokes Interrogations w/Ecuadorian (not USC); "wait 2 weeks; we'll mail her."

07-2008 = Daily calls to DOS: "currently processing"; 8/05 = Phoned consulate, got Section Chief; wrote him.

08-07-08 = E-mail from consulate, promising to issue visa "as soon as we get her passport" (on 8/12, per DHL).

08-27-08 = Phoned consulate (they "couldn't find" our file); visa DHL'd 8/28; in hand 9/1; through POE on 10/9 with NO hassles(!).

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Hello. I did this exact thing. My husband(mexican) and I (us citizen) got married at the us international border in el paso tx 4 mths ago. Now I am wanting to file the i-130 to petition for him to come live with me in el paso. Although I am a little confused by the cr-1 and k-3 options. How should I got about that? I'd like some help. Thank you!

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Ignore K-3, which is nearly dead. The CR-1 visa is superior, anyway.

Go atop any VJ page and click "Guides" to find the CR-1 information.

Congratulations on your marriage, and welcome to the forum.


06-04-2007 = TSC stamps postal return-receipt for I-129f.

06-11-2007 = NOA1 date (unknown to me).

07-20-2007 = Phoned Immigration Officer; got WAC#; where's NOA1?

09-25-2007 = Touch (first-ever).

09-28-2007 = NOA1, 23 days after their 45-day promise to send it (grrrr).

10-20 & 11-14-2007 = Phoned ImmOffs; "still pending."

12-11-2007 = 180 days; file is "between workstations, may be early Jan."; touches 12/11 & 12/12.

12-18-2007 = Call; file is with Division 9 ofcr. (bckgrnd check); e-prompt to shake it; touch.

12-19-2007 = NOA2 by e-mail & web, dated 12-18-07 (187 days; 201 per VJ); in mail 12/24/07.

01-09-2008 = File from USCIS to NVC, 1-4-08; NVC creates file, 1/15/08; to consulate 1/16/08.

01-23-2008 = Consulate gets file; outdated Packet 4 mailed to fiancee 1/27/08; rec'd 3/3/08.

04-29-2008 = Fiancee's 4-min. consular interview, 8:30 a.m.; much evidence brought but not allowed to be presented (consul: "More proof! Second interview! Bring your fiance!").

05-05-2008 = Infuriating $12 call to non-English-speaking consulate appointment-setter.

05-06-2008 = Better $12 call to English-speaker; "joint" interview date 6/30/08 (my selection).

06-30-2008 = Stokes Interrogations w/Ecuadorian (not USC); "wait 2 weeks; we'll mail her."

07-2008 = Daily calls to DOS: "currently processing"; 8/05 = Phoned consulate, got Section Chief; wrote him.

08-07-08 = E-mail from consulate, promising to issue visa "as soon as we get her passport" (on 8/12, per DHL).

08-27-08 = Phoned consulate (they "couldn't find" our file); visa DHL'd 8/28; in hand 9/1; through POE on 10/9 with NO hassles(!).

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Thanks for the info.

I would say it is better in general terms to get married in Mexico. Here my points of view about it:

"No need to translate or notarize or apostille any marriage documents, no medical exams, no prenuptual family talks, no special government permission."

Medical exams in Mexico are requested to verify that there is no Sexually Transmitted Diseases and also to check compatibility of blood, and leave under the couple consideration to actually getting married.

Prenuptial talk is a presentation of rights and obligations of getting married. Exposing the couple to the two "regimenes patrimoniales". Separated or joint. How to ask for help and to who. What is going to happen in case of divorce, etc. Causing awareness.

For me apostille and translations are a low charge compare with not having all the mentioned above.

By the way, in Mexico you don't need a "special government permission" to get married to a non-Mexican anymore.

In our particular case, we decided to get married in Mexico to be with all my family and because we wanted the Mexican residence for my husband before going back to USA. Mexico ended up being more strict than USA in immigration terms.

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Give more details, for those interested in doing it in Laredo.


06-04-2007 = TSC stamps postal return-receipt for I-129f.

06-11-2007 = NOA1 date (unknown to me).

07-20-2007 = Phoned Immigration Officer; got WAC#; where's NOA1?

09-25-2007 = Touch (first-ever).

09-28-2007 = NOA1, 23 days after their 45-day promise to send it (grrrr).

10-20 & 11-14-2007 = Phoned ImmOffs; "still pending."

12-11-2007 = 180 days; file is "between workstations, may be early Jan."; touches 12/11 & 12/12.

12-18-2007 = Call; file is with Division 9 ofcr. (bckgrnd check); e-prompt to shake it; touch.

12-19-2007 = NOA2 by e-mail & web, dated 12-18-07 (187 days; 201 per VJ); in mail 12/24/07.

01-09-2008 = File from USCIS to NVC, 1-4-08; NVC creates file, 1/15/08; to consulate 1/16/08.

01-23-2008 = Consulate gets file; outdated Packet 4 mailed to fiancee 1/27/08; rec'd 3/3/08.

04-29-2008 = Fiancee's 4-min. consular interview, 8:30 a.m.; much evidence brought but not allowed to be presented (consul: "More proof! Second interview! Bring your fiance!").

05-05-2008 = Infuriating $12 call to non-English-speaking consulate appointment-setter.

05-06-2008 = Better $12 call to English-speaker; "joint" interview date 6/30/08 (my selection).

06-30-2008 = Stokes Interrogations w/Ecuadorian (not USC); "wait 2 weeks; we'll mail her."

07-2008 = Daily calls to DOS: "currently processing"; 8/05 = Phoned consulate, got Section Chief; wrote him.

08-07-08 = E-mail from consulate, promising to issue visa "as soon as we get her passport" (on 8/12, per DHL).

08-27-08 = Phoned consulate (they "couldn't find" our file); visa DHL'd 8/28; in hand 9/1; through POE on 10/9 with NO hassles(!).

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I live in Phoenix,AZ and my fiancee lives an hour south of Nogales,Sonora.  We are interested in doing this just to skip the financee visa process.  Can this only be done in Juarez?  Or can it be done along the Arizona border with Sonora too?  Please PM me with any information. 

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