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The Convenience and Heavy Risks of Web-Based Marriage:

On March 6th, the Daily Mail (UK) published a revealing report on immigrants utilizing webchat marriages to circumvent US naturalization policy. According to the report, increasing numbers of immigrants seeking US citizenship are conducting “proxy marriages” via Skype and similar programs to speed up and in some cases subvert established Naturalization procedure. While proxy marriages are illegal in all but six states in the US, such arrangements are legally valid in nations with US diplomatic ties, including India, Israel, and the United Kingdom. Immigrants with US based fiancées simply need to conduct the web ceremony within a treaty nation, after which their marriage is considered valid in all US states. Exploiting this sort of loophole in US immigration law might seem a harmless way for prospective citizens to save valuable time and money. Indeed, certain interviewees were very supportive of the practice, noting that “Skype allowed [their]wedding to be broadcast to family and friends” and allowed a wedding to proceed even after the groom became confined to a California hospital with a lung infection. However, several officials interviewed by the Daily Mail foresee some serious pitfalls with this practice of bending the rules. One major concern echoed by A. Uddin, a New York based community activist and former web-marriage facilitator, is the potential deception of unsuspecting citizens by dishonest visa-seekers. Uddin swore off the ceremonies after “several deceitful foreigners had blindsided lonely Americans to obtain a green card, rather than a partnership.” Of equal concern is the opposite situation, in which unsuspecting immigrants can be tricked into dangerous situations by US based sex traffickers. Female immigrants can easily be tricked or forced into web-based marriages and then locked into sexual slavery once in the United States. Law professor Adam Candeub underscores the importance of in-person marriages as a method of verifying that “it is a freely chosen thing”. While US officials do not yet screen for web-based proxy marriages, they acknowledge it would “raise a red flag” if it ever came up during a naturalization interview. False marriages are already frustratingly common in US immigration matters, but at least if the courtship and ceremony are done in person, there is a chance for real connection and companionship to bloom. The distorting effect of long-distance, web based romance leaves love-seeking Americans and unsuspecting immigrants alike much more vulnerable to duplicitous scammers. While the US Government usually adapts to technological changes at a glacial pace, USCIS urgently needs to establish a new set of rules to deal with the emerging practice of web-based marriages. A greater level of transparency and monitoring would clear up the grey areas, allowing law-abiding immigrants greater certainty while protecting vulnerable women and girls around the world. Congress would do well to include video marriage regulations in their long-awaited immigration reform deal. Daily Mail original link: Click Here