In the past couple of years, U.S. immigration policy has become more restrictive, causing anxiety among American citizens engaged to marry people from other countries. We just published a blog that explains the basics of prenuptial agreements, but when the relationship crosses international boundaries, premarital agreements can come with other legal issues.
Immigration law and international marriage
When a citizen marries someone from another country, there are processes under U.S. immigrations laws for the spouse to become a legal permanent resident with access to a Green Card that allows them to work legally in the U.S. The marriage also provides an eventual path to citizenship.
Because of these life-changing benefits, federal authorities require these couples to show they are marrying because they want true marriages and not just to get immigration benefits for the foreign partner. Authorities will investigate marriages with signs of having been entered into for fraudulent reasons. Entering into a sham marriage to give the foreign spouse immigration benefits without a true marital relationship is a federal crime.
A prenup may be problematic in a sham marriage investigation
A Florida premarital agreement will not be enforceable if a prospective spouse signed it under duress to do so. If a prenup is drawn up and signed right before a marriage to a foreign person, it may appear to have been signed under pressure and not voluntarily – potentially signaling to the government that the marriage was hastily arranged and therefore more likely a sham, according to an article in the Boston Globe.
Also, of concern could be the situation in which the antenuptial agreement keeps the property of the two spouses separate or waives later alimony or inheritance rights. Immigration authorities may see an intention to keep assets separate or not to support one another as a sign of a fraudulent marriage, since most couples do mingle their assets to some extent and desire to provide for one another after death.
Premarital agreements, alimony and immigration support
One function of a prenup some couples use is to agree ahead of marriage how to handle alimony should there be a future divorce. However, immigration law requires the U.S. spouse to financially support their foreign spouse until they become a citizen or work for 10 years, even beyond a divorce. If the parties agree in their prenuptial agreement to predefine alimony terms and amounts upon divorce, would they have to pay that in addition to the immigration-required support or could one payment meet both obligations?
An experienced Florida family lawyer would need to investigate this question and others on behalf of a client. The attorney can explain the nuances and complexities of immigration law as it intersects with prenuptial agreements and take action on behalf of the client accordingly.