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What every intercultural couple ought to know about their “legal” identity.

09/05/2013

or “Who are you, YOU, who want to marry someone from our country?”

Passport immigration stamp

“Who are you?” and “What is your identity?” are questions that intercultural couples will face early in their relationship.  This is especially true for those who do not have the same nationality, those who are called sometimes mixed, bi-national, transnational or international couples. In fact, if you have a different nationality from your spouse and want to get married, you will eventually have to clarify your identity and your spouse’s in front of various civil agencies, authorities or institutions of your country of residence, as well as your country of origin: consulates, embassies, prefecture, immigration services, etc.

The question these services basically ask is: “Who are you, you who want to marry  someone from our country?”  This question will obviously not be stated in such plain terms, but this question is the one that will stand in the background of the immigration and civil procedure which an inter-national couple will be required to comply with (a couple whose spouses not sharing the same nationality).

Future spouses and their relatives may underestimate this notion of “legal identity.”  Seldom do they realize initially that laws concerning citizenship and rights of residence for foreigners can have a significant impact on their relationship and status as a couple.  Some countries require complex legal procedures for integrating a foreigner in the case of a marriage with a national citizen.  The process is longer, more costly and frustrating than one expects. Civil administration may require papers that are difficult to obtain or the (costly) assistance of an attorney.  In the worse case, one spouse may lose his or her nationality by marrying someone from a different country, something that is rarely foreseen.

Such complexities are sometimes a shocking discovery for both the foreign and the national spouse and it will affect their wellbeing. When civil authorities and administration ask:  “Who are you, you who want to marry someone from our country?” the foreign spouse will possibly ask  out of frustration: “Will your country ever accept me?”

All intercultural couples, whose spouses do not share the same nationality, will be confronted at some point with legal procedures that can, at times, become legal obstacles. Consequently, early and romantic feelings of acceptance towards a new country may fade away when confronted with civil authorities. While the foreign spouse may have already made significant steps toward social integration or assimilation prior to his or her marriage (by learning the culture, the language or simply falling in love with the culture of his or her spouse), frustration and even feelings of rejection can quickly arise as he or she is relegated to the status of an alien among many others, and pushed to affirm a new identity in a foreign country. Legal identity as a necessary step underlines the conflict that may arise between social and legal integration.

QUESTIONS:

–       Are you proficient with the marriage procedure you must comply with if you marry a foreign spouse? Are you familiar with the visa you will apply for and the documentation you must present?

–       What are the identification requirements?

–       Are there any prior residence requirements in order to get married? Do you realize that, in some cases, you may not be allowed to travel overseas during the entire marriage procedure application and sometimes until you get official and permanent residency?

–       Does the country of residence require medical or blood tests?

–       Are there any specific rules and instructions for spouses who previously divorced?

–       Have you discussed with your spouse the worst case, which is if your visa may be denied?

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