The impact of COVID-19 on our world cannot be overstated, globally affecting cultures, practices, and rites of nearly every country. One industry that has been hit particularly hard is the marriage one, especially in India. Economic, health, and time concerns are prompting more and more people to forego elaborate traditional weddings and opt for Arya Samaj marriages. In contrast to a typical Hindu wedding (which can last up to five days; take a minimum of one year to plan; and cost an exorbitant amount of money), Arya Samaj marriages can be performed in less than 2 hours and involve much fewer people. Such a ceremony may be preferable and more expedient for US citizens who wish to wed someone from India but do not have the luxury of staying a prolonged period of time in India. Others go through Arya Samaj marriages if they wish to get married right away or desire to get married in private because they do not have the consent of their parents.
Within India, Arya Samaj marriages are typically no problem, as they are recognized as legally valid. The problem arises when a US Citizen petitions for his/her spouse on the basis of an Arya Samaj ceremony. Apparently, there have been more and more instances of US consulates wrongly determining that Arya Samaj marriages are not valid and in some cases, accusing the parties of fraud. As such, marriage petitions based on Arya Samaj marriages are turning out to be sensitive cases requiring additional documentation above and beyond what would ordinarily be required for regular cases.
As a precaution and in line with the American Immigration Lawyers Association’s latest practice pointer on this issue, we are recommending that clients be prepared to furnish extra proof of relationship at the time of the visa interview. While an Arya Samaj marriage is a legal marriage, the relative lack of formalities and absence of many people are apparently causing some officers to impugn the integrity of the ceremony as well as question the nature of the marital relationship—that is, whether the parties are truly romantically involved with each other and have an intention to spend their future together. As such, individuals should be prepared to show extra evidence, beyond the certificate itself, that all aspects and required rites of the ceremony (in order to be considered valid) were actually performed. Additionally, evidence of the relationship and its bona fide nature are a must—ie., pictures, emails, phone records, etc. Furthermore, it is important to know that while the Arya Samaj marriage certificate is legal and considered valid, the US consulates as well as the National Visa Center are indicating that they will not accept it, as the document is not technically valid outside of India. As a consequence, applicants may need to present a marriage certificate from the Marriage Officer/Registrant of the District/State where the marriage took place. (An Arya Samaj marriage can be registered under Section 8 of the Hindu Marriage Act or under Section 15 of the Special Marriages Act.)
The above is general information only. It is not specific legal advice nor intended to create an attorney client relationship. If you need advice, please consult with an attorney.