As Americans have more opportunities to experience other cultures and to connect with romantic partners across the globe, there is little doubt that the number of “international” marriages will continue to grow. If your future spouse is not a U.S. citizen, here are a few things you may want to think about in advance of marriage.
Consider a prenuptial agreement:
Start discussions early about your respective goals for a prenuptial agreement and its value to you as a couple. While this approach is prudent for any couple contemplating marriage, it is particularly important when your spouse is coming from a different culture where prenups are not as commonly accepted as in the U.S. Your fiancé may have a very different—and sometimes quite negative attitude—towards a prenuptial agreement and may even be offended by the prospect of having to negotiate the terms of a marriage contract. Negotiations can quickly become emotional and difficult if you do not take the time to have open and frank discussions and to explain to your future spouse how a well-thought through prenuptial agreement can help align your goals for the future and create a positive foundation for your marriage.
Take time to understand each other’s financial expectations:
Your future spouse may have very different experiences and values around money. Make sure to thoroughly discuss your respective financial expectations and how your family finances will be structured. If your spouse plans to continue to work after the marriage, it will likely take time to secure the right job and the appropriate immigration status in the U.S. Develop a financial plan for this transitional period to ensure there are no unpleasant surprises or unrealistic expectations which may put unnecessary stress on your marriage.
Be prepared to sponsor your spouse’s immigration status in the U.S.:
If your future foreign national spouse does not plan to work after the marriage, then you will most likely need to sponsor your spouse for permanent U.S. resident status. It is important to know that as part of your sponsorship, you will be signing an Affidavit of Support, in which you will promise to provide a certain, albeit minimal, level of support to your spouse until he or she obtains a “green card” and becomes eligible for gainful employment. If you separate while your spouse’s green card application is still pending, you will still be obligated to pay support to your spouse pursuant to the Affidavit of Support during the pendency of the application process. This is true even if you have a prenuptial agreement in place in which you both waived your right to seek support from the other in the event of separation and divorce.