How To Marry An NRIby Ayesha Jain, 29th June 2016
The Internet age has been with us for some time now and so have the online matrimony portals that came with it. Prior to the Internet, it was a very rare occurrence for a person living in India to marry an NRI or foreigner. If you have not heard the term NRI before, it stands for Non Resident Indian - basically somebody that is of Indian descent that no longer resides in India.
Today, NRI marriages are common. When you create a profile on a matrimony site such as iMarriages, you may find yourself receiving expressions of interest from people in countries like Australia, England, Germany and the United States. With the Internet, the world has suddenly become a lot smaller.
More and more people are marrying an NRI.
Marrying an NRI can be a very exciting thing. In many of the cases, the couple settles in the foreign country and for the person leaving India, that provides them with a whole new life experience in itself. Although India is an amazing place and the person will miss it dearly, humans are curious creatures and life is all about new experiences. Migrating to another country offers new cultures, new food, new people and a whole new land to explore.
So far it sounds amazing right? Let's all join iMarriages and start chatting with an NRI. Unfortunately, meeting an NRI online is the easy part. Marrying them is quite easy too, they can simply obtain a tourist visa, fly to India and partake in matrimony. Here is the catch - marrying a citizen from Australia or the United States does not automatically allow you to enter or live in those countries. A marriage certificate in India means very little to a foreign government. Before you are allowed entry, you must apply for a visa.
What is a visa and how do I obtain one?
A visa is a document which authorizes a person to enter a foreign country. To obtain a visa, you must submit an application to the government of the country you wish to enter.
The process of applying for a visa can be quite complicated, so to start with, we will look at the most common and simple type - the tourist visa. If an Australian citizen would like to visit India for holiday and spend time with friends here, this is the type of visa he or she would apply for.
First, they would need to obtain the application documents from the Indian government website, embassy or immigration office. As part of the application, they must provide their full name, living address, date of birth, location of birth, passport or national id number, religion, details of both mother and father, occupation, details of any previous visits to India, details of this trip including where you plan to stay and finally, the name of a reference inside India. When submitting the paper work, they must also provide recent certified photos of themselves along with their current passport.
If the visa is granted, the Indian government will attach the visa document inside the passport of the applicant. As Australia is a stable, friendly and trusted country with no health concerns, this application is reasonably straight forward. If the applicant was applying from Pakistan, China or a country suffering from an outbreak such as Ebola, additional documentation and references would be required.
Visas are conditional and come with restrictions. The tourist visa for example, typically allows a visitor to stay for up to 3 months only and prohibits them from working or earning any money. It is usually a single entry visa only, meaning you can only use it to enter the country once. There are exceptions but generally, you cannot leave and enter again using the same visa.
Different countries have their own visa restrictions and requirements. Let's say you hosted your friend from Australia for a month in India and now they would like to return the favor. Australia is a very expensive country to visit. A simple chai or coffee can cost up to 20 times as much as in India. Because of this, if you are traveling from India to Australia you need to prove to the Australian government that you can afford to support yourself while you are there. With these high costs and no local support, it would be very easy to run out of money. To demonstrate that you can support yourself, you will need to provide your bank statement when submitting your visa application. Your Australian friend may also need to provide you with a written statement that they will support you financially during your stay.
That was the most simple type of visa, now let's look at marriage visas.
Types of marriage visas
There are two common types of visas for those in relationships - Partner/Marriage visa and Prospective Marriage/Fiance visa. Each country has a different name for their visas but their purpose remains the same.
In Australia and many other countries, the government is very sceptical of their citizens marrying foreigners. This is because unscrupulous types are arranging fake marriages for a fee, in order for people to apply for a marriage visa and residency in those countries. Selling fake marriages has become a lucrative black market business with people paying upwards of 25 lakhs for their chance at obtaining a visa. Unfortunately, the actions of these criminals make obtaining a visa much more difficult for honest people who just want to be together.
Let's look at the descriptions of each visa as per the Australian government:
- Prospective Marriage Visa (subclass 300)
The Prospective Marriage visa is for people who want to come to Australia to marry their prospective spouse.
It is a temporary visa for nine months. You must be outside Australia when you lodge your application and when the visa is granted. You can have the wedding in any country: the wedding does not need to be in Australia.
- The Partner (Provisional) visa (subclass 309) allows you to live in Australia if you are the spouse or de facto partner of:
* an Australian citizen
* a permanent resident
* an eligible New Zealand citizen.
The Partner (Provisional) visa is the first stage towards a permanent Partner visa. You lodge only one application for your temporary and permanent visas and pay one application charge. Your application is processed in two stages, about two years apart.
You must be outside Australia when you apply and also when the Partner (Provisional) visa is granted. You can be in or outside Australia when Permanent Partner visa (subclass 100) is granted.
Which visa should I apply for in an arranged marriage?
In an arranged marriage, people typically do not enter a relationship or live together until after they are married. Because of this, they are not eligible for a Partner visa. Instead, they should apply for the Prospective Marriage visa.
It is important to note that the Prospective Marriage visa only allows you to stay in Australia for nine months to marry your partner and does not grant permanent residency. Obtaining permanent residency in Australia is a three step process. Once you have obtained your Prospective Marriage visa and married your partner, you need to then apply for a temporary residency visa. This second visa allows you to stay in Australia for two years. If after two years you are still married and living with your partner, you are then entitled to apply for permanent residency.
This long and drawn out process is the result of the high number of criminals buying and selling fake marriages.
How do I apply for the visa?
As we have shown earlier, each country has its own visa requirements and application processes. You should begin by downloading the application documents from the government website of the country you wish to reside in after marriage. Some countries like Australia and the United States provide a detailed visa guide which you can download in PDF format. If these documents are unavailable online, you should contact that country's embassy.
Once you have the documents, you must read them very carefully. Applying for a marriage visa is expensive and if you make even the smallest mistake with your documents, your visa will be denied and your money will not be refunded. You will have to pay to resubmit your application. As of July 2016, the cost of submitting a marriage visa in Australia is approximately $7000 AUD.
It is often much easier to employ the services of a immigration agent. These are private companies that will take ownership of your visa application and ensure it is correct before submitting it on your behalf. As these companies submit thousands of applications per year, they know exactly how to meet all the visa requirements and give you the best chance of success. If you can afford the additional cost of hiring an agent then we highly recommend it.
Before applying for a visa, create a marriage and migration plan. As there are many steps and processes you must complete, we recommend you create a check list which you can tick as you go. A time line may also be useful to ensure you stay on track. Visas typically take between 6 and 12 months to process. Do not submit your application until you are ready. Once the visa is approved, you need to be ready and prepared to go.