USCIS will offer immigration benefits to spouses in a common law marriage only if:
1. The jurisdiction in which the common law marriage was formed legally recognizes the common law marriage;
2. The jurisdiction that recognizes such common law marriage requires a FORMAL court proceeding to terminate the common law marriage.
The USCIS takes into consideration both the home country’s recognition of common law marriage and how the said marriage can be dissolved when determining legality.
For the USCIS, there can be no “common law divorce” for a legalized marriage.
Within the United States itself, however, it is not easy to get a common law marriage.
Common law marriages are only granted in Alabama, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and the District of Columbia.
This means that a citizen or permanent resident with an alien “spouse” under common law marriage can only claim spousal immigration benefits if the marriage relationship took place in the preceding states. Then all other states must recognize the marriage.
The common law marriage has to take place in a state where common law marriage is allowed before other states will accept that marriage.