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September 22, 2021

Rosanna Berardi Quoted in New York Times Article on Virtual Weddings

Rosanna Berardi, immigration counsel, was quoted in the New York Times article “Utah Is a Destination Wedding Hot Spot, No Travel Required” about how, since May 2020, the Utah County clerk and auditor’s office in Provo, Utah, has performed virtual weddings for more than 3,500 international couples. The wedding ceremonies, which are performed via Zoom, give couples who’ve been separated due to COVID-19 travel restrictions the ability to reunite. 

“Couples have been separated going on two years,” Rosanna said. She described the COVID-19 pandemic and its restrictions on immigration as the cause of “the biggest disaster I’ve seen in my career.” 

The article highlights one of the incentives driving international couples to marry—the ability to bypass travel restrictions. A marriage certificate is the gateway to a visa application and crossing borders even when they’re closed to most visitors. Word about the Utah County clerk and auditor’s office performing virtual weddings spread quickly, and clients from all over the world were directed there. 

While most countries around the world recognize marriages performed abroad as legal, some international couples using Utah County’s virtual marriage system have experienced challenges. Despite being married and having a visa, some individuals are have been turned away by immigration officers at the airport due to not consummating the marriage. 

In the United States, the Immigration and Nationality Act (a federal law, not a state law) considers virtual marriages like those performed in Utah County to be proxy marriages, which are not considered legitimate until they are consummated. This makes it difficult for couples who have virtual weddings, as it means they cannot legally travel to consummate their marriage. “They would have to find a location that allows both Americans and foreign nationals to enter unrestricted,” said Rosanna. After that, “the couple needs to prepare an affidavit stating the date and location of the consummation.”

The criteria immigration officials use to challenge the legitimacy of a relationship are subject to change and are often quite nuanced. This presents additional challenges for same-sex couples. However, the Utah County clerk and auditor doesn’t anticipate this being a deterrent. 

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