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Ruling leaves F-2 visa applicants stranded

Citizens of America, Canada, Britain, Australia, and New Zealand all struggled to obtain the F-2 spouse visa this year, as the required documentation ceased to be available.

Until Dec. 31, embassies had issued a “report and certificate of marriage” form, based on the verification of registration of marriage that “gu” district offices provided when a couple registered their marriage at the office. The Korean Supreme Court in November ordered the gu offices to stop issuing verification documents, stating that they do not have the legal right to issue them.

This caused problems for international couples applying for spouse visas, as they could not prepare the required documents. Many people were told they needed a “certificate of marriage” from the foreign spouse’s home country.

According to an Immigration official, F-2 applicants require a marriage certificate from the spouse’s home country to prevent bigamy. Korean authorities worry that a U.S citizen married to a Korean in Korea would be free to marry someone else in America unless they report their marriage in the United States.

However, although these English-speaking countries recognize marriages happening outside their countries, they do not issue marriage certificates for the marriages taking place and registered outside their territories.

One American man who recently married a Korean woman told us that he had tried to get a marriage certificate from the U.S. Embassy after marrying in Korea, but was told that they could not issue a certificate since the ceremony was not held in the U.S.

“I called immigration and told them this, but they were not sympathetic and kept insisting that we need a U.S. marriage certificate. I kept telling them that we could not get it because we were already married in Korea, but they wouldn’t listen.”

He said he was considering flying to the U.S. to marry his wife again, in order to get a U.S. marriage certificate.

“We can’t afford to go to Hawaii but we don’t really have a choice if I want to stay in the country and find other work without dealing with the E-2 requirements,” he said, adding that he hadn’t begun the lengthy preparations for the E-2 process as he thought he would have a spouse’s visa.

He said the delay meant that he had missed out on the best time of year to find employment in English education, before the school year starts in March.

“I’ll have to go back to an academy, which I haven’t done in years,” he said “My previous job was editing textbooks and I’ve been working at a private elementary school for the past year. I’m not looking forward to going back to a hagwon.”

Immigration decided Monday which criteria to accept as valid for confirming that the marriage between a Korean citizen and a foreign spouse is legally recognized in their home country.

Director An Kyu-Suk of Immigration Bureau said that Immigration offices had been told that “any form that contains the couples’ personal information, a statement that their marriage is valid and recognized in their home country, and a consular signature is considered applicable as certificate of marriage.”

Although it is not clear whether all embassies concerned will be able to produce such forms, some confirmed that they had arranged to do so.

The New Zealand Embassy has come up with an alternative form, stating that the Korean marriage certificate issued at gu-offices ― which is different to the report and certificate of marriage ― is legally acceptable in New Zealand. The British Embassy has also come up with a valid form.

By Joo Hye-mi (hyemi0216@gmail.com)
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