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Marriage Rules in the USA

Marriage laws are an important part of every constitution. To have a legal marriage, the couple must abide by the rules set down in the country where they are getting married. Marriage laws in the US have been changed several times. In 2015, the Supreme Court legalized marriages between couples of the same genders. Earlier the state governments had the freedom to decide on whether or not to allow same-sex marriages. Removing the ban on interracial unions also changed a lot about marriages in the USA.


In the USA, marriage laws differ from state to state. One general rule that applies to all citizens is getting a marriage license before the ceremony. The license is a necessity before both religious and civil ceremonies. The requirements for this license are decided by individual state governments.

Age restrictions

The legal age for marriage differs state-wise in the US. Most of the states have set the legal age to get married as 18, where one can get married without the need for any consent from parents or legal guardian. There are some exceptions too. In Nebraska, the legal age is 19, in Mississippi and Puerto Rico it is 21. For individuals under the legal age of marriage, consent from the parents is mandatory. Every state has a minimum age too below which marriages are considered illegal. Out of 50, 30 states have minimum age ranging between 13 to 18, while the remaining 20 do not have any age limit set for minors as long as all legal requirements are fulfilled.

Other restrictions

The USA has made polygamy illegal in all the states. The country also bars immigrants who come to the country to practice polygamy. It is also important to note that one who remarries thinking his/her partner is deceased or the divorce has been finalized, will also be accused of practicing polygamy.


US citizens are also not allowed to have legal marriages with their cousins or blood relatives. The law stands in most US states.

Where to apply for the marriage license?

The license for marriage can be provided only by the town hall or a county clerk. A religious ceremony is considered valid socially only and not under the law. It is compulsory to get a marriage license from the state in which the ceremony will be conducted. The couple should also be present during applying for the license.

How long is the marriage license valid for?

The license once issued remains valid for a limited time only. The time limit also differs from state to state. Some states let you renew the license once it expires, while in others you have to go through the entire process again. There are few states and territories that have no expiration time on the marriage license once issued. Georgia, South Carolina, Idaho, District of Columbia, Mississippi, and New Mexico are those states. Oklahoma has the shortest time limit of just 10 days. For other states, the time ranges from a month to a year. It is advisable to get the license a week or two before the ceremony.

Necessities of Marriage License

Proof of identity, residency, and a medical report are some basic needs for applying for a marriage license in all the states. There are some factors on which the requirements vary from state to state. Here is the list:

  • Documents to be submitted
  • Legal age of marriage
  • The period of waiting and the expiration time for the license
  • Need of a blood test
  • Need for residency proof

Despite the different rules in the states, some common documents are asked by every city hall when you apply for the marriage license. It is always better to learn about the requirements from authorities before you apply. However, here are some things common that will be useful to know:

  • An identity with a recent photograph. A passport or driver’s license is accepted in most states of the US.
  • A copy of the birth certificate or the original one.
  • Document to prove successful payment of license fee.
  • A parent’s consent in case the person getting married is a minor.
  • In case a previous partner has passed away, it is mandatory to show the death certificate.
  • If there has been a divorce, then providing proof of the same is also necessary.
  • Evidence of citizenship or residence.
  • Medical test or blood test results.

Waiting Periods

Multiple states give the couples a waiting time before issuing the license to marry. It usually varies from a day to a week. The time is given to make sure that the couple is absolutely certain about their decision.

Getting a green card by marrying a US citizen

The law in the USA allows its citizens to marry non-US citizens. If both the partners are in the country, the marriage should be registered with the county officials in the state where they get married. The non-US citizen will also be eligible for a green card in the country and convert the temporary visa into a permanent one. However, there is a restriction on issuing green cards to prevent immigrants from misusing the facility. The people who apply for a green card within 90 days of arrival in the country are often rejected.


There have been cases where the current visas get revoked when green cards get rejected. Such individuals might never get a US visa in the future as well. Therefore, it is important to keep the 90-day rule in mind.


Also, when applying for marriage registration, the foreigner should contact the embassy to find out the legal marriage requirements of their country. If the documents are not in English, a translation by a certified professional will be necessary before submitting the documents to the state officials.


In case the partner resides outside the USA, there are two options to legalize the marriage. You can either have a legal marriage outside the US and apply for a green card or bring the partner to the country with a fiancé visa and get the legal marriage done in the country.