Many fear that the proxy online marriages, which allow a couple to wed in the absence of one or both spouses, will help facilitate marriage fraud, as well as see an increase in the number of sex trafficking victims.
The growing practice has so far flown under the radar of immigration authorities, who are yet to provide extra inspection to ensure video chat marriages are not misused.
Not all U.S. states allow proxy marriages, however in Colorado, Texas, Montana, Alabama, Missouri, and California, couples separated by distance are permitted to marry via webcam. The process is illegal in all other American states, unless one partner is in the military.
In countries such as India, England, and Israel, proxy marriages via Skype are legally-binding. And because the U.S. recognizes a legal overseas wedding between an American and their foreign fiancé, many are saying ‘I do’ via Skype and registering the wedding on foreign soil so that the marriage is considered legal.
Punam Chowdhury, an American citizen, married her Bangladesh-based fiance, Tanvir Ahmmed, via Skype last month from a mosque in Jackson Heights, Queens, according to The New York Times.
In order for the wedding to be recognized in the U.S., their Indian marriage certificate simply states it ‘took place’ in Bangladesh, where it was legally registered, instead of New York, where the practice is illegal.