The Ultimate Guide to Chinese Supporting Documents for Marriage and Fiance Petitions
US Citizens and Immigration Service says: "The first step in bringing your foreign spouse or fiance to the United States is to file a Marriage or Fiance Petition." The truth is, the first step will be obtaining Chinese supporting documents to support a Marriage or Fiance petition.
Documents needed by USCIS do not exist for Chinese citizens. They must be requested and produced by Local government jurisdictions.
When collecting documents for client files, we see few Chinese applicants will know the types of certified documents with translations required or where to get them. In helping clients, Xiaoying will follow-up with the beneficiary and tell them where to go, what to take, and what they should get.
Now more than ever, much of the footwork to obtain a marriage or fiance visa falls on the Chinese spouse/fiance. For this reason, understanding how to get supporting documents in China for marriage and fiance petitions will help you answer the question from your loved one.
This report gives a comprehensive overview of Chinese legal documents and information needed for marriage and fiance petitions. You'll learn where and how to obtain documents in China and how to spot documents the Chinese government will sometimes produce that will not be accepted by USCIS.
You will also discover how to deal with issues of Child Custody, Quit Communist Party, Letters of Intent to Marry, and USCIS Request For Evidence (RFE) if you met your loved one on a dating website.
Xiaoying and I have made this guide as concise and easy to understand as possible. As you read through, be sure to take note of the information we link to throughout — to expand on a topic they're worthy of your attention.
We're excited you're here! Grab a cup of coffee, and let's dive in.
Getting Started at The Civil Affairs Office (CAO)
Unlike in the United States, where we use notarized certificates and decrees, Chinese citizens have Family Household Registration Books. These booklets get issued by the province or municipality where the Chinese citizen is registered. Household Registration books contain information on birth, marriage, divorce, child custody, and other legal matters.
Contrary to the belief of some, Household Registration Books can not be translated and submitted as supporting documentation. China certified documents used for Marriage and Fiance Petitions must be requested and produced by the Chinese government.
The foreign spouse/fiance(e) must go to the Civil Affairs Office (CAO) that holds jurisdiction over her residency, (the location of the hukou). The CAO that holds authority is the only location that can provide legal documents with certified English translations.
To begin the process of preparing documents, the CAO will need the Chinese citizen's Household Registration Book (hu Kou ben) and Chinese ID (shen fen zheng).
Fiance and Marriage Petition Notarial Booklets
In the United States, a registered birth is documented and recorded with a Birth Certificate, whereas in China, the correct wording is Birth Notarial. Same as with a divorce decree being a Divorce Notarial, and so on. The word notarial is on the cover of all notarial booklets in China.
Notarial Booklets have a white cover and measure 8.5 x 11.5 in size. They contain the certified document in Chinese with the government notary seal, as well as the English translation. Notary also certifies the English translation. It takes 3 to 7 days for the Civil Affairs Office to complete Notarial Booklets.
The cost of Notarial Booklets will depend on the jurisdiction and the number of documents needed. Chinese citizens can expect to pay $150 to $200 in all. This price includes getting two sets. One set for the petitioner and the other for the Chinese beneficiary. (recommended).
Special Note: If your Chinese spouse or fiance happens only to get one set, do not bring them back to the United States. Make copies. Your spouse or fiancee will need the originals at their visa interview. Good quality copies are ok to use with USCIS and the National Visa Center (NVC).
Check Your Notarial Books
From time to time, we see the Civil Affairs Office make the mistake of copying information from a Red Marriage Booklet, or Household Registration Book.
Red Booklets are issued to each spouse in China and do not include names and ID numbers of both parties in a marriage or divorce. Red Booklet and Household Registration Books get rejected during the petition process with USCIS.
Local government officials in China can be a funny bunch. Small red booklets are used in China as legal documents but not with US immigration. Most Civil Affairs offices know what is needed but not always.
We've had a few cases where Xiaoying had to call the CAO on behalf of a beneficiary. And once after an office worker refused to provide what was needed. Xiaoying had to explain why the notarial was required and an example of a legal notarial supplied by a different CAO.
It's not that their office had never issued them before. No no. It came down to the person working there at the time. They were stubborn with our client by not considering what she was trying to explain. We had a hunch; the office worker was waiting for a monetary offer, and none came. As I said, government officials can be a funny bunch.
The fact is, I've seen too many times where Chinese citizens sometimes need to provide a little under the table money or know someone in government to get things done. For us, a phone call from an attorney's office in the United States (speaking Chinese) was enough heat to get our client what they needed.
Always check the notarial booklets your spouse, fiancee, and children obtain from the Civil Affairs Office. With Marriage Notarial Booklets and Divorce Notarial Booklets, make sure you see the names and ID of both parties.
There will be four pages in each notarial. Follow these guidelines for checking notarial books.
- The first page is in Chinese with a red government seal at the bottom.
- Page two, written in English, is a copy of page one.
- Page three, written in Chinese, will be the notary commissioned to prepare the English translation.
- Page four, written in English, is a copy of page three with the notary commissioned to translate.
Fiance and Marriage Petition Checklist for Supporting Documents
Below is a list of notarial booklets needed for marriage or fiance petitions, depending on the circumstances and family members included. Notarial Booklets must be from the appropriate issuing authority.
A Birth Notarial is needed for your spouse/fiance(e). Also, if your spouse or fiancee brings a child, they will need a Birth Notarial. The Birth Notarial must contain the following information:
Person's date of birth, place of birth, names of both parents, and annotation by the appropriate authority indicating that it is an extract from the official records.
Termination of Marriage
Provide USCIS, NVC, and the US Consulate in the form of a notarial with certified English translation proof of termination of all previous marriages. Also death or annulment.
Registered Marriage in China
After your marriage in China, you will both get your Red Marriage Booklets. You will take your Red Marriage Booklets to the Chinese Civil Affairs Office and request white Notarial Booklets with English translation.
A common mistake we hear about is petitioners submitting Red Marriage Booklets to USCIS. Always submit photocopies of white Notarial Booklets.
When getting married in China, you will need an Affidavit of Single and US Passport. Affidavits must be authenticated before going to the Chinese Marriage Bureau. Authentication must come from the Chinese Consulate/Embassy in the United States or the US Consulate/Embassy in China.
Clear Criminal Law Notarial
Getting a Clear Criminal Law notarial is a 2-step process. First, your Chinese beneficiary must go to the local Police Department designated by the Household Registration Book and ask for a Clear Criminal Law report.
After obtaining this report from the police department, your spouse or fiancee must take it to the Civil Affairs Office for certified notarial and translation. At the interview, the US Consulate will require a Clear Criminal Law from all jurisdictions where the Chinese citizen was a resident for 12 months or longer from the age of 16. This could also include living in a different country or Hong Kong.
Also, Clear Criminal Law notarial is required for children 16 and over. Clear Criminal Law is the only notarial that has an expiration of one year after being issued. With USCIS and NVC taking more time these days, it's sometimes necessary to get a new one for the interview.
Child Custody Declaration
If the petitioner is not the birth parent of a child on a petition, the visa applicant must have custody of the child. If not, a notarized statement from the birth parent who has legal custody of the child permitting the child to immigrate.
If your spouse/fiance doesn't have legal custody, you may want to discuss the following:
Your spouse or fiance will need a notarized statement with translation from the parent who has legal custody. This statement, or declaration, as it's called in China, will permit the child to immigrate.
Your spouse or fiance will not need this notarial until the interview but should make plans to get one if it involves permission from a hard to find or stubborn ex-spouse.
Single Never Married Notarial
It is no longer needed! The consulate stopped requesting them in 2016. Even though Xiaoying tells visa applicants we don't need them, they sometimes still like to disagree. Some take advice from Chinese forums and well-intended friends that may not know.
Letters of Intent to Marry
If you're filing the I-129F Fiance petition, you'll need a Letter of Intent to Marry. Letters of Intent to Marry are written by both the petitioner and beneficiary. These personal and signed letters must be included with the petition.
Letters of Intent to Marry are short written statements about how and where you met, how you correspond, things you did together, and where and how you plan to live your lives together. The Buda Law Group provides templates written in English and Chinese that are a great help guiding couples. We then translate the beneficiary's letter for her to sign as it must be in English.
Special Note: Keep your Letter of Intent to Marry as short and to the point as possible. Don't force USCIS to read a romance novel. Include these 12 facts in your letter of intent.
Quit Party Letter
Is your spouse or fiance a member of, or past member of the Communist Party? A question that will not come until the interview. If she answers yes with a consular officer, she will not leave with a visa to the United States.
The way most Chinese citizens end up being party members was to have better pay and opportunities from an employer. In other words, if they didn't join, they can't work at that school or business.
For the spouse or fiance of a US Citizen, this is not about their political view. It was how to make a living. A Quit Party Letter needs to express this point. Details of why the beneficiary joined when they joined, and why and when they quit, must be included. There is also a letter from the party to the member certifying they left the party. The personal Quit Party Letter, as well as the letter from the party saying they quit, must be translated and notarized at the Civil Affairs Office.
Fiance Petitions and the International Marriage Broker Act. (IMBRA)
USCIS has tightened up enforcement of the International Marriage Broker Act. (IMBRA) Most know that sites like China Love Cupid and EHarmony are not international marriage brokers. However...
On a fiance petition, it asks; Did you use the services of an International Marriage Broker? Of course, you answer no. Then, in your Letters of Intent to Marry, you say you met for the first time on a dating website. Expect to receive a Request For Evidence (RFE).
The RFE will say this...
Although your answer on the I-129F petition indicates that you did not meet through the services of an International Marriage Broker, you did not establish that the dating website is not an international marriage broker. As such, you must submit a copy of the signed written consent form that the International Marriage Broker obtained from the beneficiary authorizing the release of her personal contact information to you, or documentation to establish that the website is not an international marriage broker.
Proving evidence that a dating website is not an international marriage broker is no fun. You must show proof that personal contact information was not shared from the site, along with records or screenshots of messages when and how you did receive your fiancee's address, phone number, etc.
WeChat and QQ International don't raise questions because they are free to use. Using the name of a paid dating website, or just the term “dating website” is going to get you an RFE.
For an in-depth look at this topic read this: https://chinamarriage101.com/i-129f-dating-websites-imbra/
Questions on Petitions and Department of State Visa Applications
Additional information will be needed from your Chinese spouse or fiancee in English. You'll need information about their mother and father. Including birth dates, place of birth, along with the current address. In the case of having a former spouse, you'll need their name, the location, and dates of marriage and marriage termination.
For residence, collect all addresses your Chinese spouse or fiancee has lived covering the past five years. Include the month, date, and year to present.
For employment information, include occupation and the names and addresses of all employers for the past five years. Include the month, date, and year to present.
For educational institutions attended at a secondary level or above, provide the name and address of the school and dates attended.
On DS-160 Fiance and DS-260 Marriage visa applications, there will be more questions then on the petition your spouse or fiance must answer. Online Department of State visa applications are not accessible until USCIS approval, and the NVC issues a case number.
To collect answers for marriage and fiance petitions, including DS-160 and DS-260 visa applications, I created a download for you. It's called 57 Question for Consular Processing. The questions are numbered and written in English and Chinese making it easy to share with your loved one.
Have questions about bringing your Chinese spouse or fiance to the United States? Email me. I'll be happy to help. firstname.lastname@example.org
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