K1 Petition Not Approvable Where Petitioner is Too Young to Marry (Matter of Manjoukis)

 

Introduction: Matter of Manjoukis, 13 I&N Dec. 705 (D.D. 1971)

On February 18, 1971, the former Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) published a precedent decision in the Matter of Manjoukis, 13 I&N Dec. 705 (D.D. 1971) [PDF version]. In the decision, the District Director denied a K visa petition filed on behalf of an alien who was 14 years of age because the laws of the petitioner's state of residence, Michigan, did not recognize marriages involving individuals under the age of 16. This necessitated the denial of the petition because the K visa category requires the petitioner to marry the beneficiary within 90 days of admission. Notably, the decision implicitly recognized a presumption that, in the case of a spousal or fiancée petition for a beneficiary who resides abroad, it is presumed that the couple will reside in the state or territory in which the petitioner resides.

In this article, we will examine the factual and procedural history of Matter of Manjoukis as well as the District Director's reasoning and conclusions. We will also examine how the decision has been referenced in the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services' (USCIS) Adjudicator's Field Manual (AFM).

To learn more about the K visa category and family immigration more generally, please see our growing collection of articles on family immigration [see category]. To read about our other articles on administrative immigration precedent decisions, please see our article index [see index].

Overview of the Decision

The petitioner was a 14-year old U.S. citizen. She filed a K1 fiancée petition on behalf of a 24-year old beneficiary who was a native and citizen of Greece. The District Director noted that the petitioner evinced “that neither the petitioner nor the beneficiary has ever been married; that the petitioner desires and intends to marry the beneficiary within ninety days after his arrival in the United States and that the petitioner is in fact a citizen of the United States.”

Under the K visa category, a visa is available to the fiancée or fiancé of a U.S. citizen who is entering the United States for the sole purpose of concluding a valid marriage with the petitioner within ninety days of entry.

The District Director explained that the petitioner was supported by her parents. She met the petitioner during a one-year visit to Greece during 1969 and 1970. She stated that she dated and became enamored with the beneficiary during her visit to Greece. She added that she intended to marry the beneficiary, complete her education, and assume her duties as his wife. The petitioner's parents agreed with her plans. The District Director found that the petitioner did intend to marry the beneficiary within ninety days of his entry. The District Director concluded that it appeared that the beneficiary was “similarly disposed.”

The District Director concluded that neither the petitioner nor the beneficiary had been previously married.

The remaining question for the District Director was whether the petitioner and beneficiary could enter into a valid marriage. Because the petitioner was a resident of Michigan, the District Director presumed that the couple would reside in Michigan and moved to examine the marriage laws of the state.

Under the laws of Michigan in effect at the time, the age of consent for marriage was 18 for males and 16 for females. The law explicitly stated that “the marriage by a female under age 16 is void.”

The District Director concluded that, based on the laws of Michigan, the petitioner was statutorily unable to enter into a valid marriage with the petitioner. That is, the marriage would be void, rather than voidable, based on the fact that she would be under the age of 16. The District Director focused on the laws of Michigan because it was the state “wherein the petitioner resides and intends to continue in residence.”

Because the petitioner would be unable to enter into a valid marriage with the petitioner under the laws of the state wherein she resided and intended to continue her residence, the District Director denied the K visa petition.

Reference in the Adjudicator's Field Manual

The USCIS references Matter of Manjoukis in the AFM at AFM 21.3(b)(2)(D) for the following proposition: “When the beneficiary resides abroad, unless otherwise indicated or known to the officer, officers should presume that the couple will reside in the petitioner's state of residence.”

In short, if the beneficiary of an immigrant visa petition for a spouse or a K visa petition for a fiancé or fiancée resides abroad, the USCIS will normally assume that the couple will reside in the petitioner's state of residence. However, if there is evidence indicating that the petitioner and beneficiary will reside in a different state, that may be taken into account. This presumption is generally only relevant in cases where the petitioner or beneficiary is a minor or where they are relatives. This is because different states have different laws and policies regarding the minimum age for marriage and how closely the couple may be related. In cases where this may be an issue, this is a key presumption to keep in mind.

We discuss the AFM's guidance on spousal petitions involving minors in a separate and comprehensive article [see article].

Conclusion

Matter of Manjoukis is one of multiple cases noting that a marriage must be valid in the jurisdiction in which the couple will reside in order for a spousal petition to be approved. In the context of a K visa petition for a fiancé or fiancée, the only consideration is whether the marriage will be valid in the state in which the couple will reside. In the context of an immigrant visa petition, the couple also has to establish that the marriage was valid at the time and place it was entered into if it was entered into abroad.