Bigamy & immigration laws

Written by denise mcgettrick
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Polygamy, or the practice of a plural number of spouses, is a practice specifically addressed in U.S. immigration law as being an undesirable behaviour. The government seeks to prohibit the grant of visas, and to bar the entrance of those polygamists and bigamists seeking to live in the U.S. permanently.


The Immigration and Nationality Act in section 212(a)(10) specifically finds inadmissible those individuals who plan to practice polygamy while living here as permanent residents. The statute seeks to prohibit the entry of those foreign nationals intending to actually practice polygamy in the United States once they receive their permanent residence.

Future practices

The statute does not consider a past practice of polygamy or a current belief set regarding polygamy to prevent an immigrant from obtaining permanent residence. The statute only concerns itself with future practice of plural marriage in the United States.

Temporary Nonimmigrants

Nonimmigrants are those foreign nationals who seek to enter the United States for a temporary time and who have no intention of leaving their place of residence overseas. The Immigration and Nationality Act does not prohibit nonimmigrants from entering temporarily due to their past and present practice of polygamy in their home country. Thus, foreign nationals who are current polygamists will not be barred from entry as they have no intention of permanently residing in the United States. They may return to their countries to practice polygamy, as this practice is legal in other countries.

Permanent Immigrants vs. Temporary Nonimmigrants

This is a crucial difference from the treatment of intending permanent immigrants as U.S. immigration law allows only the temporary entry of those who practice polygamy. U.S. immigration law thus treats the temporary foreign national differently from the foreign national who intends to live in the United States permanently.

Bigamy Conviction

If one has been convicted of bigamy, this conviction would additionally cause any foreign national to be inadmissible under INA § 212(a)(2)(A)(i)(I) as that person would possess a conviction involving moral turpitude. This conviction involving moral turpitude would prevent both an immigrant and a nonimmigrant from entering the United States as this convicted status acts as a bar to entry for all foreign nationals.

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