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YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — A new U.S. Forces Korea policy requires commanders to conduct visa fraud counseling before servicemembers marry a foreign citizen.

The March 2 International Marriages in Korea regulation also lays out notification, several levels of counseling and verification procedures that servicemembers must comply with or risk punishment under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

The new regulation “fills a serious USFK command policy and regulatory gap,” USFK commander Gen. B.B. Bell wrote in a letter to servicemembers.

“This regulation is needed and necessary in USFK,” Bell wrote. “It effectively empowers the chain of command to execute proper and necessary oversight responsibilities … .”

A disproportionate number of international marriages end in divorce within two years of return to the U.S., according to the regulation, which was issued by USFK chief of staff Lt. Gen. David Valcourt.

The regulation states its intention to curb those figures, along with preventing “numerous void marriages and others in which the ‘spouse’ is ineligible for marriage and/or immigration … creating a logistical burden and negative publicity for USFK.”

Servicemembers are required to inform their commander that they plan to marry, then must submit their spouse to a background check and a medical examination that meets U.S. immigration law requirements.

They must then receive premarital advice and counsel from a military chaplain, “which shall not be religious in nature unless requested by the servicemember,” according to the regulation.

Following counsel from a lawyer, servicemembers must receive a medical exam that complies with South Korean marital law.

A battalion/squadron commander or higher, or the equivalent for each military branch, must then counsel servicemembers and their intended spouses on issues including visa fraud.

Servicemembers must then wait a mandatory 48 hours “to reflect on the subjects discussed,” according to the regulation.

Following the wait, the commander must counsel servicemembers alone, advising each they could potentially have to serve a longer tour in South Korea once they marry — depending on whether their current tour is restructured from unaccompanied to accompanied.

The servicemember also must sign an oath acknowledging that they understand visa fraud consequences.

The commander must also check compliance with all regulation requirements.

Commanders can waive compliance with the regulation for servicemembers getting married on or before March 16.

“Military personnel stationed in Korea have the same right to marry as any other U.S. citizen,” the regulation states multiple times.

However, a command can block the marriage in four instances:

If the servicemember cannot show the financial ability to keep the spouse from becoming a “public charge.”If there are indications that the spouse would be barred from the United States for “inability to meet physical, mental or character standards.”If either are already married.If the marriage is performed solely to obtain a visa without intent to live together.The 33-page policy letter, which includes sample applications, is available in PDF format at www.usfk.mil.

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