Can Marrying a U.S. Citizen Help an Undocumented Immigrant Get a Green Card?

Can Marrying a U.S. Citizen Help an Undocumented Immigrant Get a Green Card?You may be wondering whether marrying a U.S. citizen can help an undocumented immigrant gain a green card. In fact, this topic is commonly misunderstood. Many people mistakenly believe that marrying a U.S. citizen can be a quick fix to just about any immigration problem, but in reality, a lot of complicated issues can arise.

Change in Status

In certain circumstances, it is possible that marriage to a U.S. citizen can affect a change in status for an undocumented immigrant, allowing them to get a green card. However, specific criteria must be met. The biggest barrier to most undocumented immigrants is that in order to receive a change in status they must have entered the country legally. This means they must have entered the country on a valid visa and been inspected by an immigration officer. Whether they have overstayed their visa is actually less relevant than whether they had a visa when they entered. In fact, an immigrant on an overstayed visa can still qualify for an adjustment in status.

Marrying a U.S. citizen puts undocumented immigrants in a very helpful category by making them an immediate relative of a U.S. citizen. This is relevant because there are an unlimited number of visas available for immediate relatives of U.S. citizens each year. Most other categories, such as those for immediate relatives of U.S. permanent residents, have only a limited number of visas available and currently only get you on a waitlist.

If you need help with an immigration matter, it can be overwhelming, and be hard to even know where to start looking for help or what options are available. Our attorneys at HAWM Law are ready, experienced and committed to helping immigrants at any stage of the US immigration process. You do not have to struggle through this process alone.

Additional Hurdles

Once an undocumented immigrant becomes the spouse and immediate relative of a U.S. citizen, they must file an application for an adjustment in status. Here, there is another hurdle: An immigration official must determine whether their entry into the country was truly lawful. If the immigration official believes that the immigrant entered the United States on a visa with the intention of getting a green card, that is visa fraud, because it is an incorrect use of the travel visa. In other words, if someone came here on a travel visa with the intention to travel and happened to fall in love and get married, their entry is lawful and their change in status should be approved. However, if someone came here on a travel visa (to avoid the longer wait and more difficult approval process for a fiancé visa) with wedding plans already underway, it is visa fraud because they were dishonest about their reason for entering the country. It can be particularly difficult to prove lawful entry in cases where an immigrant entered the country on a travel visa to see a significant other who they then married, or in cases where the individual using a travel visa married someone they already knew prior to entering the country, as the immigration officer can infer that they came here with the intention to marry and get a green card.

An Immigration Lawyer Can Help

If you are an undocumented immigrant married to a U.S. citizen trying to get a green card, talking to an experienced immigration attorney prior to filing your application for an adjustment in status can help you avoid many of the barriers and pitfalls that can arise during this process and put you in the best possible position to have your application approved. Contact the immigration attorneys at HAWM Law today to schedule a consultation, and find out how we can help you.

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