I'm probably getting maried. Immigration problems ahead.

I’m in love and want to get married. I’m English over here in the US (TX) on a work visa and my fiance is American. I want to be with her for ever and ever, but there are bound to be INS problems ahead. Does anyone know where to point me for information/advice? We want to do everything completely legally and above board.

  1. Marry her (congrats!)
  2. Apply for a Green Card under the statute that you’re married to a U. S Citizen.
  3. Wait a year or 2.
  4. Have a good life.

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Whatever you do, don’t scream at the immigration agents. They are often obstructive, uncooperative, mean-spirited, and stupid, but you must nonetheless remain cheerful and good-natured. If you get upset, everything will take longer, and you’ll probably end up moving your beloved to England. Happened to a friend of mine.

On the other hand, it could be worse – at least you’re not French. No Frenchman’s gonna see a green card for years.

Amen. Got it in one. SO right.

IANAL, but I’ve been through process.

You won’t have to hire a lawyer, but be prepared to read through pages and pages of rules and forms. The INS’s website has a lot of useful info and forms you can download. Be prepared to wait in line a lot. It’ll cost you several hundred dollars in application fees.

If you apply for permanent residency and you’ve been married for less than two years, your green card will be conditional. Conditional on your marriage lasting another two years, when you’ll have to fill out more forms. If your current visa will last another two years, you might want to considering delaying your permanent residency application until you’ve been married two years. But this will also delay when you can apply for citizenship.

Good luck and welcome to the States!

What everyone says so far is good advice (except Nametag’s last comment, which so far has no basis in fact that I’ve seen, and I do this for a living).

What kind of work visa are you on? L-1? H-1B? There may be dual-intent issues if it’s not one of these, and you’re marrying a U.S. citizen; if you’re on a J-1, for example, that is strictly a nonimmigrant category, which BCIS may see as incompatible with being married to a U.S. citizen. If you have any more specific questions, please post and I’ll take a crack at them. Or talk to whomever got you your work visa, i.e. your company’s in-house staff or attorneys.

Good luck, and congrats!

Eva Luna, Immigration Paralegal

No Frenchman’s gonna see a green card for years.

You say that like it’s a bad thing :wink:

Note to hyper people: that was a joke.

I’m on an L-1 which expires in February next year. I’m pretty sure it’s not going to be re-newed which is going to make things very difficult as I won’t be able to work over here in the US. Would I be able to stay over here but work abroard (which is what my job involves anyway)?

You can work abroad whenever you want, at least as far as the U.S. government is concerned. Also, if you get married and file for adjustment of status, you can simultaneously file for Advance Parole (to allow you to leave and re-enter the U.S. while your adjustment application is pending - in fact, if you’ll be working abroad, you should definitely do this, otherwise the BCIS may decide that you didn’t really want the green card after all and make you start the process all over again. Once you file the green card application, DON’T leave the U.S, unless your L-1 visa is still valid, and you will need your original L-1 appproval notice, the filing receipt from your adjustment application, and your passport and valid L-1 visa) and an Employment Authorization Document, to allow you to work in the U.S. while the adjustment application is pending.

However, once your L-1 expires, you definitely need the Advance Parole to leave and re-enter, and the EAD to work in the U.S.

I hope that made sense; what the hell, it’s Sunday. Let me know if it didn’t, or again, whoever took care of your L-1 ought to be able to explain this all in more detail.

Hey, Eva Luna, i’m in a similar situation to the OP, except:

I’m a dual Australian/Canadian citizen who is in the US on an F1 visa that’s valid for another few years. My girlfriend and i have been together for a couple of years, and are going to get married within the next couple of years. When that happens, i’d like to get a green card, although i’m not sure if i want to become a citizen as that would require giving up my Aussie citizenship.

Anyway, what’s the deal with marriage and F1 visas?

Also, is there any provision in the immigration law for a de facto rather than a de jure spouse to be given a green card? The reason i ask is that, while my girlfriend and i have decided that we want to be together for the rest of our lives, neither of us feel it is necessary to actually get married. Do the immigration people share our opinion? (i’m betting not!)

[btw, just a very quick answer or some advice about which form to read is all i want–i realize i’m going to have to look into the whole situation very thoroughly myself]

Well, if you get married to a U.S citizen while on an F-1, you may have some issues with entering the U.S. while still on your F-1, as that category requires nonimmigrant intent. If your U.S. citizen wife lives i the U.S., you are going to have an uphill battle convincing BCIS that you are actually planning to leave at the end of your academic program.
And you are coorect in that de facto marriages are not legally recognized for immigration purposes except in very limited circumstances (one partner coming to the U.S. on a temporary work assignment; the other partner isn’t eligible to be a dependent on that visa, but the BCIS will generally issue repeated B-2 visitor visas even for several years at a time if proof of the relationship is strong enough, i.e. of multiple years’ standing and/or with kids, and any de facto spouse status legally recognized in the home country helps, too. Believe it or not, the BCIS will even do this for same-sex partners, although I’ve never run into it myself.)

There have definitely been occasions where my boss or I have had to have a chat with a client in which we explained “look, we’re not judging your personal life, but unfortunately the feds do, so either you two are going to have to get married or your partner is going to have to find some independent way to get legal immigration status.” Lemme tell you, it’s never dull.

Not any more.

We were told by the immigration service in Colorado to do it while we were in Prague. We haven’t done this yet, BUT, the reason behind the madness we were told is that the immigration services inside the US are swamped. The US Embassy’s dotted around the world are not, therefore, do it while you are back in London and it might go faster/better/easier for you. At the very least give them a call and see what they have to say.

It’s a funny point for us, we’ve been married 6 years and my wife still doesn’t have a green card. People tried to accuse her of just “marrying a rich American.” Yeah, when we got hitched I owed $50k in student loans and we moved to Prague…


A slight hijack here, but first I’d like to say Congrats to the OP! :wink:

I know a friend who met a girl from germany or austria, can;t remeber which. Anyway they fell in love and plan on getting married ina year or so.

The problem is that she was here on a working visa, but for whatever reason could not renew it and was afraid to go back to germany and not be allowed back in the US.

She stayed, obviously illegaly. This is a very bad situation for the both of them now obviously, but is there any hope that after they marry she can stay here in the US, or atleast be granted a permanent resident after going back to germany for a period of time?

I’m not sure i quite understand this, Eva.

I realize that an F-1 visa requires non-immigrant intent, and i certainly had such intent when i arrived. But it seems rather draconian to say that, just because i met the person i want to spend the rrest of my life with while i was on an F-1 visa, that this should disqualify me from entering the US.

Is there no mechanism for transferring one’s status while a visa is still valid? Does BCIS expect me not to marry the person i love just because i happen to be on the wrong visa? Or will our marriage simply dictate that we have to leave America and live in Australia or Canada, because i won’t be allowed into the US?

Wow. You learn something every day.

Thanks for the info.

Of course you can change your status. Once you get married, you can file an I-485, Application for Adjustment of Status, in conjunction with an application for employment authorization and advance parole to allow you to work and travel in and out of the United States.

I’m merely saying that you should keep the processing times for these things in mind when you are planning the timing of your wedding/honeymoon, because I would NOT recommend traveling in/out of the U.S. after your wedding but before the Advance Parole is approved. It could go off without a hitch, but you could have an immigration inspector notice that you have a green card on file and no basis on which to enter the U.S. while it’s pending, because the F-1 doesn’t allow for immigrant intent.

Does that make any more sense? Yes, the laws do suck sometimes, but not quite THAT badly!

It really depends how long you’ve been in the US. If you entered on the F1 only recently, you might well find yourself under suspicion for visa fraud. If you’ve been there for a reasonable length of time it should be possible for you to convince the INS of your non-fraudulent intent. I’m purposely not defining the terms “recently” and “reasonable”, because there is no firm definition - if you’re not sure which category you fall into, talk to a lawyer.

ruadh, ex-Immigration Paralegal

… and now seeing Eva Luna’s reply, I see that I misunderstood your question :o

Thanks very much Eva, i get it now. I’m making a trip to Australia with my girlfriend in October, but once we return i don’t think we’ll have any need to leave the country for another year or so after that, so maybe early to mid 2004 might be a good time.

As i suggested before, while we are committed to being together, the marriage itself is no big deal to either of us. We would probably do what a couple of friends of ours did–get married up in Vermont, where they don’t even require a witness. A short vacation in beautiful New England could serve as the honeymoon, and then we’d be back to our penniless grad student lives. :slight_smile:

And ruadh, i’ve been in the US for three years on my F-1, and my girlfriend and i have been together for two years. We don’t share an address, however, mainly because we just haven’t got around to moving all of our stuff into one place. We’re moving in together upon our return from Australia in a few months.