Joseph Drumbell came to the United States on a tourist visa to attend his best friend’s wedding. He was an Australian national. This was Joseph’s first visit to the US. While here Joseph met a girl and they fell in love. Maria was a US citizen by birth. Both Joseph and Maria liked each other very much and within a week they got married. They were quite happy and wanted to settle down in the US after their marriage, but there was something that made Joseph restless…
Though the marriage was entered in good faith, and Joseph had no preconceived intention of getting married while he was in the US on a tourist visa, many of his friends told him that getting married on a tourist visa was dangerous and the immigration officials will deport him back to his home country.
Joseph asked many people but, much to his surprise, he received many different answers from different people. He was now left with only one disturbing question, which needless to say, was quite disturbing: ‘can one get married while on a tourist visa?’
Let’s see which of Joseph’s friends was correct and find the answer to his question: ‘‘can one get married on a tourist visa?”
The basic answer generally, is yes. You may enter the US on a tourist visa, marry a US citizen then return home before your tourist visa expires. The time when you do run into trouble is when you enter the US on a tourist visa with the clear intention of marrying and staying in the US.
You might have heard stories about someone who got married in the US while on a tourist visa, didn't return home, and successfully adjusted his or her status to permanent resident. Why were these people allowed to stay? It is possible to adjust status from a tourist visa or visa waiver, but the people in this scenario were able to prove that they came to the US with honest tourist intentions and happened to make a spur-of-the-moment decision to get married. Proving that you entered the US with no preconceived intent to marry and file for adjustment of status can be difficult but not impossible.
You must remember that coming to the US with the sole intention of getting married in the US and filing for adjustment of status is deemed to be visa fraud, and US immigration officers do not take kindly to anyone they feel has committed visa fraud.
Eight things you should know before getting married in the US while on a tourist visa or on a Visa Waiver:
- The marriage must be in good-faith:
One of the most important things that you will have to prove to the immigration officers is that your marriage is entered in good faith. If the officers realize that the marriage was entered only for the immigration benefits, they will deny the application and deport you back to your home country. You will have to submit sufficient documents and proof that your marriage is really a good-faith marriage.
- Marriage should not be immediately after you land in the US:
It is generally not advisable that you get married immediately after landing in the US. If the marriage happens all of a sudden, and you can prove that, you may be alright. But if you entered with preconceived marriage plans, then it is recommended that you get married only after spending a reasonable period of time in the US on your tourist visa.
- The 30/60 Day Rule:
The Department of State has an unwritten ‘30/60 day rule’ to help consular officers determine if someone has committed visa fraud. Even though this rule was developed by the Department of State, it is also used by USCIS when they are adjudicating applications within the United States. Foreign nationals coming to the US on tourist visa are subject to this “30/60 day rule.”
This “30/60 day rule” makes it risky to apply for change of status or marriage based adjustment of status within 60 days of arriving in the US and very dangerous within 30 days of arriving. People who commit visa fraud can become permanently ineligible to enter the US or receive immigration benefits. This is why it is extremely important to know about this rule and to understand how it works before you get married and apply for adjustment of status.
- What will happen if you are denied Adjustment of Status?
The USCIS has very strict rules for those people who come to the Unites States on tourist visa with the sole intention of getting married and trying to stay. Not every one who gets married on a tourist visa while in the US is eligible to apply for adjustment of status. The reasons for denial of adjustment of status may include a person's health, criminal history, previous bans or simply a lack of required evidence that the marriage is bona fide or that you did not enter with a preconceived intent to marry. Let us look at the pros and cons of this situation. If you enter the US on a tourist visa and got married, either of the following two things will happen
- You can successfully apply for adjustment of status after the marriage and live happily ever after; or
- The immigration officer can find there was preconceived intent, deny the application, and send you back to your home country (please note that if the immigration officer does not find that you entered into a fraudulent marriage you can always seek your immigrant visa through the consulate in your home country).
The possibility of being denied an adjustment is very real, so you should both be prepared for any eventuality.
- You cannot leave the US immediately after marriage:
Once you have married and filed for adjustment of status you will not be able to leave the US until you apply for and receive advance parole or your green card. If you leave the country before receiving one of these two documents, you will not be allowed to re-enter the US. You and your spouse would have to start the immigration process from scratch by petitioning for a spouse visa for you and you will have to remain in your own country until you can complete the immigrant visa process.
- Border Protection Officers are watching you:
When you arrive on a tourist visa the CBP (Customs and Border Protection) inspection officers, at a port of entry, will ask you the purpose of your travel to the US. You should always be upfront and honest with the immigration inspectors. If you state your intent as, "To see the Grand Canyon," and a search of your luggage reveals a wedding dress, be prepared for the inevitable grilling. If the border official believes that you're not coming to the US for just a visit and you cannot prove your intent to leave before your visa expires, you'll find yourself on the next plane home.
- Enter the U.S. on a tourist visa, get married and return to your home country:
Many foreign nationals want to know if they can come to the US on a tourist visa to get married, but with the intention of going back to the home country after the marriage.’
Nothing says that you can't get married on a tourist visa, but this can be tricky. You can get married and go back home before your visa expires, but you'll need hard evidence to prove to the CBP officials that you intend to return your home country. You have to come armed with lease agreements, letters from employers, and above all, a return ticket. The more evidence that you can show that proves your intention to return home, the better your chances will be of getting through the border.
- No excuse for visa fraud:
If you think it’s easy to fool the US immigration officers – then I would say you should think twice. If you are caught violating the immigration laws, you could be accused of committing visa fraud. If fraud is found, you will face serious consequences. At the very least, you will have to return to your home country. Even worse, you may receive a ban from reentering the US, a ban that could be indefinite.
Thus, Joseph finally got all the answers to his questions.
It is highly recommended that you look at all the pros and cons of getting married in the US while on a tourist visa before doing so. It is also suggested that you consider all your options, including a fiancé or spouse visa, to avoid any complexities in future.
Some moments are very important and precious in life – marriage being one of them. Do not get married hastily. After reviewing all your options pick the route that is best suited for you. Make your marriage a beautiful moment of your life!
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