Foreign nationals often wonder if they are allowed to get married on a tourist visa while in the U.S., and apply for Adjustment of Status seeking Permanent Residence in the U.S.
You may have heard about individuals who got married in the US while on a tourist visa, didn’t return home, and later successfully adjusted to permanent resident status.
Is it possible to adjust status from a tourist visa or visa waiver? Are you allowed to stay in the U.S. after marriage?
Can I Marry A US Citizen on A Tourist Visa?
The short answer is: yes, you can get married in the US while on a B-1/B-2 tourist visa or on a visa waiver program.
There is nothing in the regulations that say individuals who are in the US as visitors cannot get married. In fact, you are even allowed to come to the US as a visitor with the sole intention of getting married.
The time when individuals run into trouble is when they enter the US on a tourist visa with the clear intention of marrying and staying permanently in the US. Coming to the US on a visitor visa with the sole intention of getting married in the US and then filing for adjustment of status is deemed to be visa fraud, and US immigration officers do not take kindly to anyone they perceive has committed visa fraud.
However, it is still possible to adjust status from a tourist visa or visa waiver after getting married in the US. Individuals who are able to file the adjustment of status applications are generally able to prove that they came to the US with honest visitor intentions and the decision to stay permanently and/or getting married was made well after the entry. Proving that you entered the US with no preconceived intent to marry and file for adjustment of status can be difficult for some but definitely not impossible.
Top 8 things you should consider before getting married on a Tourist Visa or Visa Waiver
1. The Marriage Must Be In Good Faith
One of the most important things that you must prove to USCIS is that your marriage was entered in good faith.
If USCIS determines that the marriage was entered into only for purpose of gaining immigration benefits, they will deny the application. Denial of the application may result in the initiation of deportation or removal proceedings.
You will have to submit sufficient documents and proof that your marriage is really a good faith marriage.
2. The 30/60 Day Rule
The Department of State developed a ’30/60 day rule’ to help consular officers determine if someone has committed visa fraud. Under the rule, if an individual is applying for a visa at the Consulate and has previously filed for Adjustment of Status or another change in nonimmigrant status within 30 or 60 days of entry in the US, preconceived intent is assumed.
This rule has, in some ways, been adopted by USCIS in the adjudication of Adjustment of Status applications. 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 harmful within 30 days of arriving.
People who commit visa fraud can become permanently ineligible to enter the US or receive immigration benefits. That is why it is important to know about this rule and to understand how it works before you get married and apply for adjustment of status.
DID YOU KNOW?
If a person violates nonimmigrant status or files for a change of status or adjustment of status:
1. Within 30 days of entry, the person is presumed to have misrepresented his/her intentions at the visa interview.
2. Between 30 and 60 days of entry, there is no presumption of misrepresentation, but the burden is on the applicant to prove that there was no misrepresentation.
3. After 60 days, there is no presumption of misrepresentation (arguably, the burden would shift to the government to prove there was any misrepresentation if it is alleged).
3. Timing of The Wedding
The timing of your wedding may raise red flags for USCIS when examining your case.
If you are married too soon after entry and later apply for Adjustment of Status, it may be assumed that you entered the US with preconceived intent, despite filing the Adjustment of Status application after 60 days.
If you are entering the U.S. with the intention of getting married and then returning to your home country, the timing of your wedding in relation to your entry is largely irrelevant.
4. What Happens If Adjustment of Status Is Denied?
The possibility of being denied for an adjustment is very real, so you and your spouse must both be prepared for any eventuality.
If you came to the U.S. as a visitor and your adjustment of status is denied, USCIS may refer you to Immigration & Customs Enforcement to begin the process of removal, or ‘deport’ from the country. It is important to remember that if you entered the country as a Visa Waiver applicant, you may not have the right to argue your case in front of an immigration judge.
DID YOU KNOW?
1. The reasons for denial of adjustment of status are not limited to lack of evidence that the marriage is bona fide, or you did not enter with a preconceived intent to marry and remain in the U.S. Reasons for denial may include a person’s health, criminal history, or previous sanctions.
2. 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.
5. You Cannot Leave The US Immediately After Marriage
After you have married and filed for adjustment of status you will not be able to leave the U.S. until you apply for and receive Advance Parole or Green Card.
If you leave the country before receiving one of these two documents, you may not be allowed to re-enter the US and your adjustment of status application can be deemed ‘abandoned’ and denied. You and your spouse would have to start the immigration process from scratch and your spouse may have to wait outside the U.S. to consular process.
If your adjustment of status application is pending, and did not apply for and obtain the Advance Parole before leaving the U.S., the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) considers you to have abandoned your adjustment of status application, and may not permit you to re-enter the U.S.
6. Border Protection Officers Are Watching You
When you arrive on a tourist visa, the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) inspection officers at the port-of-entry will ask you the purpose of your travel to the US. You should always be honest and answer all the questions truthfully.
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, i.e. secondary inspection and possibly an immediate return to your home country on the next flight.
If the border official believes that you are not coming to the US as a visitor and you cannot prove your intent to leave before your visa expires, you’ll find yourself on the next plane home.
7. Enter on A Tourist Visa, Get Married And Return Home
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 in the regulations say that you can’t get married on a tourist visa or on visa waiver. You are certainly allowed to get married and go back home before your status expires, but you must be ready to present strong and solid evidence to prove to the CBP officer that you intend to return your home country after the wedding. You should come armed with things like lease agreements, letters from employers, a return ticket and/or evidence that your US Citizen spouse actually intends to return with you to your home country.
The more evidence that you can show that proves your intention to return home after the wedding, the greater your chances of getting through at the port-of-entry.
8. No Excuse For Visa Fraud
If you think it’s easy to fool the U.S. immigration officers – think again!
If you are caught violating the immigration laws, you could be accused of committing visa fraud. If fraud is proven, you will face serious consequences. At the very least, you will have to return to your home country. Worse still, you may receive a lifetime ban from reentering the US, a ban that may be extremely difficult to overcome.
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 everyone who get married on a tourist visa while in the US is eligible to apply for adjustment of status.
My Case Scenario
Joseph Drumbell came to the United States on Visa Waiver as a tourist to attend his best friend’s wedding and for some sight-seeing. He was an Australian national. This was Joseph’s first visit to the US. While in the US, Joseph met a girl and they fell in love. Maria was a US citizen. A few weeks after meeting each other, they got married – pretty fast! They were quite happy and wanted to settle down in the US, but there was something that made Joseph restless…
Many of his friends told him that getting married on a tourist visa was dangerous [or even illegal] and that US immigration officials would deport him back to Australia. Joseph asked several people but, much to his surprise, he received many different answers. He was now left with only one troubling question: ‘Can one get married in the U.S. while on a tourist visa?’
Joseph had no preconceived intention of getting married while he was in the US on a tourist visa, and the marriage was entered in good faith. Joseph consulted an immigration attorney and filed for adjustment of status successfully.
You should consider all the pros and cons of getting married on tourist visa. It is wise to assess all possible options, including a fiancé visa, to avoid any complexities when you arrive in the U.S.
If you are considering getting married on a tourist visa to U.S. Citizen, contact VisaPro Law Firm today for a FREE Green Card Consultation. We’ll review your specific situation and develop the best strategy based on our attorneys’ near 100% success rates.
Make your marriage a beautiful moment of your life!
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