Staying In The Country I Love

Fell In Love While In The U.S. And Got Married In A Whirl? Don't Let Immigration Worries Make You Regret Your Choices

If you came to the United States on a BI visa to work or a B2 visa just as a tourist, you probably weren't expecting to fall in love and end up married -- but that does happen. If you married a United States citizen while here on a temporary visa, there are some things that you need to know about how to proceed.

1. It's too late to apply for a fiance's K1 visa.

K1 visas are the correct form of a visa to have if you plan on coming to the United States in order to get married. They're strictly regulated and only so many are given each year -- and they can't be applied for from inside the U.S., so there is no way to convert your B1/B2 visa into a K1 visa. Instead, you need to apply for a green card immediately.

2. Once you've filed for a green card, your extended stay is legal.

You can extend your stay in the U.S. legally once you have your application for a green card filed. You can also get papers that will allow you to safely work and travel without fear of deportation. It may be some time, however, before you actually get a green card.

3. You will face a certain amount of scrutiny over your marriage.

The U.S. has an invested interest in making sure that your marriage isn't a fraud designed to get around immigration laws. Wealthy individuals have been known to pay someone to marry them so that they can avoid the hassle and long wait associated with regular immigration. Because you got married while on a B1 or B2 visa instead of a K1 visa, your marriage is going to face two layers of scrutiny:

  1. Did you come here intending to get married? If so, that's immigration fraud. The authorities want proof that your relationship evolved into a romantic one once you were in the states, not before.
  2. Are you legitimately married? You will be asked a number of questions about your marriage and asked to provide documents that support a bona fide marriage. 

How do you handle the scrutiny? First, write down a timeline that explains when and how you and your spouse met, and when the relationship turned romantic. Include as much documentation as you can. Remember those selfies you took together and posted on Facebook on your first, second, and tenth date? Those photos now help support your case for an unintended marriage.

Similarly, documents that show you are living together (like a lease) and doing your banking together (like a joint account) help show your marriage is legit. So do photos of your wedding, photos of family events with your spouse and extended family around -- that goes to show that you aren't hiding your marriage. Other documents include things like congratulatory cards (in the dated and stamped envelopes) from your relatives in regards to the marriage.

Gathering all of the documents that you need to ensure a smooth process when it comes time to meet the folks at immigration for your interview before you're granted a green card can be a stressful process. An attorney, such as Carmen DiAmore-Siah Attorney At Law, can help you with all the necessary paperwork for your application, guide you on what documents you need to provide and help you anticipate the questions you may be asked.