Have a Tourist Visa and Married to a United States Citizen? Be Careful.
One of the worst things an immigrant can do is make a misrepresentation to a government official. This can occur at the border, in the airport, to an officer or on immigration forms. At first glance it seems rather obvious: don’t lie. Easy. In reality, however, innocent misunderstandings of immigration law can lead to a fraud charge with serious implications for immigration. Here are some things you should know when you’re traveling or applying for an immigration benefit.
Make Sure the Visa Matches the Intent.
If you’re traveling internationally while married to or engaged to a US citizen, make sure that your visa matches your intent. For example, say you’re traveling to the US on your passport (visa waiver). By using your passport to enter the United States you certify that your trip is temporary and you will return to your country. You testify to immigration officials that you do not intend to live permanently in the United States. You don’t have to say a word. At the border you don’t raise your hand and swear. The simple act of presenting your passport is your testimony.
Showing up at the airport with an engagement ring and wedding magazines is likely to trigger detailed questions about your intent and if immigration suspects your stay will be longer than the allowed 90-day period (or 6-month period for B-2 visitors), they can deny entry to the United States and ban you from returning.
What to do: If you are already in the United States on a nonimmigrant visa (F-1, B-2 tourist, visa waiver, J-1, L-1, TN, etc.) and are married or engaged to a United States Citizen, you may want to consider adjusting status to permanent resident prior to travel. If, however, you are located in another country, consular processing or a K-1 visa for a fiancé might be the more appropriate fit. Whatever you decide to do, be aware of the limitations of your visa or visa waiver and plan accordingly.
Actions Speak Louder Than Words
One common pitfall for immigration fraud is coming to the United States with a non immigrant visa (like a tourist visa or passport visa waiver) and getting married immediately. Even if you intend to return to your country, marriage within the first 30 days of arriving to the United States is a big red flag. So be careful about what your actions say, and when in doubt, consult with an immigration attorney prior to marriage or international travel.