What To Do When You Marry Someone Who Entered the U.S. with a Visa

You never know where life will take you next, and for some people that means marrying a person who is in the United States on a temporary (non-immigrant) visa, such as one for tourism or work. The question is, what happens next? It is intuitive that there must be a path to legal permanent residency for the spouse in these types of scenarios, but how does it actually work?

The legal process you would use in a case like this is called an Adjustment of Status, and it allows people currently present in the United States to apply for lawful permanent resident status (green card) without having to leave the country if they entered lawfully. This works differently than the Consular Processing method which involves applying from your home country and interviewing at the United States consulate in that country.

In this particular case, as the spouse of a U.S. Citizen, you would be applying for Adjustment of Status under the “Immediate Relatives of U.S. Citizen” category, which happens to be the category with highest priority. Immigrant visas for immediate relatives of United States citizens are unlimited, so the visas are always available.There is no waiting time for these visas.

As an immediate relative, you are allowed to file your Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status concurrently with Form I-130 Petition for Alien Relative, which your spouse files on your behalf—this is used by your spouse to establish their relationship to you and prove the validity of the marriage.

If the person has overstayed their visa, or has a current visa but has overstayed a visa on a previous visit to the United States, things get much more complicated and the person may be subject to certain restrictions or bars, therefore, consultation with an experienced immigration attorney is recommended.

For obvious reasons, it is also ideal that the person has not committed any of the crimes that fall under the grounds of inadmissibility.

The list of documents and forms you will need for your Adjustment of Status application is:

  • Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status
  • Copy of the Form I-797, Approval or Receipt Notice, for the Form I-130 petition filed on your behalf (unless you are filing Form I-485 together with the Form I-130, with proof of the validity and bona fide nature of the marriage including proof of joint residence, joint bank accounts, joint insurance (medical, auto, life), joint tax returns, joint assets, joint liabilities, joint credit etc.)
  • Two passport-style photographs
  • Copy of your government-issued identity document with photograph
  • Copy of your birth certificate
  • Copy of your passport page with non-immigrant visa (if applicable)
  • Copy of your passport page with your admission  or parole stamp (issued by a U.S. immigration officer) (if applicable)
  • Copy of Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record or copy of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) admission or parole stamp on the travel document (if applicable)
  • Form I-864, Affidavit of Support Under Section 213A of the INA or Form I-864EZ, Affidavit of Support Under Section 213A of the Act (whichever applies)
  • Form I-693, Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record (you may submit this form together with Form I-485 or later, such as by mail when requested  at your interview)
  • Certified police and court records of all criminal charges, arrests, or convictions regardless of final disposition (if applicable);

Because these are a lot of different forms and filling out some of them changes how others should be filled out, we do recommend you employ the services of a qualified immigration attorney to help you with the process.

At the Law Offices of Christine Contreras, we have dozens of successful adjustments of status under our belt, so we know how to employ the strategies that will help give you the best chance to obtain  legal permanent residency, and eventually, citizenship. Contact us today to set up a consultation!