Wed | Jul 8, 2020

Immigration Corner | Can I get married while visiting the US?

Published:Tuesday | March 31, 2020 | 12:18 AM

Dear Mrs Walker-Huntington,

I am in a relationship with a United States (US) citizen. We feel it is time that we bridge the distance between us and get married. What are the implications of travelling to the US to get married to him on a visitor’s visa? Will I be able to travel back and forth while application is pending after marriage?

– E.P.

Dear E.P.

It is perfectly legal to travel to the United States and get married to your US citizen fiancé. Once married, you would have two options: (1) Remain in the United States and file to adjust/change your status from a visitor to a permanent resident/green card holder; or, (2) file for your green card through consular processing and go to the US Embassy for your immigrant visa interview.

In order to be eligible to file to adjust your status after arriving as a visitor, you must wait a minimum of 90 days to make any changes to your status. If you make outward plans to remain in the United States and change your status before the 90 days, the presumption is that you intended to make the changes when you arrived as a visitor. That would leave you open to being denied the green card on the basis that you fraudulently entered as a visitor, the revocation of your status, and the commencement of proceedings to remove you from America.

Prove Validity of marriage

If you visit and after 90 days decide to remain, marry, and file to change your status, you would be required to demonstrate the validity of your marriage during an interview with an immigration officer at US Citizenship and Immigration Services. During this process, you would not be able to travel back and forth until and unless you are granted permission to do so. If you leave without permission while the adjustment of status petition is pending, it will be deemed abandoned.

With option two, you enter the United States, marry your US citizen fiancé and return home while the petition is pending. You would file the petition in stages that would provide for your file to be sent to the US Embassy in Kingston at the appropriate time for your immigrant visa interview. You are free to travel to the United States on your visitor’s visa while the petition is pending and would be subject to admission to the United States on the same basis as you are now. If the Customs & Border Protection officer is not convinced that you will return to your home country at the end of your stated visit, he/she could deny you entry.

Dahlia A. Walker-Huntington, Esq. is a Jamaican-American attorney who practises immigration law in the United States; and family, criminal and international law in Florida. She is a mediator and former special magistrate and hearing officer in Broward County, Florida.