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What If I Entered the U.S. Illegally but I Married a Citizen?

Law Office of Layne C. Savage Aug. 21, 2023

Gavel, passport and Silhouette of immigrants on wooden tableFamily reunification remains at the forefront of U.S. immigration policy. Generally, U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents (LPR) can obtain a visa or green card for their foreign-born spouses and help them migrate to the United States through a marriage-based immigration petition. 

However, various issues often arise when the non-U.S. citizen spouse is undocumented or entered the United States illegally prior to the marriage. If you or your partner is in such a situation, it may be beneficial to speak with a knowledgeable Rhode Island immigration law attorney for detailed guidance. 

The Law Office of Layne C. Savage is dedicated to offering experienced legal guidance to clients in complicated marriage-based immigration matters involving undocumented spouses. Attorney Layne C. Savage can work to understand your unique circumstances and enlighten you about your options to apply for a green card after marriage. 

In addition, she will guide you through the legal procedures involved and help you achieve the most favorable outcome. The firm proudly serves clients across Providence, Rhode Island, and surrounding communities throughout the state, as well as Boston, Massachusetts. 

Eligibility for a Green Card

As mentioned earlier, a U.S. citizen spouse can help their foreign-born partner obtain a green card by filing a marriage-based immigration petition. Here are the necessary requirements to adjust your status to permanent resident or be eligible for a marriage green card: 

  • There must be a lawful and valid marriage to a U.S. citizen partner or green card holder (petitioner). 

  • The marriage must be officially recognized in the region or country where it occurred. 

  • The marriage must be based on a genuine, bona fide relationship and not for immigration purposes. 

  • You and your partner must only be married to each other. 

An experienced attorney can enlighten you about complicated factors, determine whether your foreign-born partner is eligible for a green card, and guide you through the application process. 

Complicating Factors When Applying for a Green Card 

Even when the marriage between the green card holder or U.S. citizen partner and the undocumented spouse is legal and valid, there are certain complicating factors when applying for a green card. This includes: 

  • The immigrant spouse entered or crossed the U.S. border unlawfully without inspection. 

  • The immigrant spouse spent several months (or more than 180 days) in the United States after an illegal entry. 

  • The immigrant spouse may face various penalties for the illegal presence. 

  • Whether the immigrant spouse left the U.S. and has been barred from re-entry. 

A dedicated immigration lawyer can explore your possible options to apply for a marriage green card and determine how to overcome these obstacles. 

Applying for a Green Card After Marriage if You Are Illegal

Here are some of the possible options to apply for green after marriage if you’re undocumented: 

Exceptions for Adjustment of Status

Some available exceptions that allow you or the undocumented spouse to adjust their immigration status include: 

  • The U.S. citizen can file for their undocumented partner as an immediate relative. 

  • A technical violation of status not caused by the undocumented partner. 

Leave Before 180 Days of Illegal Stay

As mentioned earlier, entering the U.S. illegally and staying for more than 180 days may result in a re-entry bar and other penalties. Conversely, if the undocumented spouse leaves before 180 days of illegal stay, they can avoid the re-entry bar and may be eligible to apply for a green card through the consulate or U.S. embassy in their home country. 

Waivers of Your Unlawful Presence

Alternatively, the undocumented spouse can file a petition for unlawful presence waivers. Thus, allowing them to stay in the United States during their green card application. 

The Process to Get a Green Card After Marriage

If you entered the U.S. illegally and are married to a U.S. citizen or green card holder, here are the steps to apply for a green card after marriage: 

  • Reach out to an experienced attorney to guide you through the process and help protect your rights. 

  • Complete Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, and submit it to the USCIS. 

  • Provide the necessary documentation and evidence, such as a marriage certificate and wedding pictures, to establish a legal and valid marriage. 

  • Determine your eligibility for a green card. 

  • Complete and submit Form I-485, Adjustment of Status – if the undocumented spouse is in the U.S. Alternatively, the foreign-born spouse can apply for a green card through the National Visa Center (NVC) if they’re not in the United States. 

  • Prepare and attend the green card interview. The immigration officer will ask about your relationship, marital union, and future plans. 

  • Also, you should remain in the United States throughout the green card application process. 

An experienced marriage visa attorney can help file your marriage green card petition, coach you extensively for the interview, and help ensure a seamless and successful application. 

Dependable Legal Guidance

Applying for citizenship and getting a green card involves several complexities, even as an undocumented spouse after marrying a U.S. citizen or green card holder. However, with the right information and reliable guidance, you may be able to overcome these complicated factors. Attorney Layne C. Savage has devoted her career to advising and guiding clients in their immigration-related matters. 

As your legal counsel, Layne can determine your eligibility for a green card and explore your possible legal options to apply. Using her extensive knowledge of the U.S. immigration system, Attorney Layne C. Savage can guide you through the legal steps to adjust your status, coach you extensively for the interview, and improve your chances of a successful outcome. 

If you are in the U.S. illegally, married to a citizen or LPR, but want to change your status, contact the Law Office of Layne C. Savage today to schedule a simple consultation. Attorney Layne C. Savage can advise you about the next steps to take and help you navigate crucial decisions. The firm proudly serves clients across Providence, Rhode Island, and surrounding communities throughout the state, as well as Boston, Massachusetts.