You met the love of your life while one of you was visiting the United States as a tourist, and now you’re ready to get married. Congratulations! As you go through the work of picking out your decor and finding a wedding venue, you’ll likely also wonder about the legality of getting married on a tourist visa.
Here’s what you need to know in order to make sure that your marriage plans go smoothly.
First and foremost, it is possible to get married while in the United States on a tourist visa. However, it can get a bit complicated. Marriage is possible for those who are visiting the United States under one of the following conditions:
Each of these categories carries their own regulations, requirements, and application processes. If someone is in the United States under one of these conditions and then needs to change their status after getting married, there are important next steps.
While there is nothing in the regulations that prevents someone from coming to the United States with the intention of getting married on a tourist visa, there is a regulation against doing so with the intention of then changing one’s status to file for permanent residency. Of course, circumstances can change once a new relationship and marriage enter the equation, so it is permissible to enter the country intending to get married and only remain a short time and then change your mind and intend to stay.
In this case, you’ll need to demonstrate that you have not committed fraud. The regulations make it difficult (though not entirely impossible) to apply for a change in status before 90 days have passed (known as the 90-day rule). Doing so may trigger an investigation into the nature of your marriage and plans in an attempt to demonstrate the original tourist visa was fraudulent (in other words, that you always intended to stay rather than visit).
In addition, there are fiancé visas for those who want to bring someone into the country with the intention that they will get married and continue to live in the country. There are strict regulations surrounding this kind of arrangement to ensure that the marriage is legitimate and that there was no payment involved as an exchange for marriage.
Following your marriage, you will need to file an Adjustment of Status (AOS). Filing after getting married while on a B-1 or B-2 visa will likely trigger questions and an investigation from the USCIS. They will want to determine if you were honest in your initial tourist visa application (that is, that you did originally intend to return to your home country).
Many people wait until after the 90-day period has passed to file for a marriage green card in order to avoid triggering extra scrutiny. This approach can simplify some elements of the process, but it can also add complications when the tourist visa expires.
For most people, the process for getting married on a tourist visa starts when the U.S. citizen in the relationship files a family sponsorship form (Form I-130). At the same time, the person who was originally visiting on a tourist visa should file a green card application (Form I-485). This process can take some time, and most applicants will see a 10-13 month wait from the time the application is filed to the time that the green card is approved.
Meanwhile, there may be an investigation to determine whether the marriage is in “good faith.” Basically, investigators will want to see that the marriage is a legitimate one based on a real relationship and not an arrangement made solely to acquire a green card.
Optionally, the person originally visiting with a tourist visa can also choose to return to their home country and file for a green card through consular processing. This option can mean lower fees but may also mean a longer wait.
If you’ve gotten married while on a tourist visa, you may be a bit overwhelmed with the options and steps needed to move from a temporary visit to permanent residence. Don’t go through it alone! Our experienced immigration attorneys are here to talk you through the options, help you make informed decisions, and file the correct forms to get the process going as soon as possible! Reach out today to schedule your free case review.