Adjusting status to become a Legal Permanent Resident while in the United States on a Visa Waiver requires careful thought and analysis.
USCIS and the US State Department is particularly sensitive to matching a persons true intent when entering the United States with the appropriate type of visa or special entry permission, like a Visa Waiver. It is an absolute “no no” to use a Visa Waiver to enter the United States for the purpose of getting married and applying to become a Legal Permanent Resident (immigrant). To do so would likely constitute fraud. The visitors intent at the time of entry is the issue.
If a person enters the United States as a visitor under the Visa Waiver program and truly intends to visit with no agenda to get married and then after entering the United States, thereafter decides to get married and wishes to stay, applying for Legal Permanent Residency is a permissible option.
To be successful, you will need to demonstrate that you did not intend to use the Visa Waiver to enter the US to get married and apply for Legal Permanent Residency. Your words and actions will be examined at carefully. Questions such as: When were you proposed to? Where were you when you were proposed to? When did you first make plans to get married? Did you discuss getting married at anytime prior to arriving in the United States? When did the relationship start?
Your actions can likely be examined as well. Consider what records you may have created before and after your entry into the United States that might relate to your situation. Consider the following questions: When did you apply for your marriage license? Did you schedule to use a church or reception hall for your wedding? If so, when did you make your plans? Did you bring documents like birth certificates, divorce decrees, and other immigration related documents with you at the time of your entry? These are the types of questions and conduct that will be examined to determine if you are being truthful.
If you did get married after arriving in the United States, that’s fine, but you must consider how long after your arrival did you get married? To soon or within 30 days and you arrived, and you will likely be denied and viewed as being dishonest. In this case, I would recommend that you file for a CR1 marriage visa while visiting the United States and then comply with the terms of your Visa Waiver and leave the United States when your supposed to. You can return again under the Visa waiver or wait for your Marriage Visa to be issued. If you got married much later than 30 days after your arrival, and you didn’t intend to do so at the time you entered the United States, then you might be able to successfully apply for an Adjustment of Status to become a Legal Permanent Resident and stay.
Please feel free to call me anytime to discuss your situation. I would be happy to answer any questions that you might have. You can reach me toll free at 1-888-515-3529.
Attorney Jeffrey C. Pettys