Contrary to popular opinion, marriage to a US citizen does not preclude someone from being deported. Marrying a US citizen can pave the road to a green card and ultimately naturalization, but until you become a naturalized US citizen you may be deported in certain circumstances. The issue becomes even more challenging if you entered the country illegally, as this may jeopardize your eligibility to qualify for a green card or naturalization.
The sad truth is that if you are in the country illegally (e.g. on an expired visa, or you entered the US unlawfully), you can be deported regardless of your familial ties to US citizens. If you are detained by ICE, the agents should consider factors such as how long you have been in the country, whether or not you initially entered the country legally, your criminal background, and your family ties to US citizens or green card holders, but none of these positive factors can guarantee that you will not be deported.
If you have married a US citizen or green card holder, you should meet with an immigration attorney to discuss the path towards permanent residency and naturalization. The process can be challenging, but it’s worth it to achieve the peace of mind that comes with knowing you will not be deported. Even if you entered the country unlawfully or are currently classified as an illegal alien, there are means to legalize your residency with the assistance of an experienced attorney.
The Path to Citizenship Through Lawful Entry and Marriage to a US Citizen
The good news is that marrying a US citizen does make it easier to get a green card. There are four critical conditions to receive a green card through marriage to a US citizen:
- Lawful entry into the country – generally speaking, you can only receive a green card if you entered the country legally (e.g. with a visa). You may submit a 601A waiver if you entered the country unlawfully, but there is no guarantee that your application will be accepted, and it may jeopardize your case.
- A legitimate marriage – it sounds silly that you would need to pass rounds of interviews to prove that your marriage is legitimate, but it’s necessary to weed out fraudsters who use marriage solely as a path to legal entry into the United States. In addition to interviews with immigration officials, you’ll need to present proof of living together and demonstrate good moral character in the form of a clean criminal record.
- Providing proof of income – the United States is reluctant to grant residency and citizenship to individuals who will be dependent on welfare and government assistance programs. When a US citizen files for their immigrant spouse, he or she must demonstrate a minimum level of income on their tax returns in order to satisfy an affidavit of support.
- Passing a medical exam – the final check on the list is to pass a green card medical exam.
Upon completion of these qualifications and properly filing the appropriate paperwork, you should receive a conditional green card. The conditional green card will be valid for two years. At the conclusion of your conditional residency, you can apply for conditions removal with Form I-751 to continue your legal permanent residency in the United States.
Once you have lived in the US for at least 5 years with a valid greed card, you are eligible to apply for full citizenship. As a naturalized US citizen, the threat of deportation will finally be removed from the equation.
To qualify for naturalization, you’ll need to meet the following eligibility requirements:
- Be a permanent resident with a green card for at least five years
- Be able to speak, read, and write basic English
- Be at least 18 years old at the time of filing for naturalization
- Demonstrate an attachment to the principles and ideals in the United States Constitution
- Demonstrate continuous residence in the US for at least five years immediately preceding the date of filing for naturalization
- Demonstrate that you have been physically present in the US for at least 30 months out of the past five years
- Demonstrate that you possess good moral character
- Possess a basic understanding of US government and history
- Show that you have lived in the state or USCIS district where you applied for at least 3 months
When you’re ready to begin the naturalization process, here’s what to expect:
- Submit an Application for Naturalization (Form N-400)
- Complete the biometrics (fingerprinting) appointment
- Complete the interview
- Take the Oath of Allegiance to the United States
- Understand your rights and responsibilities as a US citizen
Applying for a Waiver for Unlawful Presence
One of the most important factors on your application for a green card is your current legal status in the United States. If you are in the country illegally, you may be considered inadmissible to adjust your legal status. But don’t let this deter you—you may still qualify for legal residency by filing a waiver for unlawful presence.
There are two waivers to choose from depending on your current residency:
- I-601 – use this waiver if you are currently living outside the US, but you have spent time in the US illegally.
- I-601A – use this waiver if you currently reside in the US illegally.
Note that in the past, you always had to leave the country to file a waiver for unlawful presence. Thanks to changes to immigration law, you may now file the Form I-601A while still in the United States. However, you’ll still need to leave the country in order to attend your interview in a US embassy or consulate.
Can Someone Re-Enter the US by Marrying a US Citizen After Being Deported?
If you have been deported from the United States, you were likely issued a ban on re-entering the United States. In most cases the ban lasts for 10 years, but it can range from 5 – 20 years depending on the case. The ban may even be permanent in some cases.
As long as you have honored that removal order and have not returned to the United States illegally, you may be eligible to apply for a green card upon marrying a US citizen. In addition to submitting the standard green card application, you’ll need to submit a waiver of inadmissibility—Form I-601—and demonstrate that a close relative (such as your new spouse) is experiencing extreme hardship as a result of your ban from the United States.
Call our Immigration team at(480) 626-2388 to discuss your case today.
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