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Marrying When on a Tourist Visa

There are two types of visas available to foreign nationals wishing to come to the United States for tourism purposes.  The B-1/B-2 visa is a type of nonimmigrant visa for persons desiring to enter the United States temporarily for business (B-1) or for pleasure, tourism or medical treatment (B-2). International travelers with visitor visas comprise a large portion of temporary visitor travel to the United States every year.  Individuals from any of the 36 countries participating in the Visa Waiver program may enter the United States for tourism or business purposes for up to 90 days without obtaining a visa.

Traveling to the U.S. on any tourist visa WITH THE INTENT TO MARRY and filing for adjustment of status is deemed to be visa fraud.  A tourist visa is, by definition, a nonimmigrant visa.  If you marry while on a tourist visa you may severely impact your chances of gaining permanent residency (green card status) in the U.S. and you should thoroughly understand your options prior to taking such a step.

However, there are certain circumstances when adjustment of status based on a marriage performed in the United States while on a tourist visa may be possible,

Scenario:  Susan is a citizen of Portugal and qualifies for a VWP visa.  She is coming to the United States to visit a friend she met in college.  This friend is a U.S. citizen.  During the visit, Susan and her friend discover they are in love and enter into a good faith marriage.  Can Susan adjust her status to permanent resident and remain in the U.S. with her new husband?

Answer:  Maybe.

USCIS will consider a number of factors.  While adjustment of status is generally prohibited to those married while on tourist visas, an exception exists for those who marry while on a VWP tourist visa.  USCIS will look for the following:

  • Was the marriage entered into in good faith?  If it is determined that your marriage was entered into only to obtain immigration benefits, your application will be denied and you will be deported back to your home country.  You may also incur additional bars from entry to the U.S. in the future.
  • What was your intent upon entering the U.S.?  As stated previously, the intent of a tourist visa is that it is temporary and you will return to your home country upon its expiration.  If it is determined that you entered the U.S. with the intention of adjusting your status to permanent resident, your application will be denied and you will be deported back to your home country.

USCIS often employs a Department of State rule called the 30/60 Day Rule which is used to help consular officers determine if visa fraud has been committed.  This rule makes it risky to apply for adjustment of status within 60 days of arriving in the U.S. and very dangerous within 30 days of arrival.

If you are considering entering the United States in other than K-1 status in order to marry a U.S. citizen or Permanent Resident and claim immigration benefits based on that marriage, you should consult with an attorney to ensure you do not put your immigration status at risk.

Page Summary:  There are only very specific circumstances under which a foreign national should consider marrying a United States citizen while the FN is in the US on a tourist visa.