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

Jan. 7, 2022

Marrying a U.S. citizen as an undocumented immigrant who entered the country illegally has been a common phenomenon in the United States in recent years. If you are an undocumented immigrant, you might wonder if you can apply for citizenship and get a green card after marrying a U.S. citizen or permanent residence status holder.Patriotic man, woman, and child waving American flags in the air.

While there are some complicating factors during the process when trying to obtain a green card through marriage after an illegal entry, you can overcome them by having the right information and knowing what steps to take. Consider getting legal counsel from attorneys with experience in immigration law at Corbaci Law, P.C., who can help determine your best course of action to obtain a green card. We help immigrants who entered the country illegally understand their legal rights and options for obtaining a green card in Woburn, Marlborough, Boston, and Framingham, Massachusetts.

Can You Marry a U.S. Citizen as an Undocumented Immigrant?

Yes, undocumented immigrants can marry U.S. citizens, permanent residents, or anyone else in the country. However, limitations on marriage do exist, but they have to do with the age of the individuals and whether the marriage involves close relatives. For example, Massachusetts requires individuals to be at least 18 years of age to get married.

Can You Become a Citizen of the U.S. After Marrying One?

While undocumented immigrants are legally allowed to marry U.S. citizens, whether or not that marriage will help the immigrant become a citizen of the U.S. is another thing. Once immigrants become married to U.S. citizens, they are classified as “immediate relatives” and are eligible to obtain a marriage-related green card. However, immigrants who entered the country illegally may face challenges on their path to citizenship.

Even if a marriage between a U.S. citizen and an undocumented immigrant is valid, several issues may come up when trying to get a green card:

  • The immigrant entered without inspection. One of the first things that might make it more challenging for an immigrant to obtain a green card is if they crossed the border illegally without inspection.

  • The immigrant spent a significant amount of time in the U.S. after an illegal entry. There are penalties for staying in the U.S. for a significant amount of time after entering the country illegally. Those who apply for a green card after spending 180 days will have to go through the immigrant visa interview at the consulate and face penalties for the unlawful presence. There are harsher penalties for those who stay unlawfully for more than one year.

Steps to Getting Your Green Card

The first thing you need to know about the process of obtaining a green card after marrying a U.S. citizen is that your spouse has to initiate the process.

  1. The first step is to have the immigrant’s spouse fill out Form I-130 and submit it to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The form and the evidence submitted along with the form are used to establish that the marriage is legally valid.

  2. Then, the immigrant must establish his or her eligibility for a green card. If the immigrant is physically in the U.S., he or she must submit Form I-485 to the USCIS. The form is also known as the application for Adjustment of Status. If the immigrant is abroad, he or she must apply for a green card via the National Visa Center (NVC).

  3. Finally, the immigrant attends a green card interview. During the interview, the interviewing officer has to assess the legal validity and authenticity of the marriage. The officer will ask questions about the married couple’s relationship, daily activities, and plans for the future. The application will be denied if the officer believes that the marriage is fraudulent.

How Immigration Attorneys Can Help

At Corbaci Law, P.C., our law firm is focused on providing comprehensive legal counsel and helping immigrants in and outside of the United States. As the founding attorney, Christina Corbaci has been an immigrant in other countries, and she has firsthand knowledge of the immigration system. Mrs. Corbaci knows what it is like to feel scared and uncertain about your future when you are trying to start a new life in a new country.

If you are illegally in the U.S. but want to change your status, Corbaci Law, P.C. immigration attorneys in Woburn, Massachusetts, can help you understand what to do next in your particular situation. They provide immigration-related assistance to people throughout Massachusetts, including Marlborough, Boston, and Framingham.