What happens if I reveal on Form N-400 that my undocumented spouse lives with me?

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Question:

I am originally from Spain, and have a U.S. green card. My wife, who I met in the U.S., is from Mexico, and is here illegally. (I filed an I-130 visa petition for her, but since I am not yet a U.S. citizen, she is on the visa waiting list, and her priority date is not current yet.) I have worries about filling out the question on Form N-400 that asks for my wife’s name, address, and immigration status. I do not wish to lie, but if I give the truth here, will immigration come and arrest my wife?

Answer:

Your worry is the same one shared by thousands of people who have filled out Form N-400 – and so far, USCIS has not shown any inclination to forward this information to the enforcement branch of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in order to track down spouses living in the United States unlawfully. (That could change. But it’s unlikely to in the short term, especially given the recent use  of “prosecutorial discretion” to focus resources on removing only people who are dangers to U.S. society and have no or few family ties here.)

For starters, you do not have to say that your spouse is “illegal” or “undocumented.” You could simply write “alien” in the box for Question E3. Better yet, given that you have filed an I-130 petition with USCIS to help your spouse immigrate, you can write “pending” in this box (meaning that your spouse is awaiting a green card or other status).

One thing to watch out for, however: There is a chance that USCIS may, at your citizenship interview, question you as to whether you helped smuggle your spouse into the country. That would be more likely if you were Mexican and had gotten married before you came to the U.S., but it’s something to be aware of nonetheless. For example, if you met in the U.S. but your spouse later returned to Mexico, and you have travelled to Mexico by car, USCIS could look into whether you smuggled your spouse back in your car.

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