Can Fiance Enter U.S. on Visa Waiver, Marry, Apply for Green Card (Adjustment of Status)?

Using the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) to enter the U.S. and apply for a green card could ultimately result in the application for lawful permanent residence being denied.

By , Attorney · Capital University Law School

Let's take a common immigration-related scenario: A U.S. citizen gets engaged to a man from another country. The man has been to the United States many times, using the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). Naturally, he wonders, why not simply come in on the VWP once again, and take care of the wedding and the green card paperwork after getting here? Does he really need to go through the much longer process of getting a K-1 fiancé visa to come to the U.S. in order for he and his intended to get married and apply for a green card?

On the surface, such a plan sounds sensible; but immigration law and common sense don't always match up, as we'll describe below.

Using a VWP Entry for Purposes Beyond Short Visits Is Illegal

The plan outlined above would amount to a fraudulent use of the Visa Waiver Program, which could ultimately result in the new husband's application for lawful permanent residence (a green card) being denied.

Let's look at this step by step. Say the foreign-born fiancé takes a long plane trip to the U.S., where an officer of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) greets him and asks about his purpose in entering the United States. He says he's going to get married and apply for a green card. The CBP officer informs him that, because the Visa Waiver program is meant only for people coming to the United States for visits of no longer than three months (90 days) for either pleasure or business, and who have no intention of staying in the U.S. permanently, his entry is denied. He would likely have to return to his country on the next plane.

Or let's say he successfully lies to the CBP officer and gains U.S. entry. The couple get married and submit an application for adjustment of status (a green card) to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). At the green card interview, the USCIS officer notices that the wedding took place not long after the VWP entry, asks questions, and perhaps ultimately decides that the husband committed fraud upon entry and is therefore inadmissible. He is denied the green card and placed into removal (deportation) proceedings.

In rare cases, and after paying a lot in legal fees, the applicant might qualify for a waiver of the fraud and receive the green card.

Ultimately, Applying for the Appropriate Visa Will Be Less Stressful

To avoid the stain of visa fraud on the immigrant's immigration record (not to mention the expense and time that removal proceedings require) it will be far easier to go the legal route and either apply for a K-1 fiancé visa before the marriage or get married overseas and then apply for an immigrant visa (the equivalent of a green card). See an experienced immigration attorney for a full analysis of your situation.

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