Married a U.S. Citizen: Can I Enter on My B-2 Visa Before Filing for a Green Card?

Issues to consider when wishing to travel to the United States while also planning to apply for a marriage-based green card.

Many foreign nationals have multiple-entry B-1/B-2 visitor visas to the United States, which do not expire for several years. After meeting and marrying a U.S. citizen, they might wish to apply for a U.S. green card; or maybe they'd prefer to live abroad, at least in the short term, using the existing B-1/B-2 visa to visit the U.S. spouse in the United States on occasion?

After all, filing a U.S. lawful permanent residence petition is expensive, and even a married couple who hopes to obtain a green card for the foreign national might not yet have the money to pay for it—and might also need to improve their financial circumstances in order to meet the green card income requirements at all.

Whether the the foreign national can still use the visitor after marrying a U.S. citizen doesn't have a cut-and-dried answer, because:

  • every time the foreign national spouse enters the U.S., they'll face questions about whether they're secretly planning to attempt a green card application for a permanent stay
  • marriage is a sufficient change to one's life circumstances that it will cast the validity of the B-1/B-2 visa into doubt.

This article will discuss these issues in further detail, as well as what to do if you'd still like to use a B-1/B-2 visitor visa for trips to the U.S. after your marriage to a U.S. citizen.

Issue of "Nonimmigrant Intent" When Using a B Visa for Entry to Visit a U.S. Spouse

Because of the binational marriage, ongoing use of a B-1/B-2 will take more preparation than the average U.S. entry. It might be easier to have the U.S. spouse visit the other spouse's country while the couple plans and saves.

The B-1/B-2 visa is a "nonimmigrant" visa, meaning that it is intended for people who only plan to visit the United States temporarily. This visa is not meant for a person who intends to immigrate—that is, apply for permanent residence or a green card after entry. U.S. immigration authorities take a strict view of the purposes for which each visa may be used, and may penalize any attempt to use a visa for a "secret" purpose.

If you are planning to travel to the United States on a B-1/B-2 visa, you will need to show that you do not have "immigrant intent." That is, you must convince U.S. immigration officials that you do not plan to permanently move to the United States at this point in time.

Marriage Is a Significant Change in Circumstance, Requiring Extra Proof That You Can Still Use the Nonimmigrant Visa for U.S. Entry

When you were first issued the multiple entry B-1 or B-2 visa, it would have been based on your personal circumstances at the time. Now, your personal circumstances have changed.

U.S. officials at the border or airport could assume that your intentions have changed, as well. If you come to the United States to visit your spouse, they could assume you now intend to immigrate, perhaps by filing an adjustment of status application in the United States rather than waiting to apply for the immigrant visa at a U.S. consulate in your home country. In that case, they would cancel your B-1/B-2 visa and note your visa violation in your immigration record.

What to Do If You Wish to Try Entering the U.S. on a B-1 or B-2 Visa

If you want to be able to continue to travel on the B-1/B-2, then you will need to bring with you strong evidence that you plan to continue living in your home country for now (and to ultimately apply for your immigrant visa there, if you decide to eventually go this route).

For example, you might show, with copies of various documents, that you still have a job, a home, family, and personal property in your home country. If you cannot show such ties to your home country, you could be denied U.S. entry and the visa cancelled. You would literally be told to turn around and go home. This decision will also make it much more difficult for you to ever return to the U.S. as a visitor or an immigrant.

For More Information and Help

For related information on this topic, read Risks of Entering the U.S. as a Tourist, Then Applying for Marriage-Based Green Card. You could also make your life easier by consulting an experienced immigration attorney. The attorney can analyze your personal situation and strategize an approach to visiting or living in the United States that makes sense for you.

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