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How Can a U.S. Citizen Marry an Illegal Immigrant?

For those in the United States without proper documentation, there are often many hurdles to employment, education, and even marriage. Of course, marriage itself is not the problem. Indeed, you may marry virtually anyone you choose.

The real question may be more appropriately posed as, “If I marry an illegal immigrant, will he or she be able to stay in the United States?” After all, marriage is about being with the person you love, and if that person has to leave the country for years, then marriage is probably far less feasible.

Below is a brief overview of what happens when a U.S. citizen marries someone who is in the country illegally. A Dallas immigration lawyer is the best resource for ensuring you have all the facts and understand the options in your specific situation.

Your Spouse Was Here on a Visa But Overstayed

If your spouse was here on a student visa and simply overstayed, he or she will want to apply for an adjustment of status, which is a fairly straightforward process. However, there are many ways to get it wrong, so it is best to consult a lawyer first.

There are several categories of immigration eligibility that may fit your situation. There are several common categories, such as family, humanitarian, or employment. Here is where a spouse of a U.S. citizen would want to file an application for a green card based on the relationship by filing a Form I-130. Although complicated, if your spouse came here legally to begin with, you will likely have less trouble than if he or she came here illegally.

Marrying an Undocumented Immigrant

This is an entirely different matter. The federal government will not approve an adjustment of status easily when the spouse came here illegally. Indeed, there is a certain presumption that when someone comes to the United States illegally and then chooses to marry a U.S. citizen, he or she is doing so for a green card. While this is often completely untrue, it is a hurdle to overcome. Indeed, gaining citizenship through marriage is not as easy as it may sound.

When someone is here illegally, he or she must typically leave the country and apply for re-entry. Unfortunately, there are strict bars to re-entry based on the length of stay and the nature of the illegal entry. Some people pay for border crossing services, some come on foot. Others, however, may engage in further illegal activities in order to facilitate the move. Once the immigrant is back in his or her home country, they may apply through the consular, but the consular will likely penalize them for illegal entry. This penalty can be as short as 18 months or as long as 10 years. In some extreme cases, there may be a lifetime ban, which may destroy the possibility of marrying a U.S. citizen.

What to Do If Your Spouse Is Here Illegally

Before even considering a long-term commitment, you should contact a qualified and experienced immigration attorney at Kraft & Associates, P.C. who can review the details of your case. As an attorney, he or she is bound by confidentiality. This means you can trust that your lawyer is there to serve you.

Do not try to resolve the situation by yourself, and do not try to deal with federal immigration officials on your own. You need the skilled counsel of someone who understands the process and all the potential problems to avoid. Ultimately, although not everyone will succeed in getting a green card marriage, if you have good intentions and are willing to work hard, there is often a way to achieve your goals.


Stacy Webb is a Director at Kraft & Associates, Attorneys at Law, P.C in Dallas, TX and focuses on Immigration and Personal Injury Cases.

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