Marrying an Illegal Immigrant

Marrying an Illegal Immigrant

Marrying an Undocumented migrant does not guarantee the possibility of getting a green card with ease. There are so many US citizens who are in the process of considering marrying an illegal immigrant, and they all dream of the possibility to get themselves a green card through their marriage. Although this process might be possible, there can be many discrepancies and obstacles in your way to getting yourself a green card through marriage. In this article, we will take a look at what it’s like to be an illegal immigrant married to a US citizen.

Marrying an Illegal Immigrant

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Currently, there are close to 1.2 million undocumented immigrants who are married to US citizens. Although there aren’t any laws in marrying an illegal immigrant, there might be a few risks involved if the person is present in the United States illegally. If you find yourself in such a situation, then you have the possibility of leading a normal life, but there are a few factors involved. Things such as how and when the illegal immigrant entered the United States and the status of their spouse.

Being an Undocumented Immigrant in the United States

The living conditions of an undocumented immigrant are very adverse. These immigrants crossed the borders while they were very young and became a part of the USA since then. They had to learn English to keep up with this fast-paced world and find work to help earn their daily bread. They often face many challenges as the inability to open bank accounts as it involves credit history and personal history. Additionally, they cannot get a driver’s license as well. Even if the person is good at whatever job they have learned so far, they cannot apply for a valid license, which is why it becomes difficult to find work.

As far as the living conditions are considered, undocumented immigrants cannot rent a place as they need to have valid paperwork. Due to this, they end up in not-so-good places.

The Consequences of Marrying an Illegal Immigrant

Gaining legal status is hard work as it involves a lot of time and money, which is very difficult for a person who has zero connections in the country. Undocumented immigrants, those who entered the United States Illegally have fewer means to obtain legal status.

If a US citizen is marrying an illegal immigrant, then they have the possibility of getting their undocumented spouse a sponsored green card. But the only reason that most people remain to keep their spouses undocumented is that there’s a significant amount of time and money required. As one already knows, a US citizen applying for an illegal spouse requires assistance from an immigration attorney. This involves a lot of legal fees. Note that there are many scammers out there that take one’s money and provide bad legal advice in return.

Even if you somehow manage to apply, the result is not guaranteed. It may or may not work in your favor. If the undocumented spouse entered the US illegally, then they need to back to their home country to complete the consular processing.

Marrying an Illegal Immigrant Who Entered With a Visa

If you are marrying an illegal immigrant who initially entered the USA with a visa, then he/she cannot be called an illegal immigrant. If they entered the USA with a valid visa, then they have gone through the Customs and Border Protection, and they were inspected by the USCIS officials. In this situation, you can apply for a green card which is similar to the regular green card process. In simple words, if the illegal immigrant overstays their welcome even after their valid visa has expired, they can still apply for a green card if they are physically present in the USA. However, if they try to leave the country after it’s been a while since their visa expired, then they could trigger a bar for 3/10 years or permanently.

Marrying an Illegal Immigrant Who Entered the USA Illegally

If the undocumented immigrant has lived in the USA for 6 months after getting into the country by illegal means, then they can still sign up for a marriage green card. But the only exception is that the immigrant must go back to their home country to complete the green card application process. If the immigrant was present in the country for more than 6 months, then they are subjected to the bar, which can range from 3 or 10 years. In this case, the person will have to fill in a provisional waiver.

What Can You Do if You Are Married to Someone Who Is an Illegal Immigrant?

To change the status of your undocumented spouse, you can sponsor a green card for them, but you certainly cannot do the entire process on your own. You need help from attorneys who can give certified legal advice. There are two scenarios if you are married to an illegal immigrant:

  • Immigrant Who Does Not Have a Visa: An illegal immigrant who entered the USA with a valid visa, and they have overstayed their visa expiry date for 6 months? In this case, they are referred to as illegal immigrants. It is possible to file a petition for green card with the exception that they have to travel to their home country for the consular processing.
  • Immigrant Who Has a Visa: The immigrant entered the USA with a valid visa, and they were inspected by the USA officials? The US citizen spouse can file for a green card if the illegal immigrant is still present in the United States. Just note that they cannot travel outside the USA during the entire green card process as they might lose the right to apply for a green card.

Sponsoring the Undocumented Spouse

To petition for a green card for your spouse, you have to file the Form I-130 Petition for Alien Relative. This application form can be found on the official USCIS webpage. Download the form and fill the application. This form should be submitted to the web address mentioned on the USCIS website. Through this form, you request USCIS to look into your matter and request approval. When USCIS approves your petition, they send this application to the National Visa Center.

You have to send the supporting documents, the application for a visa along with the visa fee for your spouse. Once the documents are approved, then the undocumented spouse should go back to their home country for the interview.

Marrying an Illegal Immigrant: Final Verdict

Sponsoring a green card application for your undocumented spouse is hard work, but it is possible if you have a few connections. Additionally, if you should be able to invest a little in this process as the entire green card application process is way pricier. You can always apply for a fee waiver which upon approval can get things done easily. However, there is no guarantee that this entire process will work in your favor. Even if you end up paying the legal fee and completing the entire process, there are chances that your application for documenting your spouse will be denied. In these scenarios, you can reopen your case. IF you find yourself in any such situation, then you can either hire an immigration attorney or get help from some esteemed non-profit organizations that are willing to help.

Marrying an Illegal Immigrant

Penalties for Immigration-Related Fraud

Marriage fraud refers to the act of marrying US citizens for the sole purpose of getting a green card. When a foreign-born citizen marries a US citizen or a lawful permanent resident just for the sake of getting themselves a green card is considered a major immigration and marriage fraud. These kinds of marriages are taken very seriously, and USCIS has the right to punish both parties for this crime.

The Penalties Faced by the Immigrant

According to USCIS, any immigrant who is involved in marriage fraud is highly likely to have their current visa revoked, followed up by the initiation of deportation proceedings. Furthermore, they cannot apply for a visa or green card even if they were legitimately married to a US citizen in the following years. Immigrants who purposefully enter into a fraud marriage will have to face prison for 5 years and have to pay a hefty sum of $250,000. In some cases, the immigrant will be penalized and imprisoned.

While applying for a green card, USCIS will ask the immigrant a series of questions related to their marriage to determine if the marriage is fraudulent or not. If the interview is approved, the immigrant gets conditional residence which should be renewed to permanent residence after 2 years. During the renewal, the USCIS officials will again go through your marriage and look for any suspicious activity. After the interview is cleared, you will get permanent residence for up to 10 years.

The Penalties Faced by the US Citizen

US citizens who engage in this crime are heavily fined and might also face imprisonment. As for those who are permanent residents(green card holders), they will be placed in removal proceedings and ultimately deported from the country. There are also heavy penalties for those who arrange such kinds of marriages willingly.

The bottom line is that USCIS will often take a look at your marriage every time you apply for renewal. This is done to ensure that you are not committing a major crime. If found to do so, your green card will be revoked. For further investigations, USCIS will also have a word with your close family, friends, relatives, employers, etc., for more details on your marriage.

How Does the Federal Government Act Towards Immigration?

According to the USCIS laws and regulations, the immigration services function in the following ways: providing reunion of families, valuing skilled immigrants, protecting refugees/asylees along promoting diversity in the entire country. Each year, the USCIS grants the application of almost 650,000 applicants for the visa. These include the spouses, parents, and children of US citizens.

Most immigrants, through Adjustment of Status, change their status to Permanent Residents(Green Card holders) once they are granted an immigration visa to the country. Once they have a PR status, they have the right to live in the country for as long as they want. They can also apply for citizenship through naturalization after spending a certain amount of time in the United States.

What Are the Legal Requirements to Apply for a Marriage-based Green Card?

You have to satisfy certain requirements before applying for a marriage green card. You can only apply for a green card if you are married to either a US citizen or a Permanent Resident. As per the immigration laws, you have to satisfy the following requirements:

You and Your Spouse Must Be in a Legal Marriage

The first step towards getting yourself a marriage-based green card is that one must be legally married. Legally married refers to the fact that one’s marriage should be legally recognized by the government under which they got married. There should be an official record of the marriage. Those who are in a common-law marriage can use this to their advantage if the state that they live in recognizes these kinds of relationships. You should also follow the legal marriage restrictions of your country.

Bona Fide Marriage

A bona fide marriage refers to a marriage in which both parties do not have any ulterior motives besides simply living together as a true couple. In simpler terms, the marriage should not be a sham or fraudulent. People who only marry for the sole purpose of getting a green card are heavily penalized by the Immigration Services.

Married to a US Citizen or a Permanent Resident

You are eligible to apply for a green card if and only if you marry a US citizen or a Permanent Resident of the States. Those who are in the states for a work permit or a tourist visa or any such temporary visa are not allowed to petition. Both the US citizens and the permanent resident must prove their status at the time of investigation and processing.

It Should Not Be a Polygamous Marriage

USCIS does not allow polygamous relationships, which is why you should have proof that all your previous relationships are now successfully ended. If you have ended your previous relationship with divorce, annulment, or if your previous partner has died, then you should present this information to the USCIS with the right documents.

Marrying an Illegal Immigrant: Green Card


The US government does not impose any restrictions on marrying an illegal immigrant. When a US citizen who married an immigrant, petitions a green card for their spouse, there is no guarantee that the green card will be issued without much hassle. There are many obstacles in this journey that might trigger a bar on your spouse if certain requirements aren’t met. You should take the help of a professional attorney that can guide you through the entire process. Remember that if you are found to be associated with any fraudulent marriage, both you and your “supposed spouse” will have to face severe consequences.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ’s)

Is marrying an illegal immigrant a crime?

Marrying an illegal immigrant is not a crime as there is no such ruling according to the US federal government. However, it is best to have them documented to save them from getting deported.

What are the consequences of marrying an illegal immigrant?

The consequences of marrying an illegal immigrant are that if they are not documented at the right time, they might be either deported or be placed into the removal proceedings.

How many undocumented immigrants are married to US citizens?

There are approximately 1.2 or more undocumented immigrants who are married to US citizens or permanent residents.

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