I am a permanent resident and am going to apply for a US citizenship within a week. My fiancee from Mexico and I are talking about our marriage this year. But I wonder whether we should get married before or after I convert my nationality to a US citizen. Is it better to get married before my naturalization? She has a B1/B2 visa with I-94 and has to renew her I-94 every 6 months to stay in California.
6 Answers from Attorneys
You can do it either before or after becoming a US citizen. In any case, if you plan to petition for her as your wife and she plans to apply for adjustment of status - you can file all petitions together after you become a USA citizen.
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First of all, someone with a B-1/B-2 tourist visa can only request an extension one time to stay here for one year maximum, it is not something to renew every six months (one simply cannot be a tourist for years and years in the U.S.) Also, she must have good reasons why she wants to stay here longer as a tourist for another six months before the extension will be granted.
The problem with filing for her now when you're only a permanent resident is that there is no visa number (immigrant visa number, that is) available for a few years for her because it's a limited category. Only an I-130 can be filed for her and that is only a preliminary step that is not the same as a green card for her. If your citizenship case is denied (due to criminal records, lack of sufficient presence/residence in U.S., etc.) or drags on for more than the expected six months to a year to finish, she will not be able to adjust her status to green card later if she is out-of-status on the tourist visa. If you become a citizen, then there will be a visa number immediately for her and she will qualify for a green card then, but only a consultation with an attorney can tell you if your citizenship case will be smooth or if there will be potential problems. If it will be smooth, then you can start filing for her after you became a citizen even if she's out of status, assuming Immigration has not found out about her.
A qualified immigration attorney to handle your case is highly recommended to prevent delays which usually happen with self-help. Be sure to check out our blog with useful immigration info.
Larry L. Doan
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It was not clear from your question but my answer above assumes that she is already in the U.S. pursuant to the B-1/B-2. If she is willing to leave the U.S. on each trip on or prior to the date on the I-94 then she will not be out-of-status.
More information would be needed about your situation to make certain your citizenship case would be approved, and about your fiance's desire to travel in and out of the U.S. while your citizenship case is pending. I would recommend a consultation with an experienced immigration attorney. For futher information, you may telephone our law office at 415-387-1364.
There are some arguments in favor of marrying now as well as in favor of waiting. Like everything else in life, you need to weigh the risks and benefits.
I'm happy to go over these in greater detail as discussion about the issues you raise can be confusing enough in conversation, let alone in writing. It's easy to think the information is conflicting, so it's best for me to explain, answer questions that you will have and then after you have a feel for the issues, put a possible strategy in writing. I would do this if you hired me for a consultation.
Feel free to contact me to arrange that or to learn more about U.S. immigration and how it can impact you by calling me at 818 609 1953 or writing me email@example.com.
Alice M. Yardum-Hunter, Attorney at Law
Certified Specialist, State Bar of CA, Bd. of Legal Specialization, Immigration & Nationality Law
You can go ahead and get married to him now, then apply for his permanent residency once you become a US citizen.
You may find comprehensive information on the process here and recommend a free consultation to go over the details:
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