Undocumented immigrants can still be deported after marrying U.S. citizens. Previously, it was common for Americans to sponsor their undocumented spouses for legal permanent residency. Since the early 2000s when U.S. officials began enforcing mandatory bars under the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, however, many undocumented spouses have decided not to pursue green cards. Instead, they avoid contact with the immigration system for fear of getting deported.
Qualifying for a Green Card Based on Marriage
To qualify for green cards, immigrant spouses must meet four qualifications.
- Lawful entrance into the U.S.
- Bonafide marriage
- The spouse must have sufficient income for support
- Pass a medical exam
Once someone gets married and applies for a green card, the U.S. Customs and Immigration Service will investigate the marriage and verify that the foreign spouse meets the eligibility criteria. If the spouse does not, he or she may face deportation and removal proceedings.
Lawful Entrance Into the U.S.
To get a spousal visa, the first criteria is lawful entrance into the U.S. If a foreign national was unlawfully present in the U.S. before the marriage took place, the immigrant may be deported. USCIS might require that the foreign national spouse leave the U.S. for a required number of years before he or she will be allowed to return. There might be an exception available if the absence would create an undue financial hardship on the U.S. citizen spouse or minor children.
The marriage of a U.S. citizen and a foreign national must be bonafide. The USCIS must be satisfied that the marriage is real. USCIS will look at a variety of factors to determine whether a marriage is valid or if it is a sham. They will interview both spouses, look at the length of the relationship before the marriage, whether the couple lives together, and the knowledge that they have of each other. If USCIS determines that the marriage is not real, the immigrant spouse may be deported and the U.S. citizen may face legal issues.
Immigrants must have the financial means necessary to not become public charges. This means that the petitioning spouse must have enough money to support the foreign national for a certain number of years, and the couple cannot use public benefits.
Pass a Medical Exam
The immigrant must also pass a medical exam. If he or she does not, he or she will not receive a green card.