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Blandon Law Immigration

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Does Visa Waiver Prevent Residency based on Marriage?

     The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) allows foreign nationals from designated countries to enter the United States without applying for a visa.  Greece was recently designated, for example.  The full list of countries is available by clicking here.  VWP foreigners can visit this country for up to 90 days at a time.
     In exchange for this ease of travel, VWP foreigners waive several rights.  Among these are the right to a full removal proceeding before an Immigration Judge, with the exception of applying for asylum.
     Of course, humans being human, sometimes VWP foreigners fall in love, decide to marry, and wonder how they can remain here legally. 
     Foreign nationals who wish to become legal permanent residents while remaining in the U.S. must undergo the adjustment of status process with the Citizenship and Immigration Service.  Marriage-based adjustment is only available to VWP foreigners if they are petitioned by U.S. citizen spouses, parents or sons or daughters (over 21 years of age).  However, because VWP foreigners give up the right to Immigration Court, they risk removal if the adjustment of status application is denied.  Removal results in a 10 year penalty during which time the foreigners cannot return to the U.S., even if married to a citizen.
     Consular processing with the Dept. of State may be a better option for VWP foreigners in some situations.  To obtain legal advice in your case, call and schedule a consultation.

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