Boy meets girl. Girl overstays visa (or never had a visa). Boy marries girl. Green Card for illegal wife?
The above is a common scenario that many couples face.
For a variety of reasons, many foreign nationals enter the U.S. and end up marrying a U.S. citizen. But contrary to popular belief, simply being married to a U.S. citizen does not confer a general right for the non-citizen spouse to remain in the U.S.
Immigration law in this area is complicated. However there are some generalities that couples should know. Depending upon the facts, if the non-citizen spouse enters the U.S. illegally, the spouse may have to return to his or her home country to apply for a green card through a U.S. Consulate. Common examples of entering the U.S. illegally can include crossing a border illegally or engaging in visa fraud to enter.
However, if a non-citizen spouse entered the U.S. legally such as on a tourist visa, work visa, student visa, etc. and later overstays the visa, the non-citizen spouse may be allowed to apply for a Green Card while remaining in the U.S. through a process called Adjustment of Status.
For eligible couples, Adjustment of Status is very appealing as it means that you won't have to be separated from your loved one while the Green Card application is processed (which can take months).
Still, even if the Adjustment of Status is available, you should be careful about visa fraud. For example, if you enter the U.S. as a tourist with the real intention of marrying your girl/boyfriend, you may be accused of fraud and sent home.
Can you get a Green Card for your illegal wife or husband? If you want to apply while both remaining in the U.S., the answer is it depends. This area of the law is extremely complicated and depends upon the nuances of individual circumstances. If your spouse is in the U.S. illegally, you should talk to an immigration attorney about your options.