Ask an Immigration Lawyer: I’m Here on a Student Visa & Getting Married Soon. What Are My Best Options?

Collage by Alan López for Remezcla

It’s a frightening time for immigrants. Although previous presidents have deported immigrants in large numbers, many – especially those without criminal records – felt a relative sense of normalcy. But with an administration that is outwardly hostile toward immigrant populations, any comfort previously felt is gone. As Donald Trump attempts to tighten immigration laws and cut down on even legal forms of migration into the United States, it can be difficult to keep up with the changing landscape.

That’s why we have launched the Ask an Immigration Lawyer column. Twice a month, Nubia Willman – a Chicago-based immigration attorney with nearly decade of experience – answers your questions about Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), Temporary Protected Status (TPS), and more. This column is not meant to be construed as legal advice. You should not act upon any information provided without seeking the advice of an attorney licensed to practice law in your state. 

Submit a question here and check out previous columns here.

Dear Nubia: I am an engaged college student. I am here on an F1 visa, while my boyfriend is a US citizen, and we are both in our senior year. We are planning to get legally married soon, but I don’t know if I am going to be able to get a job or paperwork for a work visa soon. Should I wait until we get married? If not, what do I do?

–Frightened Fiancée

Dear Fiancée: Congrats on your engagement! Wedding planning is always stressful, but add the uncertainty of your immigration status and it makes things even more difficult.

In general, people with F1 visas are here as students and are allowed to stay as long as they’re studying at their designated school. Once they graduate from their program, the F1 visa status expires, and there’s sometimes a 60-day grace period that allows them to file for some other status related to work or training program. But it’s not always a guarantee that their status will be allowed to change or that they’ll find a work program that will allow them to remain in lawful status.

On the other hand, when someone marries a US citizen, the citizen is allowed to file a family-based petition for their spouse, which, if approved, will let the immigrant spouse stay in the US and eventually become a lawful permanent resident. So someone with an F1 visa that’s able to apply for work status post-graduation and is married to a US citizen has a lot of options to consider. One doesn’t necessarily impact the other in a positive or negative way. Someone can obtain status through their work, even though they are married or gain status through their family member while completing their training. The best way to determine which option is best is to meet with an attorney to obtain a consultation. A lawyer will look at your immigration history, work prospects, and other material facts to advise you on the best next steps for your case.

Congrats again!


Disclaimer: The information on this column is not legal advice. Legal information is not the same as legal advice, which is the application of law to an individual’s specific circumstances. The information provided in this column is not a substitute for and does not replace the advice or representation of a licensed attorney. Although Remezcla goes to great lengths to make sure the information on the column is accurate and up to date, we make no claim as to the accuracy of this information and are not responsible for any consequences that may result from the use of this column.

We recommend that you consult with a licensed attorney if you want assurance that the information on the Remezcla and your interpretation of it are appropriate for your particular situation. You should not and are not authorized to rely on this column as a source of legal advice. The use of this column does not create an attorney-client relationship between Remezcla, its agents, and any user.