Here is my situation: My wife is a GreenCard holder (won it in Electronic Diversity Visa Lottery). She obtained her GreenCard, before we got married. I have a B1\B2 visa. Currently we are both outside the US.

The idea is to move together to the US and there initiate process of family reunification (which, as far as I understood, should take about ~3 years), and legally stay together in the US until the process of reunification is finished.

The questions are:

  1. What would be the cheapest (and legal) way for me to stay in the US, during the whole process of reunification (besides working visas; I am thinking language courses, or university)?
  2. Is this a good idea to initiate reunification, while we both are in US? (maybe it would be better if I was outside, at the time)
  3. Any other advice for the current situation?

Thanks in advance!

  • You without a doubt need a immigration lawyer in the US (which is trivial to find by google, there are a zillion of them). And there simply is not a "cheap" way to do it. You cannot proceed without an immigration lawyer.
    – Fattie
    Apr 17, 2019 at 11:42
  • @Fattie if I were in the market for an immigration lawyer I would not be heartened by the fact that "there are a zillion of them." How can one improve one's chances of settling on an ethical, knowledgeable, and capable immigration lawyer?
    – phoog
    Jul 21, 2019 at 16:53

3 Answers 3


With a wife who is a green card holder, it’ll be very difficult for you to get a non-immigrant visa such as B1/B2/F1/J1 because of the strong presumption of immigration intent. It doesn’t help that you do indeed have strong immigration intent.

Unfortunately there aren’t good shortcuts - otherwise a lot of people would be doing them and they’d be shut down.

I’d think about hiring a good immigration lawyer to advise you.


As implied in the other answer, you're not generally supposed to go to the US as a visitor and then apply for permanent residence. The possibility to do that does exist, but it is nominally there to accommodate people who arrive with a legitimate intent to leave, and then change their minds.

US authorities are therefore understandably skeptical of people who apply to adjust status after arriving in the US as visitors, as well as of those who apply to enter as visitors while having a spouse who resides in the US. If you try to pursue this path, your application to adjust status could be refused. Even worse, your application to visit could be found deceptive, either during the visa application or at the border as you arrive, which could result in your being found inadmissible to the US under 8 USC 1182(a)(6)(C)(i).

You might have a better chance of getting away with this through a student visa, but using a student visa doesn't change any of the above reasoning; it just makes it (perhaps) slightly less likely that you would be accused of misrepresentation.


Your situation contains some potential pitfalls. The basic catch-22 is the contradiction between the following expectations from US immigration:

  • If you're married, you should be living together. (At least US immigration will probably think so.)
  • If she's a US permanent resident, she should be residing in the US. (Too much absence from the US can result in loss of the permanent residency. Exact cutoff is variable but issues begin to arise after 6 months of absence. There are ways to apply to temporarily get more flexibility on this, but just making brief returns to the US isn't sufficient.)
  • If you intend to immigrate, but you don't have a US immigrant visa,* you should not enter the US until you get one. In particular, you shouldn't enter the US under the false pretense of being a nonimmigrant (tourist, student, exchange, etc) when you actually intend to immigrate.
    * (EDIT: or a dual-intent-compatible nonimmigrant visa, as user102008 points out.)

Bear in mind that even if you don't have trouble at the beginning, US immigration is likely to consider the above expectations retrospectively every time you apply for another step of any immigration process. Given these contradictions and the high stakes involved (see phoog's answer for some of these), I definitely agree with RoboKaren's advice to seek a US immigration lawyer to guide you on the relative risks of different options.

  • 2
    "If you intend to immigrate, but you don't have a US immigrant visa, you should not enter the US until you get one." Note that it's okay to enter as certain types of nonimmigrants with intent to immigrate, notably on H or L work visas or K1 fiance visa.
    – user102008
    Apr 16, 2019 at 3:04
  • @user102008 Good point, thanks for adding that.
    – krubo
    Apr 16, 2019 at 10:28
  • I'm unaware of any married couples having difficulties with immigration to the US because they were not living together. Such a situation seems especially normal for couples who marry while one of them is resident in the US and the other not authorized to reside there. Do you have any evidence that it can pose a problrm?
    – phoog
    Apr 16, 2019 at 13:43

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.