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I'm a US citizen with Mexican residency, about to marry a dual Guatemalan/Spanish citizen. We are not seeking US residency for her, and likely won't for a long time, if ever. But I want to be sure there won't be any problem visiting my family (in the US) with her in the future.

Once we are married, will there be any difficulty entering the US together, her on a VWP (with her Spanish passport), me as a citizen? Or must she obtain a visa as a family member of a US citizen?

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Yes, there could be more difficulty for her entering the U.S. in the future. As the spouse of a citizen, she can at any time after entering simply change her mind and you guys can file for Adjustment of Status to get a green card at any time. It's so easy to abuse. Therefore, the burden of her showing that she does not intend to stay is greater.

Some spouses of U.S. citizens are repeatedly denied U.S. tourist visas and/or entry. Some get tourist visas and/or enter on VWP with no trouble. It depends on the circumstances. Make sure she has strong proof of ties to her home country that she doesn't plan to abandon.

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    I have never heard of any such case, tell you the truth. There's no legal justification for what you describe, and it doesn't make much sense. Care to provide some sources? – littleadv Apr 18 '15 at 4:05
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    @littleadv: There is legal justification - INA 214(b), every person trying to enter into nonimmigrant status (except H, L) are presumed to be immigrants unless they can prove to the satisfaction of the officer that they are not. Here are some people who've run into this: visajourney.com/forums/topic/… forums.immigration.com/threads/… candleforlove.com/forums/topic/… – user102008 Apr 18 '15 at 8:16
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    @littleadv: The burden to prove the person qualifies as a nonimmigrant varies with the circumstances. Because spouses of citizens have generally been more inclined to immigrate, the burden of proof is higher. Yes, they can easily immigrate with no obstacles -- provided that they get an immigrant visa, which is a process that takes months. If a spouse of a citizen tries to take a shortcut and use nonimmigrant visas to do it, that is not allowed. In the cases I posted, the U.S. citizens were residing abroad. – user102008 Apr 18 '15 at 18:36
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    @littleadv: VWP is entry on nonimmigrant status, it is subject to the exact same conditions. It is very much relevant to the OP. – user102008 Apr 18 '15 at 20:15
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    @littleadv: One of the questions that was asked was "Once we are married, will there be any difficulty entering the US..." I addressed the difficulty part with the same advice that is given on all immigration sites. – user102008 Apr 19 '15 at 4:39
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There's no "family member" visa in the US. If she's coming as a tourist - then VWP is the right path, unless she intends to stay for more than 3 months or change status.

  • There is a non-immigrant visa for a spouse (K-3). That sure sounds like a "family member visa". – Flimzy Apr 17 '15 at 4:08
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    @Flimzy it only sounds like this. K-3 is for foreign spouses of US citizens who need a temporary visa until their immigrant petition is approved. travel.state.gov/content/visas/english/immigrate/types/family/… – littleadv Apr 17 '15 at 4:28
  • @Flimzy: K-3 is obsolete. – user102008 Apr 17 '15 at 7:07
  • @littleadv: Indeed, that is a confusing name, then. Thanks for the clarification. – Flimzy Apr 17 '15 at 13:19
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America will likely not grant you a tourist visa. I’m in a similar situation. I’m American but a long term permanent resident of Japan with no current intention of moving to the States. My wife is Russian and holds a spouse of a permanent resident visa in Japan. I wanted to visit my mom as she never met her grandson. We went to just get a tourist visa for my wife. The US Embassy in Tokyo immediately rejected her said she doesn’t have strong enough ties to Japan and hence won’t grant her a tourist visa to the States. They said come back when you have permanent residence status in Japan. That could take 10 years or more. Basically they said in so many words they wouldn’t let her in for at least a decade. Insane.

  • Did her visa application include evidence of your ties to Japan? – phoog Jan 17 at 13:52
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Here is a little detail that may be of interest to you. As per the official site:

Change of Status

Persons admitted under the Visa Waiver Program are not permitted to change status in the United States.

Thus given that this visa is only issued for 90 days and persons entering on VWP cannot really extend their stay

Extending Your Stay

Persons admitted under the Visa Waiver Program are not permitted to extend their stays in the United States. See Extend Your Stay on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website. You must depart the United States on or before the date on your admission stamp when you entered the United States.

I would really consider that if you have time on your side to go with the Adjustment of Status process. Honestly it would be much more convenient in the long term and avoid any other complication. Also once both of you are in the country it can help to avoid any rush back for her to leave the country.

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    This answer doesn't help at all. Adjustment of status is for someone who is in the US as a nonimmigrant and wants to remain in the US as an immigrant. That does not apply to Flimzy's wife, doubly, because (as of the time the question was asked) she is not in the US and she has no intention of immigrating to the US. – phoog Aug 15 '17 at 19:03

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