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I've been given my K-1 fiancé(e) visa and will be moving to the USA (Colorado) and marrying my fiancée this month.

A K-1 lets me enter the US for 90 days, marry, apply for a GC, and then "remain in the United States while USCIS processes the application." [https://www.uscis.gov/family/family-us-citizens/fiancee-visa/fiancee-visas]

I want to be able to answer the question in the situation that an official or police officer asks "how are you legally here?" at all stages of this process:

  • Before I'm married, I can say "I'm on a K-1 visa and about to get married". Easy.

  • Once I'm married, I'll apply for the Green Card. Until my 90 days runs out I can still answer "I'm on a K-1 visa, just got married, and am applying for a Green Card".

  • After the 90 days but BEFORE the GC application comes through (which can take months or even years), what do I say?

  • Once I get the GC after 6 months or so, I can say "I'm on a Green Card", easy.

As the K-1 will expire after being married but before receiving the Green Card, I am concerned an official not familiar with the process (such as a police officer on patrol) will say: "This visa stamp says it expired [date]. I don't care if you're 'waiting for your application to be approved', that means you haven't got one, you can't be in the US if you have neither a current visa or a GC".

Is there some name or legal title for myself, or some document I can show after my 90 days but before receiving the GC?

I would assume that the GC application give me a receipt of some kind but I haven't had this confirmed.

Thank you for your time

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    You'll say you have a pending adjustment of status application. – phoog Dec 6 '16 at 12:21
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    Also you'll probably want to file an I-765 employment authorization application along with the adjustment of status. The EAD will be processed much more quickly than the green card and will provide you with a card showing that status which you can use to obtain a driver's license, which is about all the ID an American would carry. – Dennis Dec 6 '16 at 14:46
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First of all, nobody you will run into in daily life will ask you "How are you legally here". Local police and other regular officials generally do not (unless maybe if you are in Arizona or one of those states with the crazy laws) deal with or understand immigration law (with is federal law and very complex). The only situation you might run into in the interior of the US that might reasonably ask you this is if you go through one of the CBP interior checkpoints within 100 miles of the border.

Technically, once your K-1 status expires (note: status and visa are different; your visa can be expired and you can be in status, and vice versa; how long your status lasts is determined by your I-94, and has nothing to do with the visa's expiration), you have no legal status. But that isn't necessarily a bad thing though it might sound bad. You are allowed to stay in the US with a pending Adjustment of Status application, regardless of whether you are in status. There isn't a formal "name" for this; some people will say they are in "AOS status" or "AOS pending" but technically there are no such statuses.

Basically, if you are talking to an official who understands immigration law, if you show them the I-485 receipt they will know what situation you are in and that you're legal, assuming your application is still pending (which they can check if they are an immigration officer). And if you are talking to someone who doesn't understand immigration law, well, then all bets are off. You can tell them you have a pending AOS application but they might not accept that; you can show them your I-485 receipt but it says on the receipt that it does not confer any benefits (plus a receipt of filing doesn't prove it is still pending), so they will probably not accept it if they already don't know what it is.

Ultimately, what matters is that you are not going to be deported in your situation. Anyone can run into ignorant officials who make mistakes based on lack of understanding of the law (even immigration officers can be wrong sometimes), but what matters is that there is ultimately a recourse. In the worst case if they bring you to ICE or CBP, they will drop it, once they see you have a pending AOS application. Or if you are brought into removal proceedings, the immigration judge will not deport you while your AOS application is pending.

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    I was asked about my status in the US by police when pulled over in California driving a car registered to my wife with a foreign driver license. She wanted me to prove that I wasn't a California resident and hence shouldn't be charged with driving without a license. When all you have is foreign ID the question of status can come up even in places where police generally have little interest in enforcing federal immigration law. – Dennis Dec 6 '16 at 20:07
  • Yes, Dennis, your situation is the sort of scenario I was envisaging. Thank you very much 102008 and Dennis. :) – Rob Stening Dec 16 '16 at 23:25
  • @RobStening: But in Dennis's situation, the police wasn't distinguishing between a legal status vs. no status, but rather a temporary status indicating a visitor vs. a long-term resident (with status or no status). For someone who is immigrating, they are obviously not visiting and thus it matters not for this situation whether they have status or not. – user102008 Dec 16 '16 at 23:41

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