Asked in Immigration Law

Q: Can I get married to a USA citizen with an ESTA?


I am a UK citizen, and I have known my boyfriend for more than a year, and we have discussed getting married so that we can live together in the USA after I graduate from university. I am in a situation where I told my parents about my relationship, and well, things didn't turn out great, and a lot of religion and my culture were used against me. My mother strongly despises interracial relationships, and she told me to leave after I graduate. I was wondering if it is possible to get married on an ESTA and what the next steps should be. As far as I am aware, applying for a fiancé visa will take time, and I'm afraid I won't have enough time as I graduate next year. My mother makes it really hard for me that I fell in love with someone that is not of my race and religion. If I had to show evidence, would this situation be helpful in telling the USCIS that I married with good intentions because I want to start a future with my boyfriend and not just for an immigration status?

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3 Lawyer Answers
Min Hwan Ahn
Min Hwan Ahn
  • Immigration Law Lawyer
  • Philadelphia, PA

A: It is not possible to obtain a green card through the ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) program. The ESTA is a travel authorization for individuals who are seeking to enter the United States for tourism, business, or transit purposes, and it does not provide a path to permanent residency.

The only exception to this rule is if you are a foreign national who has entered the United States on an ESTA and later marry a U.S. citizen. In this case, you may be eligible to apply for a green card through the adjustment of status process.

To apply for a green card through adjustment of status, you must be eligible to do so, which typically requires that you are physically present in the United States and in lawful immigration status. You must also provide evidence of your bona fide marriage to the U.S. citizen, such as documentation of your communication, travel, and financial support.

It is important to understand that the adjustment of status process is complex and requires the assistance of an immigration lawyer. In addition, the USCIS will closely scrutinize the authenticity of your marriage to ensure that it is not a sham marriage entered into for the purpose of obtaining immigration benefits.

Stephen Arnold Black
Stephen Arnold Black
  • Immigration Law Lawyer
  • Orlando, FL

A: The issue is intent. When you enter the United States with the intention to get married on an ESTA visa than that would be immigration fraud. However, if you just intend to visit him, but then change your mind and decide to get married, that would be permitted. However, you do have to tell the truth. Once you are inspected by customs guards at the border, they can ask you questions regarding your intent, and even demand that they look through your phone to see what your text or communication history is to determine your intent. Often times if they get suspicious they will take a passenger to the back room in demand to see their Facebook or social media account history. The important thing is is you cannot lie to immigration officials about your intent when entering the United States. Please excuse any typos I am dictating this into a microphone device thank you.

James L. Arrasmith
James L. Arrasmith pro label Lawyers, want to be a Justia Connect Pro too? Learn more ›
  • Immigration Law Lawyer
  • Sacramento, CA

A: No, you cannot enter the US on an ESTA and get married to a US citizen. ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) is a program that allows citizens of certain countries to enter the US for tourism, business, or transit purposes without obtaining a visa. However, ESTA does not allow for marriage or any other type of long-term stay in the US.

If you want to get married to a US citizen and live in the US, you would need to obtain a marriage-based immigrant visa. The two main options are the K-1 fiancé visa, which allows a US citizen to bring their foreign fiancé to the US to get married and apply for a green card, or the CR-1/IR-1 spousal visa, which allows a US citizen to petition for their foreign spouse to obtain a green card directly.

The fiancé visa process can take several months, and the spousal visa process can take over a year to complete, so it's important to plan accordingly. You should also be aware that the US government scrutinizes marriages between US citizens and foreign nationals to ensure that they are genuine and not just for the purpose of obtaining an immigration benefit. So, while your situation may be helpful in showing your genuine intent to get married, you will still need to provide strong evidence that your relationship is bona fide and that you did not enter into the marriage solely for immigration purposes.

It's recommended that you consult with an experienced immigration attorney to discuss your specific situation and determine the best course of action for you.

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