How to Change Status From H-1B to a Marriage Green Card
Many people who are in the United States on an H-1B visa end up falling in love with - and marrying - a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (LPR).
Often, changing status from an H-1B visa to a marriage green card is confusing.
Are you allowed to change your H-1B to a green card, and if so, what's the process like?
This guide explains everything you need to know about changing status from an H-1B visa to a marriage green card.
How to Change Status From H-1B to a Marriage Green Card
Many people find it's easier to hire an immigration attorney to change status from an H-1B visa to a marriage green card. Because U.S. immigration law is notoriously complex, and because a simple error can get a petition kicked back for corrections (or worse, rejected), you may prefer to work with an immigration lawyer, too. Though there's never any guarantee on how a petition will turn out, working with an immigration attorney can help smooth out the process and take some of the weight off your shoulders.
What is an H-1B Visa?
The H-1B visa is a nonimmigrant visa that allows skilled workers to come to the United States to work in specialty occupations. A specialty occupation is one that requires at least a bachelor's degree or its equivalent in a specific field. Some examples of positions that typically qualify as specialty occupations include engineers, accountants, and teachers.
These visas are also available to Department of Defense researchers and fashion models of distinguished merit and ability.
To qualify for an H-1B visa, you must first have a job offer from a U.S. employer. Your employer must then obtain a labor condition application (LCA) from the Department of Labor. The LCA is used to determine whether there are any American workers who are qualified and available to do the job you're being hired for, and whether your working conditions will meet certain standards.
What is a Marriage Green Card?
A marriage green card allows the spouse of a U.S. citizen or LPR to live and work in the United States. To get a marriage green card, you must be married to a U.S. citizen or LPR and go through the formal process of applying for a green card. Then, if you qualify, the U.S. government will give you a conditional green card. A conditional green card lets you live or work anywhere you want in the U.S., but it hinges on you meeting certain conditions; namely, you typically must remain married to the same person you married to qualify for the green card in the first place.
A conditional green card lasts for two years; before those two years have elapsed, you must petition the U.S. government to remove the conditions. If you fail to ask to remove the conditions in time, you can lose your lawful resident status; then, you become deportable from the United States.
What is a "Dual Intent" Visa?
A dual intent visa is a visa that allows you to enter the United States for one purpose (such as working) and with the ultimate goal of permanently immigrating to the country.
The H-1B visa is a dual intent visa. That means that if you come to the United States on an H-1B visa, you can have the intention of immigrating (getting a green card) and still be eligible for the visa. In contrast, some other types of visas - such as the tourist visa - do not allow dual intent.
Can I Get Married While I'm on an H-1B Visa?
You can get married while you're on an H-1B visa, but it won't change your immigration status automatically. To change your status from an H-1B visa to a marriage green card, you'll need to go through the process of applying for a green card.
What Happens if I Marry a U.S. Citizen While I Have an H-1B Visa?
If you marry a U.S. citizen while you have an H-1B visa, you can begin the process of applying for a green card. You'll need to go through the same steps as anyone else applying for a green card, which you can learn about in the later section, "Steps to Getting a Marriage Green Card if You Have an H-1B Visa."
What Happens if I Marry a Lawful Permanent Resident While I Have an H-1B Visa?
If you marry a lawful permanent resident (LPR) while you have an H-1B visa, you may apply for a green card; your process is the same as anyone else who has gotten married and qualifies for one. Learn more about how to get a green card after an H-1B visa in the following section.
Steps to Getting a Marriage Green Card if You Have an H-1B Visa
If you came to the United States on an H-1B visa, you may be eligible to apply for a green card after marrying a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident. To do so, you may wish to work with an immigration attorney who understands the process of changing status from an H-1B nonimmigrant to a green card holder - and naturally, you must marry a citizen or LPR.
The first step is to file a petition with USCIS, which your attorney will do using Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative. Your spouse will need to sign the form and include evidence that the two of you are married - for example, a copy of your marriage certificate.
Your spouse will also need to prove his or her U.S. citizenship or lawful permanent resident status to USCIS. After your attorney files your petition, USCIS will review it and decide whether to approve it. If the petition is approved, USCIS will send you a notice that says you can apply for a green card.
The next step is to file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, with USCIS. You'll need to include evidence that you're eligible for a green card as well as proof of your H-1B status (such as a copy of your I-94, Arrival/Departure Record). USCIS will then schedule an interview with you and your spouse, during which you'll have the opportunity to discuss the details of your relationship and marriage. If USCIS approves your application, you'll receive a green card in the mail.
Can You Get Married Just to Get a Green Card?
It's important to note that you cannot get married just to get a green card. If USCIS suspects that your marriage is not genuine, it may deny your application. Getting married just to obtain an immigration benefit is against the law.
Penalties for Immigration Fraud Related to Marriage Green Cards
If USCIS finds that you've entered into a marriage for the purpose of getting a green card, you could be permanently barred from getting a green card or any other immigration benefit in the future. You may also lose your H-1B status, be fined, imprisoned, or all.
Related: Common immigration lawyer fees
Do You Need to Talk to an Immigration Attorney About Changing From an H-1B Visa to a Marriage Green Card?
If you arrived in the United States on an H-1B visa but have since gotten married (or you’re thinking about getting married) to a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, we may be able to help you change your status. Call our office today to schedule your consultation with an experienced professional who can give you the guidance you need.