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Confusion on ESTA VWP, marriage and consequence

Confusion on ESTA VWP, marriage and consequence

Old Feb 24th 2020, 3:55 pm
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Default Confusion on ESTA VWP, marriage and consequence

Hi all,
Please bear with me, I have just joined and this is my first thread

I will try and keep this short and sweet and allow the advice to flow.
Me and my partner are exploring the VISA routes of marriage. I understand the timings for K1 fiance visa, also looked into cr-1 visa... long

IF I were to marry my partner on an ESTA - what are the chances in 2020 of immigration pulling me up on this. I know between the lines it can be a short cut to permanent residency, but I fear the risks involved could be detrimental to our future. Our friends have gone down the route of marriage on an ESTA and are currently applying for the wife's green card - although they are married and filed for green card before her 90 days were up I have seen that is no guarantee? I am terrified to mess up our chance of a life together in the US - but if there is anyone on here that can shed some light, have personal experience through this route or can categorically give me the thumbs up OR down - I would send a virtual hug!

So to end this with my actual question: Can I go and marry my guy on my ESTA, and what are my options during my 90 day stay?

Thanks,
Sian
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Old Feb 24th 2020, 3:58 pm
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Default Re: Confusion on ESTA VWP, marriage and consequence

It is perfectly legal to married during a VWP visit to the US, I did so myself. Beyond that, there are no categorical answers.

FWIW after I got married I left the US and applied for a CR-1.
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Old Feb 24th 2020, 4:03 pm
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Default Re: Confusion on ESTA VWP, marriage and consequence

Hi, and welcome to BE.

Originally Posted by sianlk View Post
If I were to marry my partner on an ESTA - what are the chances in 2020 of immigration pulling me up on this. I know between the lines it can be a short cut to permanent residency, but I fear the risks involved could be detrimental to our future.
So you're in the UK now right? You cannot enter the US on the VWP if your intent is actually to stay permanently, that's illegal. Risk of being caught may be small, but given the potential consequence is a lifetime ban from the US, I personally wouldn't have said it's worth risking.

Marrying on the VWP isn't an issue at all, it's just the intention to stay permanently afterwards that's the problem.
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Old Feb 24th 2020, 4:06 pm
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Default Re: Confusion on ESTA VWP, marriage and consequence

Originally Posted by christmasoompa View Post
Hi, and welcome to BE.



So you're in the UK now right? You cannot enter the US on the VWP if your intent is actually to stay permanently, that's illegal. Risk of being caught may be small, but given the potential consequence is a lifetime ban from the US, I personally wouldn't have said it's worth risking.
Absolutely valid point - I am wondering though if I can marry on my ESTA and then return home, but then I am to wait up to 12 months on a CR-1, is this correct? If so, am i allowed to visit my husband?!
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Old Feb 24th 2020, 4:08 pm
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Default Re: Confusion on ESTA VWP, marriage and consequence

Originally Posted by sianlk View Post
Absolutely valid point - I am wondering though if I can marry on my ESTA and then return home, but then I am to wait up to 12 months on a CR-1, is this correct? If so, am i allowed to visit my husband?!
Yes, absolutely you can visit. This recent thread has some useful info in - Staying in the US as UKC

Although the difference with that was that the OP was already in the US, you obviously couldn't claim you didn't intend to stay given you're asking about it ahead of time! But still useful reading anyway.

HTH, good luck and congrats in advance.
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Old Feb 24th 2020, 4:09 pm
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Default Re: Confusion on ESTA VWP, marriage and consequence

Originally Posted by sianlk View Post
Absolutely valid point - I am wondering though if I can marry on my ESTA and then return home, but then I am to wait up to 12 months on a CR-1, is this correct? If so, am i allowed to visit my husband?!
Yes, you can visit. There is a persistent but totally false myth that you cannot visit the US while you have a CR-1 (or other visa type) in progress. I would argue that having a visa in progress proves that you understand the process for obtaining a visa and are "doing things the right way", and are not an increased risk of over-staying. That said, I suspect that not all immigration officers agree with me.

Last edited by Pulaski; Feb 24th 2020 at 4:12 pm.
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Old Feb 24th 2020, 4:17 pm
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Default Re: Confusion on ESTA VWP, marriage and consequence

Originally Posted by Pulaski View Post
Yes, you can visit. There is a persistent but totally false myth that you cannot visit the US while you have a CR-1 (or other visa type) in progress. I would argue that having a visa in progress proves that you understand the process for obtaining a visa and are "doing things the right way", and are not an increased risk of over-staying. That said, I suspect that not all immigration officers agree with me.
So you said you married on an ESTA and then came home - what was your next move? How long was the process, I assume you now live in the US?
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Old Feb 24th 2020, 4:29 pm
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Default Re: Confusion on ESTA VWP, marriage and consequence

Originally Posted by sianlk View Post
So you said you married on an ESTA and then came home - what was your next move? How long was the process, I assume you now live in the US?
It took me about six months to get my visa from the time my wife submitted the application for the first step of the process - it was a DCF, and that was in 2001. I hear that the process is now taking longer, and that DCF's are about to end.
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Old Feb 24th 2020, 5:05 pm
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Default Re: Confusion on ESTA VWP, marriage and consequence

I also got married on an ESTA visit. It’s a non-issue. Perfectly legal. I even had my wedding dress with me.
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Old Feb 24th 2020, 5:40 pm
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Default Re: Confusion on ESTA VWP, marriage and consequence

Originally Posted by steph0scope View Post
I also got married on an ESTA visit. It’s a non-issue. Perfectly legal. I even had my wedding dress with me.
did you stay?
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Old Feb 24th 2020, 5:49 pm
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Default Re: Confusion on ESTA VWP, marriage and consequence

Originally Posted by steph0scope View Post
I also got married on an ESTA visit. It’s a non-issue. Perfectly legal. I even had my wedding dress with me.
While I agree it is legal, I did it myself, I wouldn't agree it's a non-issue. It could be as much of an issue as the individual CBP officer chooses to make it, and unfortunately that introduces an element of the unknown into the proceedings.
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Old Feb 24th 2020, 5:57 pm
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Default Re: Confusion on ESTA VWP, marriage and consequence

Originally Posted by sianlk View Post
did you stay?
Nope. Wedding in US, returning to UK immigration issues

HTH.
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Old Feb 24th 2020, 6:00 pm
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Default Re: Confusion on ESTA VWP, marriage and consequence

Originally Posted by lansbury View Post
While I agree it is legal, I did it myself, I wouldn't agree it's a non-issue. It could be as much of an issue as the individual CBP officer chooses to make it, and unfortunately that introduces an element of the unknown into the proceedings.
Agreed. On my very first visit to the US, on arrival I was lectured forcefully by an immigration officer at Podunk International Airport, that it "wasn't legal to get married on a VWP visit". I protested equally forcefully that I wasn't going to get married while in the US that week, and was allowed in, but it did rattle me.

To this day I am unsure whether the officer was ignorant of the law, or deliberately lying to me, or whether had just omitted "... and seeking to remain".
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Old Feb 24th 2020, 8:08 pm
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Default Re: Confusion on ESTA VWP, marriage and consequence

Maybe it'd be easier to pick a visa method first and foremost (as in married vs fiancé), then you'll be about to figure out all the appropriate steps for that route? There's no "options" for us during the 90 day VWP either way, as trying to stay over that limit can just put everything in jeopardy. Picking a method will allow you to get everything ready in advance.

I'm currently in the process of CR-1; we married in Illinois last June, sent the petition off in the July, and are still waiting for approval at the moment. USA is a lot easier to get married in than the UK. For my wedding trip I was "visiting fiancé" and for a subsequent trip I was "visiting wife" - the latter I had more questions from the officer but they were friendly about it. I haven't tested the waters that much though as my wife has been visiting here more while we wait as she currently has more free time, and she's had more grilling questions at the UK border than I ever had in Chicago lol.
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Old Feb 24th 2020, 8:59 pm
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Default Re: Confusion on ESTA VWP, marriage and consequence

Originally Posted by sianlk View Post
did you stay?
No. Returned home and applied for a CR-1. I am now in the process of naturalizing.
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