In what situations can DACA recipients apply for a green card through marriage?
Dear Newlywed Dreamer,
Congratulations on your recent wedding! Many Dreamers are in the same situation as you and are wondering if they, too, might be eligible for a green card through marriage.
To answer your question, there are multiple situations in which spouses with DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) may apply for marriage-based green cards. But the process will be tougher for some than for others. It generally boils down to three key factors:
1. Whether you’re married to a U.S. citizen or green card holder (permanent resident)
2. Whether you originally entered the United States legally or illegally (and if the latter, how many times?)
3. When you applied for DACA
Generally, if you are married to a U.S. citizen, you first entered the United States with a valid visa (or through the Visa Waiver Program), and then you overstayed, you should be able to apply for a marriage-based green card as if you had legal immigration status in the United States.
Things get much trickier if you entered the United States illegally.
If you’re fortunate enough to already have a travel permit, and you’re married to a U.S. citizen, you may be able to leave the United States for a short period of time, return legally, and then apply for a green card from within the United States without any special issues.
But most DACA recipients who entered the United States illegally don’t have a travel permit, in which case the only way to get a green card based on marriage — to a U.S. citizen or a green card holder (permanent resident) — is to return to your country of origin and apply through a U.S. embassy or consulate. That’s not a huge obstacle if you applied for DACA before or within 180 days after turning 18 — you’d be in the same shoes as any spouse applying for a green card from abroad. But if you applied for DACA after 180 days of turning 18, you must apply for a special waiver (Form I-601A) or you could be barred from returning to the United States for 3–10 years. And if you have entered the United States illegally more than once, then if you leave now you may be permanently barred from returning.
The other important thing to keep in mind is the waiting time: If you’re eligible for a green card and you’re married to a U.S. citizen, the whole process takes about 7–10 months. But if you’re married to a current green card holder (permanent resident), it could be 23–32 months until you get your own green card.
Read the full details in our guide to DACA Recipients and Marriage Green Cards. And know that Boundless can help most DACA recipients who are married to U.S. citizens and entered the United States with a valid visa.
Best of luck!