DACA Recipients and Marriage Green Cards


Can beneficiaries of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals get spousal visas?


Eligibility


If you are currently a DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) recipient and are married to a U.S. citizen or green card holder, you may be eligible for a marriage-based green card of your own.

This guide can help you understand your options, based on the most common situations. (Boundless also has detailed guides on the consequences of immigration violations for green card applicants and special considerations for undocumented spouses.)


Are You Married to a U.S. Citizen?


Did you have a valid visa when your parents originally brought you to the United States?

A DACA recipient who is married to a U.S. citizen and can prove that they “overstayed” their original visa should face no special hurdles in applying for a green card.

Let’s say you most recently entered the United States “with inspection” — meaning you were inspected by a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agent and had a valid visa — or entered under the Visa Waiver Program, which allows travelers from certain countries to temporarily visit the United States without a visa.

But then you “overstayed.” In other words, you remained in the United States after your original visa expired.

Your application process for a marriage-based green card should be no different than if you currently had legal immigration status. Unlike many of the scenarios below, you should not have to leave the United States, or apply for a special waiver of inadmissibility, no matter when you obtained DACA.

Under these circumstances, Boundless can help guide you through the entire marriage-based green card application process. Read more about what you get with Boundless, or get started today.


IMPORTANT: All of the following scenarios are more complex and likely require more extensive legal representation than the independent attorney review currently available through Boundless.


Did you enter the country illegally when your parents originally brought you to the United States?

If you are married to a U.S. citizen, and you entered the United States illegally, you may still be able to apply for a green card, but there are many complicating factors to keep in mind:

If you have a travel permit (officially called an “Advance Parole Travel Document”): You may be able to leave the United States, return legally (“with inspection”), and then apply for a marriage-based green card from within the United States.

If you applied for DACA before turning age 18 (or within 180 days after turning 18): You should be able to return to your country of origin and apply for a green card through a U.S. embassy or consulate, just as anyone would do if they were living abroad and applying for a green card based on marriage to a U.S. citizen.

If you have no travel permit and spent more than 180 days between turning 18 and applying for DACA: You are generally required to leave the United States to apply for a green card at a U.S. embassy or consulate — and you will also be subject to a bar from re-entering the United States, for up to 10 years.

To return to the United States without this years-long delay, before leaving you must first obtain a “Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver” (Form I-601A). To qualify for this waiver, you must prove to the U.S. government that your spouse would suffer from “extreme hardship” if you are not allowed to live together in the United States, and you must provide a compelling reason why you and your spouse cannot live together in your country of origin.

If you have entered the United States illegally more than once: You may be permanently barred from re-entering the United States, with no possibility of a waiver.


Are You Married to a Green Card Holder?


If you are married to a U.S. green card holder (a permanent resident but not a U.S. citizen), you won’t be able to apply for a green card from inside the United States — even if you and your parents had valid visas when you first arrived, and even if you have a travel permit.

If you applied for DACA before turning age 18 (or within 180 days after turning 18): You should be able to return to your country of origin and apply for a green card through a U.S. embassy or consulate, just as anyone would do if they were living abroad and applying for a green card based on marriage to a U.S. green card holder.

This process, however, takes significantly longer than for spouses of U.S. citizens — currently about 23-32 months. This is because you will have to wait for a visa to become available in the visa bulletin before the final processing of your green card application can be completed in your country of origin.

If you spent more than 180 days between turning age 18 and applying for DACA: You must leave the United States to apply for a green card at a U.S. embassy or consulate — but you will also be subject to a bar from re-entering the United States, for up to 10 years. Just as if you were married to a U.S. citizen and entered the United States illegally (see above), you therefore must also obtain a “Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver” (Form I-601A) in order to leave and re-enter the United States without this years-long delay.

The whole process will take significantly longer than for spouses of U.S. citizens, however — currently about 23-32 months. This is because you will have to wait for a visa to become available in the visa bulletin before applying for the waiver and then traveling back to your country of origin.

If you have entered the United States illegally more than once: You may be permanently barred from re-entering the United States, with no possibility of a waiver.


More Resources


As mentioned earlier, unless you had a valid visa when your parents originally brought you to the United States, and you are married to a U.S. citizen, your situation will likely require more extensive legal representation than an independent attorney review from Boundless.

The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) can help you find a licensed immigration attorney near you. Alternatively, the U.S. Department of Justice accredits certain nonprofit organizations that provide low-cost or free immigration-related legal services.



Boundless can help most DACA recipients who are married to U.S. citizens and entered the United States with a valid visa.