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Immigration Issues/F-1 visa and marriage to a U.S. citizen


Hi Eileen,
   I'm on a F-1 student visa, studying in California. I just got married to a U.S. citizen this April. I now need to travel outside of the U.S. to conduct my research project. My F-1 visa is still valid till Sept 21st. Can I come back before Sept 21st on my current F-1 visa? If a year from now I decide to apply for a green card, will my entry on an F-1 visa after my marriage be a problem against getting a green card? Thank you very much for your time and effort!

Eileen Chun-Fruto, Los Angeles immigration attorney writes:

Dear Coco,

Travel on your student visa, if the visa is still valid, is allowed.  Obviously, now having a US citizen spouse can confuse the Customs and Border Protection if they think that you are not a bona fide student and "should" making the application to adjust your status to a greencard holder through your spouse.  

The bottom line is that just because you have a US citizen spouse, you can still choose to continue on using your F-1 especially if you are a researcher, say a post-doc or fellow or other post-grad researcher.  (IE not all students who marry US citizens have decided or will remain permanently in the US).  It will just be up to you to persuade the Customs and Border Protection agent that you are using the F-1 properly, that you are still a student and are returning to the US to continue studying.

Traveling on the student visa is still allowed, but remember that as a student, you are still bound to having only a NONIMMIGRANT intent.  If the USCIS views your marriage as conflicting with that NONIMMIGRANT intent, then you can have problems upon re-entry.  These are issues that the US customs and border protection should not confuse, but there are never guarantees on how a border agent can question you at the port of entry.

If you later decide to get a greencard, I see no issues with your continued use of the F-1 visa.  But remember that once you submit a greencard application through marriage, there will be a period of time when you cannot travel without a valid travel permit (advance parole) which does take a few months to issue.  So if you need to travel a lot, make sure you work with an attorney who can help you submit your documents appropriately and get that advance parole in your hands without delay.  

Everyone here at allexperts is asking really good questions about the concept of nonimmigrant versus dual intent.  These are concepts in immigration law that have significance on how a person can announce their intent upon entry and whether it's allowed to later change that intent.  (ie, B-2 to F-1 or F-1 to greencard, etc).  I hope to cover some of these subjects on our immigration blog:

Good luck,

Eileen Chun-Fruto

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Eileen Chun-Fruto


I can answer any employment-based immigration question including questions about PERM labor certifications, H-1B skilled workers, L-1A multinational managers or executives and L-1B specialized knowledge, R-1 and I-360 religious workers, investor cases (E Treaty Trader and E Treaty Investors and EB-5 "million dollar investors") and O-1 extraordinary ability cases. I can also answer any questions regarding family-based immigration, such as adoptions, waiver cases, consular processing (using foreign consulates to enter as an immigrant), marriage and fiance/fiancee cases, 245(i) cases, VAWA (Violence Against Women's Act), battered spouses, and Child Status Protection Act (CSPA).


I have over 12 years of experience in business and family immigration. I was a former law clerk for the Executive Officer for Immigration Review (the immigration courts) in San Francisco and I current serve as the California Service Center's (CSC) liaison on behalf of the Los Angeles County Bar Association. I represent individuals and corporations alike, ranging from professionals in the high tech, science, liberal arts fields. I have a special niche in working with start-up companies and individuals with more complex immigration issues.

Member, American Immigration Lawyers Association Member, Los Angeles County Bar Association, Executive Committee on Immigration

J.D., University of California at Davis - King Hall School of Law (1997) B.A., University of California at Irvine, cum laude (1994)

Awards and Honors
2005, 2006, 2007, 2008: Selected to Southern California Rising Star - Super Lawyers List (an honor shared by no more than 2.5% of the attorneys practicing in the entire Southern California region) Faculty/Moderator on various AILA and LACBA continuing legal education seminars in the following topics: H-1B, O-1, religious workers, business immigration visas

Past/Present Clients
My typical business clients can range from a start-up company, established engineering and software research and development companies, manufacturing, trade and distribution companies, public and private schools, and religious organizations. Family clients include spouses, parent-child petitions, siblings, naturalization, and most especially, representation of abandoned and neglected children viewed as orphans under the immigration law. I have represented many clients who relied on special provisions of the immigration law to preserve or "grandfather" benefits to family members in limited (and complicated) circumstances, to avoid re-application fees and longer waiting times.

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