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Immigration Issues/Marrying a foreign national then bringing her back to the United States on a tourist visa


I will be marrying my fiance in Mexico and then from there go on our honeymoon then return to the United States with her.  Will it be a problem for her to enter the United States on her tourist visa?  She has had this tourist visa her entire life, and has never overstayed her visa, or had any problems with the law.  Her parents own properties in the United States, and her step siblings as well as her extended family actually reside here as permanent residents.  She and her immediate family come here very frequently to shop, travel, etc, and they have always gone back to Mexico.   

Will it be a problem to get married in Mexico (civil and religious ceremonies) and then have her come here on a tourist visa, which lasts for six months, while we wait for her petition for spouse visa to go through?  Clearly if her tourist visa expires, she will leave the country until it gets approved.  She can also get a student visa as a backup plan in the next couple of months (she has already been accepted to a Ph.D. program) if we need to do that to allow her into the country.  

So, how long will it take to get an I-130 visa to get approved while we wait?

Will my being a federal government employee expedite the process (security clearance, adequate income, etc.)?  

Will the fact that I may be deployed in September 2011, and she will probably go back to Mexico at that time anyway while I am gone help my cause? (We are getting married in March)

Would it make any sense to skip the civil ceremony in Mexico and to just do it here?  (In Mexico you have to do a civil ceremony separate from the religious one to make it legal.  The religious one is not actually recognized by the state).  Her intent is to marry me, but not to stay here past the expiration of her tourist visa (six months).  

Would it be better to get the marriage certificate/license in Mexico, have her come on a tourist visa, and then apply for an I-130?  Is that legal?  

Ultimately, I would like to marry her and not have her wait in Mexico to get her visa approved, is there anything wrong with bringing her on her tourist visa. Will that have bad ramifications for getting her spouse visa approved?

Thank you for your help

Eileen Chun-Fruto, Los Angeles immigration attorney writes:

Thank you for your question.  I am glad to address your questions generally, but I must remind you that although I am an attorney, I am not YOUR attorney.  The information I am giving you is general information about the law.  If you would like specific information or advice, I am going to suggest that you make an appointment to come in, or call, to chat with us.

What you are asking about is VERY difficult when it comes to advising someone.  Here's why.  

US law assumes that any foreigner married to a US citizen INTENDS to apply for legal residence (the green card).  For most people, of course, this is true.  However, another part of US law says that someone who INTENDS to be a legal resident is not supposed to enter the USA on a tourist visa.  Such a person must enter with the green card.  If the person does not HAVE the green card, they cannot enter.

So after your marriage, your Mexican wife will be trying to enter the USA using a visitor (tourist) visa.  Her family and her prior immigration history do not matter.  She is married to you, a US citizen, and as you have said yourself, she is going to apply for a green card.  In such a situation, the US border guards are LIKELY to refuse her entry.  Now, you may ask, "how will the border guards know that she is married to an American?"  The only answer I can give you is: if the border guards know this, they are likely to refuse her entry.

If she is in the USA now, you may have other options but this is a VERY complex issue, and I cannot discuss such a complicated thing in an e-mail.  This is bordering on type of question that you need to discuss with someone who can hold an attorney-client privilege with you and the allexperts forum is only for general information.

If you would like to discuss this matter a bit more, I would suggest you contact my law partner, J Craig Fong, who handles the more complicated family matters in my office.   In the end, you may decide to work with an attorney closer to you but in the practice of immigration law, attorneys can handle cases from any State in the Union and even if the applicants are outside the US.  We would be happy to chat with you so you can gather the information to make the right decisions for you and your wife.

Best regards,

--Eileen Chun-Fruto
Fong & Chun, LLP
Los Angeles, California

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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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