View Full Version : The #1 Question Current F-1’s Have When They’re About to Get Married to a U.S. Citize

03-09-2016, 05:19 PM
Living in the U.S. as an international student can be tough since everything may be new to you. However, slowly but surely, you start to call this place away from family your new “home.” You’ve grown accustomed to the new culture, you have a circle of friends you enjoy spending time with, and you even found a marriage partner who happens to be a US Citizen. As much as you miss your home country, you feel there are more opportunities for a brighter future here in the U.S.

Now for those who’ve been trying to gather information regarding how F1s can obtain Green Card through marriage to a US Citizen, you may have already realized that…

1) your friends, although helpful in providing some guidance, aren’t the most reliable source
2) USCIS website isn’t user friendly and seems like its purpose is to confuse you more
3) immigration firms, although they often have helpful FAQ sections, their goal is to reel you in for a consultation so that they can retain your case and charge you $1000+ application filing fee that you could’ve most likely done yourself and
4) online forums are too much to scroll through and are often entered by people whose answers are based solely on their own experience.
Yes, it can be frustrating and confusing. But that’s why I decided to write this. Although you will not find instructions on how to properly file for a Green Card in this post, I’m sure you’ll find this useful since you’ve most likely wondered, at one point or another, about the following:

Do I still need to maintain my current F-1 status until I officially get my green card?
Here’s the short answer to this (but you should read on for details):

Although it is STRONGLY recommended to maintain your F-1 status until you become a Lawful Permanent Resident, it is NOT mandatory. It is OKAY if you’ve become “out of status” as long as your Green Card is ultimately approved.

Now for anyone who is not an F-1, he/she may be thinking - “Why would anyone question whether they need to keep a valid F-1 status if their green card hasn’t been approved yet?” It’s completely natural to think that way since an invalid F-1 status would make the person, well… “illegal” or “out of status.”

But for the F-1’s reading this, the primary reason for wanting to know the answer to this question is to understand all the options that are available to them so that they have all the information they need to make the best decision(s) for their situation. While many of you may be wondering out of pure curiosity, there are some who have other personal/situational reason(s) that makes the need for this question answered so urgent as they plan for marriage. Here are some of the most common situations I found and they usually fall into the following two categories. Do either of these sound like what you’re going through?

For whatever personal reason, you are having a hard time maintaining your F-1 status (see examples below). You may be wondering if it’s necessary to maintain your status since you heard from others and/or through online sources that it is okay to give up your F-1 status if you’re going to get married to a U.S. citizen and file for green card anyway.

Common reasons:
1. $$$ - Tuition is crazy expensive and money is tight
2. You (or your parents) can afford the tuition, but why would you pay so much if getting a green card can possibly give you the benefit of a cheaper tuition and/or financial support. **Talk to your academic advisor about qualifications for in-state tuition and for FAFSA once a F-1 becomes a legal permanent resident.
3. You’re a party animal and you just don’t want to study anymore.


Whether 1) you’re almost done with your academic program or 2) you’re done with your academic program and now working under OPT that’s about to expire, you may be wondering if it is absolutely necessary to maintain your F-1 status by reapplying to another program just for the sake of maintaining your F-1 status. The process is a pain in the ass and reapplying to a new program would mean more money out of pocket for school tuition.

Like I mentioned earlier in my answer above, although it is STRONGLY recommended to maintain your F-1 status until you become a Lawful Permanent Resident, it is NOT mandatory. USCIS will not penalize, and will instead “forgive” you for being out of status as long your green card application after marriage to a US Citizen is ultimately approved.

However, there are always the “what ifs…”

For example…what if you’ve failed to maintain F-1 status and became out of status while the green card application is pending and your marriage goes downhill. If either one of you decides not to proceed or cooperate with the green card process, the application will ultimately get denied, leaving you out-of-status/illegal.

If it were up to me, I would make every attempt to minimize any risk I may have by keeping my legal status valid. Having the peace of mind knowing that you are in legal status during the entire period will definitely keep a load of stress and anxiety off the shoulders. Thanks for reading and feel free to leave a comment if you found this useful.

NOTE: This article is based on my experience of being in the immigration field for 10+ years as a Senior Paralegal and does not constitute legal advice and/or representation. I recommend you to consult an attorney if you require legal advice.