Information for International Students Who Marry U.S. Citizens

Frequently Asked Questions

Now that I am married to a U.S. citizen, do I have a right to remain in the United States?

Marriage to a U.S. citizen alone does not grant you any immigration benefits. It will likely make you eligible for immigration benefits, but you must file the necessary paperwork with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in order to secure the right to remain in the United States.

I have married a U.S. citizen and want to stay in the U.S. What should I do now?

You have the option of becoming a U.S. permanent resident (getting your "green card"). The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has excellent information on their website. We suggest that you read the following pages:

Read this information, then write down your questions. You should also review all of the instructions for the forms you must submit. The instructions include important information not found elsewhere about how to complete each form as well as the numerous supporting documents you will be required to submit with some of the forms. Be sure to write down any questions you have about the forms or the documents you must submit with the forms.

If you hold J status and are subject to the two-year home residency requirement, you must fulfill that requirement or obtain a waiver before you can file for permanent residence.

Now that I have read the USCIS website I have several questions. Who can answer them?

We advise you to contact an attorney who practices immigration law, schedule an appointment, and bring your list of questions to the meeting.

How can I find a good lawyer?

The Washington State Bar Association is the legal association for all lawyers licensed to practice in Washington State. Its Lawyer Directory allows you to search by location, status (choose Active) and specialty (choose Immigration and Naturalization). You may find the directory at:

You may also look in the yellow pages of your phone directory.

What can ISS do to help me?

ISS can provide information and advising regarding your F-1 or J-1 status, but we cannot assist you in filing any paperwork related to your permanent residence application. If you marry a U.S. citizen, you should seek the advice of an immigration attorney.

Should I tell the UW that I have married a U.S. citizen?

We need to know if your immigration status changes. Three offices need to know: International Students Services, your Payroll Coordinator (who will update your I-9 if you are an employee), and the Residence Classification Office.

Now that I have married a U.S. citizen, am I required to become a permanent resident?

No. You are not required to apply for permanent residence, unless you plan to reside in the U.S. on a permanent basis.

Can I become a permanent resident of the U.S. if my spouse is a permanent resident but not a U.S. citizen?

Yes. However, you should seek the advice from an attorney regarding this procedure, as it is a very long process.

Can I continue to study at the UW?

Yes.

Can I now pay resident tuition?

It depends. Please contact the UW Residence Classification Office, 264 Schmitz Hall.

If I travel, will I have any problems returning to the U.S?

You may. We recommend that you seek the advice of your immigration attorney regarding this matter.

Once you are married to a U.S. citizen, you may have difficulties returning to the United States because the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (USCBP) may think you have the intent to immigrate to the United States to be with your U.S. citizen spouse. This is not permitted for individuals in F-1 or J-1 status.

Also, if you chose to file paperwork to become a permanent resident while in the United States (Adjustment of Status), you cannot travel on your F or J visa. Doing so would cause your I-485 Application to Adjust Status to Permanent Resident to be abandoned and denied. Instead, you will need to file an I-131 Application for Advance Parole and wait for it to be approved. You can travel freely during the validity period of your Advance Parole document.

If you have any problems with your F or J status, you should speak with an immigration attorney before filing any applications or before traveling abroad.

My F or J status is about to expire or has expired. Should I leave the country and re-enter as a visitor so that there are no problems, and then file for permanent residence?

Contrary to popular belief, individuals may not enter the country as a "visitor" (B visa or Visa Waiver Program) with the intent to file for permanent residence while in the United States. Doing so may constitute fraud and could create serious consequences for future immigration benefits. If you have let your F or J status lapse or it is close to expiring, you should seek the counsel of an immigration attorney before taking any steps to remedy the situation.

How will my permanent residence application affect my SEVIS record?

ISS will keep your SEVIS record in "Active" status until of the following events:

  • You provide ISS with a copy of your permanent residence card
  • You enter the U.S. using your Advance Parole document
  • You do not meet the full time registration requirement

Although we will keep your record in Active status until one of these events occurs, the USCIS may still find that you have violated your status if you take certain steps as part of your Adjustment application. Speak with an immigration attorney if you are concerned that an action may lead to a violation of status.

Can I now be a part-time student?

You should remain a full-time student at the UW until your attorney advises you otherwise.

Can I continue to work on campus?

Yes, as long as you are maintaining your F-1 or J-1 status you can continue to work on the UW campus. If you do not maintain your F-1 or J-1 status, then you should consult with your attorney regarding your eligibility to work.