Julia and Steven have been dating for more than a couple of years. Julia lived in Korea and Steven visited her frequently. But the long-distance relationship was taking a toll on both of them. Not only was it expensive, it was simply tiring to be in a 12 hour flight every few months. So, when Julia came to visit Steven in America, Steven proposed. "Will you marry me?" Julia timidly answered, "Yes, but not yet."
There was no doubt that Julia loved Steven and they were in a committed relationship. Steven was ready to petition Julia for the marriage-based immigration case. But what worried Julia was that she felt she really didn't know Steven because they were in a long-distance relationship. They saw each other a couple of weeks at a time and anyone can be in their best behavior for a couple of weeks. Julia wanted to spend more time together near Steven and see if they are really compatible. But Julia had come to the U.S. with a tourist visa and her time was running out. She was only allowed to stay in the U.S. for a maximum period of six (6) months under her tourist (B-2) visa. Now what?
3 Options When Marriage Must Be Postponsed:
1. Before her B-2 status expires, she can apply to change her status in the U.S. For example, from B-2, tourist status, she can apply to go to a school and once accepted by the school, she can apply for a student status, F-1. There are other nonimmigrant status she can apply for such as E-2 or H1B. There are certain qualifications she must meet but it is possible.
2. She can go back to Korea and apply for a different visa from Korea. As above, she can apply for student visa, F-1 or E-2, or H1B from Korea. Once she obtains the visa, she can come back to the U.S. with the new visa.
3. If, for whatever reason, she misses the deadline and ends up staying in the U.S. after the valid period of stay, her options are limited. Considering that Steven is a U.S. citizen, Julia can continue to stay in the U.S. and once she marries Steven, he can still petition for her green card.
Julia should do everything she can to maintain a legal status in the U.S. While the third option is available, it is not recommended that she "overstays" her validity period and continues to stay in the U.S. illegally. She would be considered an illegal alien at that point. And, while love may seem unfaltering and solid, tomorrow does not always promise happily ever afters. If Julia ends up overstaying beyond her validity period and ends up not marrying Steven, then, under the current immigration law, she will have no means to recover her legal status.
There are dire consequences in her decision and time is a very important factor. For this reason, your best bet is to meet with an experienced immigration attorney as soon as possible to consider all the options to make an informed decision.