I have heard that it may be difficult to travel after I have married an American. Is that true?
Yes. It may not seem logical, but you have to be very careful about travel if you marry an American or green card holder.
If you are in F, J, or tourist status, you are expected to have a home abroad and the intent to return there. When you apply for a visa stamp at a U.S. embassy or consulate, you have to prove ties to your home country. Marriage to a U.S. citizen makes proving these ties difficult, because the assumption is that you will want to immigrate to the United States. If you need a new visa stamp in order to return to the United States, the likelihood that your will visa will be denied is strong—even if you plan to continue as a full-time student.
What if I have a valid student visa still in my passport? Could I travel in that case?
As long as you have a valid visa stamp, will be continuing as a full-time student, and have your I-20 or DS-2019 signed for travel by OIS, you may be able to re-enter the United States even if you have married a U.S. citizen.
However, if you have married a U.S. citizen and filed an I-485 to become a permanent resident, you will likely be denied re-entry into the United States on your student visa status.
Can I travel to Canada since I do not need a new visa stamp to return?
You may have an easier time returning from Canada. If your spouse is with you, however, you may face questions about your plans to remain in the United States.
What if we want to honeymoon in my home country, or get married there?
Unfortunately, both situations have the same problem. Any return to the United States after marrying an American raises questions about your intent to eventually return to your home country. You may have difficulty re-entering the United States in a nonimmigrant status after marriage to a U.S. citizen.
Can I leave the United States at all after I get married?
After you marry a U.S. citizen, you can apply for a green card. While USCIS is processing your application, you can apply for “advance parole,” which gives you permission to travel. Unless you have an emergency situation, USCIS will take two to three months to process your parole. Then you will be able to leave and re-enter the United States without having to apply for a new visa.
If your spouse has a green card and therefore is not a U.S. citizen, you are not eligible for advance parole.
My friend was married at a courthouse in the United States and then went home for a big ceremony. How was she able to do that?
That’s a good question. The civil marriage is the official one in the United States. Someone who wishes to have a civil ceremony and a religious ceremony could have the civil one in the United States and apply for the green card. Then she could get advance parole, travel home for the religious service, and return to the United States.