Why can’t you plan to enter the US with a nonimmigrant visa and apply for a green card?

Understanding Nonimmigrant Visas: Why You Can't Enter the US on a Temporary Visa and Apply for a Green CardUS immigration law separates visas into three categories: nonimmigrant intent visa; immigrant-intent visa; and dual-intent visas. Nonimmigrant intent means that you intend to enter the US for a specific time for a specific approved purpose and then you will return to your home country. Immigrant intent means that you plan to enter the US to live in the US permanently. Dual-intent means that you will enter the US on a visa set for a specific time and for a specific purpose, but if you decide to try to remain permanently with a green card, it’s fine. 

The problem comes in the difference between nonimmigrant visas and immigrant visas. If you tell the US government that you’re going to leave, then the US will hold you to that, unless something changes after you enter the US. You’ve seen this situation before: Your friend has been dating someone from France for years. On this last trip to the US, the French citizen and your friend decide they cannot continue the long-distance relationship and they unexpectedly elope. With the help of an amazing legal team like ours, your friend applies for a green card for the spouse, and voila, the couple has the green card. 

But, you just met with my law firm and you don’t understand why this won’t work for you, a US citizen living in the US, and your Brazilian girlfriend. She’s not in the US yet, but she has a tourist visa in her passport. You want her to quit her job, close up her apartment, bring her dog, travel to the US, and stay because you will apply for a green card for her. That’s not allowed; whether it should be (yes!) is another issue. You simply cannot enter the US on a nonimmigrant (temporary) visa with the intention of applying for a green card to stay permanently. 

If your girlfriend happens to end up in the US, come talk to us. We will see if things have changed since she last entered so that the two of you would be eligible to apply for a marriage-based green card. 

If you need to talk to an experienced immigration attorney. We’ve helped hundreds of people traverse the complicated immigration and citizenship process. We would love to help you as well.  Call (617-766-0214) or email hello@cambridgeimmigrationlaw.com to get in touch.