Can DACA Recipients Get Marriage Green Cards?

Updated on January 7, 2024

At a Glance

  • DACA recipients married to U.S. citizens may qualify for a marriage green card.
  • Those who entered the U.S. legally can pursue permanent resident status through the standard adjustment of status process.
  • If the DACA recipient entered unlawfully, the process may be more intricate, potentially involving leaving the U.S. and meeting legal entry requirements.
  • Provisional waivers might help overcome bars for those who entered unlawfully, but permanent bars due to multiple unlawful entries may have no waiver option.

Being a DACA recipient can be beneficial because it prevents some unauthorized immigrants from being deported. But the DACA program doesn’t allow its recipients to become permanent residents, so all you really have is protection against deportation. Can DACA recipients get marriage green cards, though? If you’re protected under the DACA program and fell in love with someone in the U.S. and wonder whether marriage green cards can be granted to you, keep on reading. We’ve got all the information you need.

Are DACA Recipients Eligible for Marriage Green Cards?

Did you fall in love with someone who is a U.S. citizen and you have plans on getting married? Are you also a DACA recipient at the same time? Well, the good news is that through marriage, you will become eligible for a marriage green card, despite the DACA recipient status. You can also be married to a lawful permanent resident and you will obtain the same benefits. You should only be aware that your partner’s immigration status will influence your application process. Whether you entered the U.S. unlawfully or lawfully will also have an influence on the process.

How Can DACA Recipients Get a Green Card If They Are Married to a U.S. Citizen?

Are you married to a citizen of the U.S.? If that’s the case, you can prove overstaying your original visa if you are a DACA recipient and deal with no issues when you want to submit a green card application.

For instance, if you entered the U.S. “with inspection” by undergoing inspection by an agent of the U.S. Customs and Border protection while having a valid visa or you entered via a Visa Waiver Program yet you overstay your visa, you should still be able to apply. The process will be the same as if you had a legal immigration status at the moment.

Also, it doesn’t matter when you got your DACA recipient status – you should still not have to apply for a special inadmissibility waiver or leave the United States. Meanwhile, things will be a bit different when you enter the U.S. illegally and attempt to get a marriage visa.

Overall, if you are married to a U.S. citizen, here is how things should go for you:

Having Entered the U.S. Legally

If you entered the United States legally, you will not have to be worried about the application process. In order to get permanent resident status, one should have entered the U.S. lawfully. One way to enter the U.S. lawfully is through the Visa Waiver Program, and the other is by being inspected by a CBP officer or having a valid visa.

When a DACA recipient enters the U.S. legally, he/she can still end up overstaying the visa – i.e., staying in the U.S. even after the expiration of the document. This way, they become undocumented. Luckily, if they didn’t leave the U.S. since they entered lawfully for the first time, these immigrants will still be able to meet the lawful entry requirement. When getting married to a U.S. citizen, you will then be able to go through the normal adjustment of status application process, meaning that there will be no difference between your process and the process of different applicants.

Having Entered the U.S. Illegally

Even if you entered the U.S. unlawfully, you should still be able to apply for a marriage green card. Entering the U.S. illegally means that you entered without having a visa waiver approved, or without having a valid visa. In this case, you can submit the application, but you must expect a more complicated process. This is because you will have to be outside the U.S. in order to apply. On top of that, you will have to meet the legal entry requirement first and only apply afterward.

I-601A Provisional Waiver

If you applied for DACA before you turned 18 or within 180 days after you turned 18 years of age, things will not be that difficult. You will have the chance to go back to your home country and apply for a green card through a U.S. consulate or embassy. Basically, this will occur the same way it would for any other person who lives abroad and applies for a marriage-based green card.

The process will take a bit longer, though, about 27-46 months. The reason for this is that you need to wait until a visa becomes available in the visa bulletin. At least you have peace of mind that you will get a green card at one point.

Things can still get more complicated in some situations. For instance, if you submitted your DACA application more than 180 days after you turned 18 years of age and you never traveled on Advance Parole, it will influence the process. A “re-entry bar” is usually imposed by the U.S. Government on anyone who has been living in the U.S. for over 180 days as an illegal immigrant.

That being said, individuals who have been in the U.S. illegally for 180 to 365 days will deal with a three-year bar from coming back to the United States. However, people who have been in the U.S. unlawfully for more than a year will be barred from entering the U.S. for ten years. There is only one way to work around this issue, and that is by getting a waiver.

An I-601A provisional waiver will help you avoid the three-year or ten-year bar. This is because the document is a “Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver”. In order to obtain it, you will have to submit Form I-601A to USCIS. There are some things you will have to include in the application to make sure you obtain the waiver, though.

For instance, you have to prove that not entering the United States for that period will cause “extreme hardship”. You will also have to properly explain why it’s not possible for you and your spouse to live in your home country for the time being, until the expiration of the bar finally happens.

It can be pretty difficult to complete the application. For this reason, if you wish to maximize your success rate, you should hire an attorney and get his/her help. Make sure to get in contact with a private immigration attorney or a legal aid organization in your area so you can do this.

Permanent Barring from the U.S.

There are worst-case scenarios too, and that is when your barring is longer than three or ten years. In some instances, people get banned from entering the United States permanently. It happens when you enter the U.S. illegally more than once.

The bad news in this situation is that you cannot apply for a waiver, so there is no way to escape the bar. This is why you should never enter the U.S. unlawfully more than once if you want to live in the U.S. with your spouse.

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DACA recipients can get marriage green cards if they marry a U.S. citizen, but it all depends on several factors. If you enter the U.S. unlawfully once, you can get a waiver and avoid the bar, but if you enter more than once, it will result in permanent barring. You need to take everything into account before applying for a marriage-based green card – so, hopefully, this guide was informative enough.

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Frank Gogol

I’m a firm believer that information is the key to financial freedom. On the Stilt Blog, I write about the complex topics — like finance, immigration, and technology — to help immigrants make the most of their lives in the U.S. Our content and brand have been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and more.