Can DACA Recipients Get Marriage Green Cards?

Updated on April 10, 2024

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, introduced in 2012, provides temporary protection from deportation and work authorization to nearly 800,000 eligible immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children. DACA recipients are eligible to transition to a green card, but one common question among DACA recipients is whether they can obtain a green card through marriage.

30 Second Recap:

DACA recipients can obtain a green card through marriage to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, but the process varies based on factors such as the spouse’s immigration status and the DACA recipient’s manner of entry into the U.S. Those who entered lawfully can apply for adjustment of status, while those who entered unlawfully must apply through consular processing and may face re-entry bars. The application process involves filing various forms and can take several months to over a year, with potential delays depending on individual circumstances.

Pathways to Green Card: The Role of Marriage

DACA recipients can potentially obtain a green card through marriage if they’re married to a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident. However, the process and requirements vary depending on factors such as the spouse’s immigration status and the DACA recipient’s manner of entry into the U.S.

If the DACA recipient entered the U.S. lawfully (i.e., inspected by an immigration officer, through the Visa Waiver Program, or by overstaying a valid visa without leaving the U.S.), they can apply for a green card from within the U.S. through “adjustment of status.”

Overcoming Obstacles: Unlawful Entry and Re-Entry Bars

DACA recipients who entered the U.S. unlawfully must apply for a green card from outside the U.S. using “consular processing” and meet the legal entry requirement. They can do this by applying for Advance Parole, which allows them to return to the U.S. after traveling abroad for specific purposes.

However, DACA recipients who applied for DACA more than 180 days after their 18th birthday and have never traveled on Advance Parole may face re-entry bars of three or ten years. They can avoid these bars by obtaining a Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver, which requires demonstrating extreme hardship if unable to re-enter the U.S. Regrettably, DACA recipients who entered the U.S. unlawfully more than once are permanently barred from re-entering the country and cannot apply for a waiver.

Application Process: Steps, Timeline, and Potential Delays

The first step in applying for a marriage green card is for the U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse to file Form I-130. Depending on the location of the application, additional forms such as Form I-485 or Form DS-260 may need to be filed. The process typically takes 8-14 months.

If the spouse is a permanent resident, the DACA recipient must wait for the I-130 request to be approved before filing Form I-485. If applying from abroad, Form DS-260 is filed with the State Department’s National Visa Center after the I-130 filing is approved, adding an extra 4-8 months to the process. A Form I-601A waiver application may be necessary to cure an unlawful entry and takes 4-6 months to process.

Final Thoughts

While DACA recipients can obtain a marriage green card, the process can be complex and depends on various factors. It’s crucial to understand the requirements and potential obstacles based on individual circumstances and to work with an experienced immigration attorney to navigate the process successfully.

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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.

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