“I am writing to you from Ireland. I am married to an American citizen. We were married in Ireland last summer, and we have been living here ever since. I have made several trips to the States for vacations but never lived there, and never overstayed my time. I promised my husband that we would move there after we got married, and that time is fast approaching as he doesn’t really enjoy living in Ireland, and I think that I would be happy in the U.S. I’m confused as to how to go about moving, though. Can I get my green card when I go there, or what should we do? I want to make sure everything is legal since I’m well aware of what can happen when the law isn’t followed."
“Speaking of which, I have a sister who has lived in Florida for close to nine years with no visa. She has been home twice on trips, the most recent being last year when our father died. She had no problem returning to the States with immigration on both occasions. I have told her it is dangerous to keep trying, but she’s planning a summer visit in August. Can people really travel back and forth like she’s been doing?”
As you are married to an American citizen, it’s not going to be difficult for you to obtain legal status in the U.S. However, it is very important that the process is undertaken at the American Embassy in Dublin, as Ireland is your current place of residence.
It’s a fairly straightforward process, but one that could take several months to complete from start to finish. As you mention that you’ll soon be making the move, it’s important that you get the ball rolling as soon as you can.
The primary piece of paperwork for family-based sponsorship, the I-130, can be filed at the embassy. This form can be filed outside the U.S. when applicants can prove that they’ve resided in a foreign consular district for the six month period preceding the filing. Obviously this is a requirement that you’ll be able to meet.
The paperwork is quite involved, and will also include an affidavit of support, in which your husband can demonstrate that he’ll be able to financially provide for you in the event of emergency. You’ll also have to undergo a medical exam to show that you do not have any communicable diseases, and there will be a personal interview at the embassy before your new status can be confirmed.
If all goes well and you’re approved, you’ll receive an immigrant visa stamp in your passport with six months of validity. You must enter the U.S. during this period in order to formally activate your new permanent resident status.
You should visit the U.S. Embassy’s website at Dublin.usembassy.gov. There’s plenty of useful information. The embassy also provides a phone number for further assistance.
As for your sister, she’s one lucky lady to have made those trips to and from the U.S., given that she’s out of status. You ask if people can do this and the answer is that they can, as our immigration checks and balances system is far from perfect, but more often than not they’re caught and subsequently barred from the U.S. for 10 years.
It’s gotten so bad lately that some undocumented traveling within the U.S. have even been subject to apprehension on trains and cars close to U.S. borders with Canada and Mexico. Your sister should think long and hard before making that trip home this summer, as her luck could well run out.