Can my undocumented partner be legalized?
"I have been working in the U.S. for nearly two years on an H-1B visa.  I have a girlfriend for the past year who has been living here illegally for four years. I have a good job and my employers are happy with my work – they said they would happily renew my visa when it comes up for renewal next year, and even sponsor me for a green card.

“My questions concern my girlfriend. We are thinking about getting married. If we do, could she become legal through my H visa? And if I get a green card, would she also be eligible for one? She hasn’t been home in years and would like to return for a visit, but we are both committed to staying in the U.S. for the long term.”

Though you both want to stay here for the future, from the information you’ve provided her legal status will likely remain as it is, even though you are legal and have the opportunity of employment sponsorship for a green card.

Your girlfriend’s long-term undocumented status here is a real problem as far as obtaining legality for her in the future.  H-1B holders are entitled to sponsor spouses, but not those who are out of status here.  (Spouses of H-1B holders are issued H-4 visas, but these do not permit the holder to legally work.)

You’ll run into the same problem if you apply for a green card too.  Though you are undoubtedly eligible, she wouldn’t be permitted to join you as a spouse.   Only American citizens are permitted to sponsor undocumented spouses for green cards.

Your girlfriend is obviously in a tough bind given her status. The problem is that any visa she’d be eligible for – for instance, as the spouse of a green card applicant – would require a trip abroad for processing, and this would trigger an automatic ban of 10 years from the U.S. given the amount of time she’s spent here.