Immigrants who wish to stay in the U.S. permanently should avoid EWI at all costs.
There are few ways a foreign national can stay in the U.S. permanently. Most common ways of obtaining green card in the U.S. are through family relations or employment. Some immigrants who come to the U.S. lawfully (through a visa) or unlawfully (Enter Without Inspection) hope that someday they will be eligible to apply for a green card and eventually become U.S. citizens. Some hope that they will find a sponsoring employer; others hope to find their soul mate who also happens to be a U.S. citizen.
The green card (or Adjustment of Status) process, especially through a U.S. spouse, is fairly simple; however, there could be two similar scenarios with two very different outcomes.
Scenario #1: Boy comes to the U.S. on a student (or any other) visa.
Scenario #2: Boy enters the U.S. without inspection (EWI).
In both scenarios, boy meets girl, who happens to be a U.S. citizen, boy falls in love with the girl (because love is the right reason to get married), boy proposes to the girl and the girl says “yes!” They have a gorgeous wedding and after their honeymoon, they begin gathering all required documents to file the Adjustment of Status petition.
Although, situations are very similar, boy in the scenario #1 will have an easier time and a greater chance of being approved than the boy in scenario #2. The ability to obtain a permanent lawful status in the U.S. depends greatly on the type of entry. Under the Immigration and Nationality Act, a non-citizen who enters the U.S. without inspection will be considered “inadmissible” and thus, will not be able to obtain a green card even if he is married to a U.S. citizen, unless he is eligible for the Waiver of Inadmissibility.
For the waiver to be approved, the applicant will have to prove that his refusal of admission will result in extreme hardship to his or her U.S. citizen or lawful resident spouse or parent. The extreme hardship requirement, however, is EXTREMELY difficult to prove. Common reasons such as separation, financial difficulties, inability to maintain present standard of living, or loss of employment, are not sufficient enough. The government would rather deny the waiver and have the U.S. citizen spouse move to a different country than grant the waiver and allow the immigrant, who entered without inspection, lawfully remain in the U.S.
Both, the immigrant and the U.S. citizen spouse should consider this outcome when deciding to get married and petition for the Adjustment of Status. There is little that could be done if the Waiver of Inadmissibility is denied. Generally, an immigrant who is deported due to an unlawful entry will not be able to return to the U.S. for a period of 10 years. The U.S. citizen spouse will have to decide to stay in the U.S. without the immigrant spouse, move to the country where the immigrant is from, or end the relationship.