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My fiance and I are currently seperated on different sides of the Atlantic thanks to the Covid travel restrictions and we are trying to plan for the future. We want to be married (even if we end up living apart while we apply for a US Spousal Visa so that I can join her in the states).

My question is this; Assuming the currently travel restrictions are lifted; Can I visit my fiance in America on a ESTA/VWP, get married, return to the UK, then apply for a Spousal Visa so that I can join her at a later date?

Is it legal to go to the US on a ESTA/VWP to get married if I have every intention of leaving the States at the end of my holiday?

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    Yes it's legal, but it can be problematic. – phoog Oct 6 '20 at 0:05
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    Welcome! You may want to look at the Q&As on our sister site, Expatriates. In the search field, enter 'marriage esta' (without the quotes. – mkennedy Oct 6 '20 at 1:05
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US immigration is weird.

You are technically allowed to fly to the US on the Visa Waiver Program, get married and fly out. (Visa Waiver Program or VWP is the correct name for what is usually called "coming on an ESTA".)

If you get married to a US citizen while in the US on VWP, then you are allowed to file for 'adjustment of status' to become a resident and to stay in the US while your application is processed.

However you are not allowed to come to the US on VWP with intent to remain by adjusting your status as a result of marriage.

This means your admission to the US depends entirely on your ability to convince US immigration that you will absolutely definitely leave the US after you are married. Given how many people see marriage to a US citizen as a path to residency (to the point where it is a staple of sitcoms) that may be very hard. US immigration is required to presume that you have immigrant intent unless you show them otherwise.

All the usual evidence of ties to your home country will help, starting with being a citizen of a rich European country, and also having a job, a house, a return ticket etc. I have no idea how much evidence will be required to do the convincing.

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  • I've upvoted this answer, but I have a couple of nits to pick: First, when a nonimmigrant applies to become an immigrant, the term of art is "to adjust status"; the verb "to change status" is reserved for nonimmigrants who applies for another nonimmigrant status.... – phoog Oct 8 '20 at 21:21
  • ...Second, "including as a result of marriage" is perhaps a bit misleading, because it implies that there are other avenues for VWP visitors to change or adjust status, but (short of an asylum application or similar, which is neither "change" nor "adjustment" of status) the only way a VWP visitor can change or adjust from the VWP is through the exception for immediate relatives of US citizens. – phoog Oct 8 '20 at 21:21

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