Another 'Moving to US with Taiwanese Wife' Post

Hi all,

This has definitely been covered in parts in different posts, but the most useful posts I could find seemed to be quite a bit older and also didn’t answer some of my specific questions. So, here goes:

My wife and I have been married for about 2 years, only ever having registered our marriage in Taiwan.

We’ve traveled together to the US 3 times in total, 2 times while dating, and 1 time while already married. The first time she visited she was on a tourist visa, and the other two she just did the new(ish) landing visa/visa exemption deal.

We’re now planning on moving to the US for at least a few years as it’s better for my work (office in the US) and she’s also interested in living there for a while.

The decision to move came quick (somewhat work-related) and we’re flying out soon. Here’s a few more key details:

  • My wife does not have a visa and is again relying on the 90-day landing visa
  • We both did buy return tickets
  • We only have a few suitcases, but are also flying with our dog
  • She plans on applying for the green card after arriving

Everything she has found online in Chinese language forums indicates that it shouldn’t be a problem because she has already come and not stayed 3 times and also that because we’re entering at LAX, it will be a little more… lax (get it?! … I’m so sorry) due to how many Taiwanese people come through every day.

Everything I can find online though says that this is a tricky situation and she may get rejected because they will see her as a risk to overstay even though she has a return ticket because she’s married and because I’m clearly moving there when we enter.

So my questions are:

  • Can we/should we go through the same line together in customs (citizens of US) because she’s my wife?

  • Should we mention that the move is at least semi-)permanent or just say I’m on a business trip and we’re turning it into a little vacation (I have family near LA too) and not even mention the move at all?

  • If we do mention the move should we say she’s definitely going to be going back on the return ticket and will again join me later, hopefully with a visa or whatnot? (I was thinking we would just saying something like: “We plan on moving the US completely/officially at a later time, but I’m coming first and she’s helping me with the move. She’ll go back in before the 90 days, then come back again with more stuff later.”

Any advice? I don’t think we’re doing anything too out of the ordinary from what I can tell, but of course I’m worried she’ll get the boot and that would completely suck.

Cheers and thanks a lot in advance

Ummm… planning to apply for a green card is actually illegal on a visa exemption if you enter the USA with the express intent of doing that. You can still apply for it if she is allowed in, but USCIS might consider that an immigration violation and boot her out permanently. That’s the main gamble.

You are supposed to apply for bringing her to the USA through the official channel of US immigration, which results in her getting a visa in Taiwan and then you adjusting her status when she gets here.

I believe that what nonredneck wrote is true. However, I’m no expert.

I’d recommend also asking questions on, as that site deals with this kind of situation more than Forumosa does, and the users would probably know more about it.

Yeah but that shouldn’t matter if his wife goes back to Taiwan within her 90 day permitted stay and then they apply for the visa while she is in Taiwan. For now they are merely planning to do some advanced preparation.

Read OPs post again. He said his wife planned to apply for a green card while in the USA. You have to stay in the USA to do that. It also changes your legal status from visa exempt to resident, after which there is no need to leave.

Don’t apply for a marriage based green card while in the USA on a visa free entry.

Also working without a green card is illegal and will be bad for later application of one.

Long and short of it is that should she be going to the USA to work for her company , her company must apply for the proper work visa for her. Otherwise she is putting a future green card in jeopardy.

If you want to go the green card by marriage route, best do that while in Taiwan. Could take a while, or could even be fast !
Or she could do it while in the USA legally with a proper work visa.

The US govt doesn’t take Green Cards and its application lightly. One mis step and she could be banned for life from ever coming to the USA legally.

Tread carefully. Very carefully. Follow every letter of the law to avoid grief later on.

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You actually might have better success if you had a petition for her pending.

I remember one poster here had a Taiwanese wife visit on a visa free after he moved back to the USA, but he already filed a immigrant petition in Taiwan. His wife had no problems entering, probably because he showed intent to process it in Taiwan.

Don’t chance something as important as this. Visit the AIT, get online and talk to experts.

F*ck this up and she is a roast duck as far as ever getting in to the USA to stay is concerned.

Uncle Sam is not joking when it comes to these things. Trust me on this.

My dealings with them on getting my now wife a fiancee visa, all through the proper channels. With all paperwork properly filed (with the help of immi experts). Every T crossed and every i dotted. STill. they went to great lengths to challenge me on every move.

It was a frickin nightmare. They find something wrong with your case and you better plan on spending 10s of thousands with US immi lawyers and even then there is NO guarantee of success.

One thing Tommy525 and I have in common is going through this whole gruelling process of applying for resident visa (so-called greencard) for foreign spouse. For my case, the process took about 11 months from start (sending off initial forms) to finish (landing in the U.S. with the official resident visa) for my Taiwanese wife.

We were married much longer than you and have kids who are also American. The process does NOT take any of this into consideration. You do not get to “skip ahead in line” based on length of marriage, how many times previously went to U.S., # of American kids in family. It sucks, but that’s the way it is. No use arguing about the reality of this here in this thread. It is what it is.

Here are my thoughts:

  1. do NOT ask AIT anything. I tried that. AIT will only answer (by email) by sending links to USCIS websites. Why? Because AIT is part of State Department and only is a “part” of this gruelling process AFTER you get approved by USCIS for the FIRST part of the visa application process (there are 2 parts to the whole process: USCIS and then National Visa Center). AIT only gets involved AFTER the NVC approves (following USCIS approval) your case and then sends documents to AIT for final step in the process. I even was inside AIT to get my son’s US passport updated, went to a window to ask questions about my wife’s visa application process, and the lady would only hand me a photocopy sheet of websites, etc. So, AIT will NOT help. It only will be a part of the final process when wife is ‘interviewed’. That process was the easiest part of all!!

  2. Yes, there are lots of websites out there (2 below to start off):

As you have questions during the process, you can google for specific answers. I did. Most answers are clear and concise on what to do.

  1. Yes, she can visit/go with you to the U.S. on VWP (visa waiver program), but once she is there, she cannot apply FROM the U.S. to get resident visa. There are multiple gov’t websites stating a person cannot come in on one type of visa (say, non-resident or travel visa or VWP) and apply INSIDE the U.S. to change to another visa type (resident). Huge no-no, at least from U.S. government website content.

  2. The VWP has the holder basically sign an online document “waiving his/her rights” upon arrival in the U.S. to complain IF the border agent denies entry. That’s a big point people forget. The girl/guy at that table taking your wife’s fingerprints and webcam shot has SOLE discretion to let her in or not. If he/she decides something is fishy, there is no way she can call an “immigrant” lawyer right then and there and plead her case at the airport. Moreover, later on in the process, if your wife visits the U.S. again under VWP, that border agent at the airport may have info on his computer showing that the wife is applying for a resident visa, in which case, the discussion may (or may not) turn into whether she will be leaving after 90 days, where is the proof of that, etc.

Like Tommy says, you do not want to mess around with this. You only get 1 shot.

Some more things to think about:

  1. Your company did this abrupt job location on you. You should mention the stress it will put on you and your wife. Perhaps ask company to pay for tickets when wife has to leave. Personally, they should take on a lot of responsibility in this process once you state what will happen to your wife due to company decision.
  2. Yes, in the internet, there are many examples of spouses on VWP who have started the process of resident visa application and who have come to the U.S. on VWP and then left the U.S. and then come back. It seems from my reading, that eventually after a few times of doing so, the border agent may get a lot more inquisitive on what is going on. Or he/she may not. This is a roll of the dice here.
  3. If your wife stays for 183+ days in the U.S. (let’s say, by using VWP, while still waiting for processing of resident visa), then the IRS gets involved and she will have to declare assets back home in Taiwan and/or either file income tax report individually or be put on your income tax report. Since your case may take 11 months or more (like mine), you may cover 2 calendar years and think this might night not impact you. Well the IRS takes the number of days in the most recent calendar year + 1/3 the number of days in the previous year + 1/6 the number of days in the previous year before that. If that summation is over 183+, then you have to file taxes or report assets just like above.

What’s my opinion:
Just like Tommy and others. Start this process from Taiwan. Get the interview from AIT (eventually). (Think about it. If you get interviewed in the U.S. and all your marriage documents and your wife’s birth certificates are in Chinese, then the U.S. side will force you to get them translated in the U.S. and then have them certified in the U.S. All a bit costly and time-consuming. That’s a whole other mess. At least AIT can accept translations FROM Taiwan and accept Chinese birth certificates. etc.). Yes, she can probably visit you in the U.S. on VWP, but at that point in the game, you will have to know the risk you are going up against, when she may or may not be questioned by the border agent.

You may PM and I can help with specific questions.
I did the whole process myself. You do NOT need an immigration lawyer to do this process CORRECTLY from the start.
Like Tommy said, though, you MAY need the immigration lawyer (VERY VERY costly) if you take any short-cut and come upon a problem in the future that puts at risk any chance of living in the U.S. under a resident card (greencard).

Good luck. And tell your wife about the situation and what it will entail. Do NOT keep it from her. There’ll be so many documents that you’ll have to chase down… But that’s in the future.
Thankfully, my wife just traveled in Asia a few times with her female friends and hung out with college friends whom she hadn’t spent a lot of time with in the last few years.


For us the process took about 12 months, including landing in the US for the first time with the resident visa. It could have taken about 2-3 months less if I had really wanted to make it go faster, but you should count on at least 10 months for the process to be complete if you’re doing everything from Taiwan. I also did everything myself without any immigration lawyer. My wife and I had been married well over 10 years at the time of the application, and we have two children. I’m not sure if that helped or not, but it certainly didn’t hurt.

Good luck with everything, OP. I know this is a tough situation, but I really think it would be best for your wife to apply from Taiwan instead of the US.

Also, I want to say that was an incredibly useful and detailed post by CTaitung!

Whoops. Yeah, I’m in the apply for it after going back to Taiwan boat. I understand you want to save time, but saving time vs the very strong probability of getting booted by immigration…