U.S. Citizenship Through Marriage: How Does It Work?
The process by which a non-citizen becomes a citizen of a country is known as naturalization. There are more ways by which naturalization can be achieved, one of them being by marrying a U.C. citizen. And yes, it is as complicated as it sounds. Marrying is the first step, and while it might offer you the chance to obtain citizenship, this is not guaranteed and there are a lot of requirements to fulfill. You need a lot of patience and attention to get your U.S. citizenship certificate. You first become a green card holder or a permanent resident, having a big advantage in applying for citizenship.
If you want to obtain citizenship by marriage, the first step you need to make is to establish permanent residency. To establish permanent residency you need to obtain the Permanent Resident Card (Form I-551) or a “green card” that provides you with proof of permanent residency of the U.S. You can obtain it from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
Immigration through marriage to a U.S. citizen
If you are already married to an U.S. citizen and you want to enter U.S. legally, your spouse needs to complete and file the I-330 form known as the Petition for Alien Relative. This application needs to be filed along with all required documentation and filing fee. Form I-330 is the proper application in this case if you want to obtain the visa permission to immigrate to the U.S.
Green card through marriage
The next step after you have arrived in the U.S. is to file the Form I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status) and pay the associated filing fee. This an application to obtain the status of permanent resident in the U.S. If you are in the situation where you are already in the country, you need to file both forms.
After filing the forms you and your spouse will be called by the USCIS for an interview. If you are married for less than 2 years when you receive your resident status, your permanent status will be granted on a conditional basis. You can change that by submitting an I-751 Form which is a joint Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence. The I-751 form needs to be filed within 90-days before the expiration date of the conditional residence.
Applying for Citizenship
In order to be able to apply for citizenship you have to be a permanent resident or a green card holder for at least three years. If you want to file for citizenship on a marital basis you also need to have been married and living in a marital union with your spouse which is an U.S. Citizen for all that time.
If you meet these conditions, you need to file the N-400 form which is the Application for Naturalization and all the required documents and fee.
Under Section 319(a) of the Immigration and National Act (INA) you also need to comply with the following requirements:
- You need to have at least 18 years.
- You need to have lived for at least three months, before the date of your application, within the state or the USCIS district that has jurisdiction over your place of residence.
- You need to have been residing continuously within the U.S. from the date you have applied for naturalization until the time you have received it.
- You need to have been physically present in the U.S. for at least 18 months in the last 3 years that precede the date of filing your application.
- You need to be able to read, write, and speak English. You also need to prove that you know and understand U.S. history and government
- You have to be a person of good moral character who knows and shares the principles of the U.S. Constitution, and “well disposed to the good order and happiness of the United States during all relevant periods under the law.”
The time it will take until your application will be evaluated it depends on where you’re located. You will be contacted by the closest USCIS Local Field Office for an interview and for the final review of your application. The processing times can be checked on the USCIS website. The next step after receiving approval will be to take the oath of allegiance.
Final Considerations on Getting U.S. Citizenship through Marriage
Since the final authority on immigration and citizenship lies with the USCIS, you should make sure you consult the USCIS. For issues and questions on immigration and citizenship it is recommended to consult an immigration attorney.