Becoming a U.S. citizen through marriage starts off the same way most paths to naturalization start which is getting a Green Card.
Married couples can sponsor each other so that if one spouse is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, he or she can sponsor their husband or wife to enter the U.S. legally and get a green card for their spouse or if they are legally inside the U.S. when marrying they may adjust their status to get a Green Card.
If you are married to a U.S. citizen, you may be able to apply for a green card and receive it much sooner than everyone else. However, some people think that marrying a U.S. citizen is enough to ensure a quick green card but that is not the case.
You cannot simply marry a U.S. citizen and get a green card. You also cannot marry someone in order to get a green card. There are policies in place that will catch most people trying to scam the system by marrying a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident in order to get a Green Card.
Process to become a U.S. citizen through marriage
Once you and your U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident (green card holder) spouse have married, he or she should sponsor you for a green card.
Getting a Green Card Through Marriage
The process of applying for a green card will be different depending on whether you are already legally inside the U.S. or outside the U.S. when you marry.
- If you are already inside the U.S. with a legal status then you might be able to apply for adjustment of status to get a green card. There are a few other requirements to be fulfilled such as the 90-day rule. This process happens through the USCIS.
- If you are outside the U.S. your spouse should file Form I-130 for you and the process will go through consular processing. After I-130 approval, you may go to the U.S. and, upon arrival become a green card holder.
It is important to decide where the marriage happens since the process and the forms used to apply for a Green Card will vary drastically.
During the green card application process, you will likely be asked to have an interview either at a USCIS service center in the U.S. or at a U.S. consulate abroad. The interview is used as a way to review your application. It’s also an opportunity for the immigration officer to ask you questions about your marriage to make sure it’s real and not a scam marriage to help obtain a green card.
If you pass the green card interview and your application is approved, you will be issued a green card. If your marriage is less than two years old at the time of your green card application, you will be issued a conditional green card. If you received a conditional green card you become a conditional permanent resident and you will have to remove conditions on your residence after holding that status for 2 years and then get permanent residency.
After getting permanent residency there are still a few variations that determine your eligibility for citizenship. Getting permanent residency is a part of the process to become a U.S. citizen. After getting your green card you should be a green card holder for at least 3 years and fulfill other eligibility requirements before you apply for citizenship. The time required might vary based on each individual’s situation.
It is recommended to get the help of a lawyer to help you with your application process if there are many variables in play with your application process.
Removing Conditions on Green Card Through Marriage
If you’re issued a conditional green card, you will have to remove the conditions on the green card before it expires. Conditional green cards only last two years. You will need to apply to remove the conditions 90 days before the expiration date with Form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence.
Form I-751 is used to once again prove that your marriage is real and that you have not entered into the marriage to cheat the U.S. immigration laws. You may or may not be required to have an interview at this point. If your application is approved, you will get a regular 10-year green card.
Applying for Citizenship Through Marriage
After you’ve been living in the U.S. as a green card holder for at least three years and you’ve been married to the same U.S. citizen, you may apply for U.S. citizenship. In most cases, you will have to prove that you and your spouse have been living in a marital union (living in the same house and sharing a life together as a married couple).
You will also have to prove that you meet all other requirements for U.S. citizenship, which include having good moral character (not having committed a serious crime) and being able to speak, read, write in English, and other eligibility requirements.
If you fulfill all the eligibility requirements for U.S. citizenship then you can apply for citizenship and become a U.S. citizen.
How long does it take to become a U.S. citizen through marriage?
The time it takes to become a U.S. citizen through the marriage process depends on many factors. Typically it would take about 5 to 8 years to become a U.S. citizen through marriage if you are not a green card holder. If you are a green card holder when marrying then it could take less than 3 years.
During the process of becoming a U.S. citizen, you will be a conditional or permanent resident which allows you to live and work in the U.S. You don’t have to be away from your spouse.