Marrying a US Citizen: Everything You Need To Know
Nowadays, it is common for a foreigner to fall in love and wed an American citizen. However, one of the practical repercussions of marrying a U.S. citizen is that you must apply for visas and permits to legalize the process. Luckily, these formalities do not last forever, as it is possible to get permanent U.S. citizenship. If you are wondering how to live permanently with your U.S citizen spouse in the U.S. and how the process works, read on to find out.10 min read updated on February 01, 2023
Benefits of Marrying a U.S. Citizen
- Getting married to a U.S. citizen offers the foreign person several benefits. Among the best ones include the ability to maintain your permanent resident status if you have a green card. As a result, this allows you to remain in the country legally and even apply for a work permit that will be valid up until you submit a citizenship application through the naturalization process. A work visa attorney will help you apply for this permit and guide you through the process of marrying a non-US citizen.
Other benefits of marrying a U.S. citizen include:
- Foreign persons married to U.S. citizens qualify for immigrant visas, if necessary, to gain entry to the U.S. This enables you to apply for a green card to become a lawful permanent resident in the U.S. This is all accessible via the Immediate Relative category, which has no annual numerical limits when it comes to the number of visas acquired.
- A US citizen spouse can petition for United States citizenship as soon as three years after becoming a lawful permanent resident in the U.S. But, this is only possible if the alien relative and citizen remain married and cohabit till the swearing-in proceedings. Usually, green card holders must wait five years before filing a petition.
- If you entered the U.S. via a temporary visa without the intent of obtaining a green card, you could apply for an 'adjustment of status upon marrying a U.S. citizen. This process allows for the simultaneous filing of all papers, including the I-130, with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The organization will handle everything and arrange for the individual's U.S. green card marriage interview. This status can be beneficial for those who have an expired visa and seek to avoid the consequences of overstaying in the U.S. with a temporary visa. Furthermore, this process allows applicants to stay in the U.S. while they wait to receive their green cards.
- If you are a citizen spouse with children, you can bring your children to the U.S. and submit a petition for them to become U.S. citizens. However, they must satisfy the requirements under the law with regard to your marital status and age. In addition, some children of U.S. citizens can become legal citizens immediately even though they were born outside the country.
Process - what happens if you marry an American citizen?
As mentioned earlier, marrying an American citizen does not grant you legal U.S. citizenship automatically. You must follow several steps to acquire a green card and gain lawful permanent residence.
Once you wed an American citizen, regardless of whether it is under same sex marriages or opposite-sex marriages, you become an immediate relative for immigration purposes. This is a significant advantage to any U.S citizen spouse since they can gain an unlimited number of green cards under this category. The following are the steps to follow during the green card application process for those in a marriage to a U.S citizen:
- The American spouse must initiate the process for their foreign spouse by filing a Form I-130 visa petition to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The documents in the petition include a marriage certificate to verify the marriage's legality and any other documentation demonstrating that the union was genuine and not just a pretense to obtain a green card.
- As long as you did not go to the U.S. to get married abroad, which is considered visa fraud, you should be able to adjust your status.
- However, if you entered the country illegally and reside there, you should contact an immigration lawyer for marriage. You cannot adjust status if you are not among the select few subject to specific outdated laws (Section 245(i)). However, if you leave the country to process through a U.S. embassy or consulate, you run the danger of being deemed ineligible because of your prior unauthorized residence. As a result, this can lead to being barred from entering the country for 3-10 years or two years if your illegal stay was less than 120 days or up to 10 years if it was more than one year.
- Note that you can apply for a 'provisional waiver' under Form I-601A before leaving the U.S. Your experienced immigration attorney will assist you in establishing your eligibility for the green card by preparing the immigration process application and providing supporting documents.
- It is also vital to note that the family-based green card application process consists of a thorough immigration physical exam that must be conducted by a government-recognized healthcare practitioner. These tests include screening for drugs and alcohol, a review of your medical history, a mental and physical evaluation, as well as various tests for illnesses and diseases. The USCIS office will also schedule a biometrics appointment, where they will take your fingerprints and pictures to scan them through their FBI database to ascertain that the applicant has no criminal history.
Adjustment of Status (AOS) vs. Consular Processing
There are two methods to become a green card holder. Applying for it via adjustment of status process or consular processing.
What is Adjustment of Status?
As long as you did not move to the U.S. to marry abroad, you can apply for a green card through the adjustment of status process. However, you must be in the U.S. legally via a Visa waiver program or a visitor visa. However, if you live abroad, you must wait for the National Visa Center (NVC) and the local U.S. embassy or consulate to get in touch with you after your U.S. citizen spouse files a petition and it is verified. Once your adjustment of status petition is successful, you can come and live in the U.S. permanently. But, if the marriage occurs within two years of arriving in the United States, you can get a conditional green card that gives conditional residence.
U.S. Citizen Marrying Someone Living in the U.S.
If a citizen marries a permanent resident in the U.S., the citizen partner must apply for an immigrant visa, available through the Family Second preference category (F2A). Note that this experience is different from that of a marriage based green card.
What is Consular Processing?
Consular processing refers to seeking a green card or immigrant visa via a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad. The other route for acquiring a family-based immigrant visa to the U.S. Consular processing is the only way to immigrate to the United States if the green card applicants are outside the country.
The processing time at the consulate ranges from six to fourteen months for close relatives. The processing of form I-130 through a consular interview is included in this timeline. The procedure will probably take substantially longer for immigrants with family preference because of the delay experienced when waiting for a visa to be available. Some applicants choose this process over adjusting status since it often takes less processing time.
Additionally, this method has a lesser chance of rejection. Unlike the USCIS office, the consular office cannot refuse to grant a visa solely on their discretion. The consular office must have precise and verifiable information to reject an application. Denied cases, however, are often not subject to review. In other words, the U.S embassy or consulate has the final say when processing green card applications.
It is vital to note that U.S. authorities only accept civil marriages officially registered in the state where the wedding was held. A skilled immigration attorney will provide you with further information on whether your civil marriage is legally valid according to immigration laws.
U.S. Green Card Holder Marrying Someone Living Abroad
If a citizen marries someone living abroad, they must apply for a marriage based green card on coming and residing permanently in the country. Holders of green cards can live and work anywhere in the U.S. and have permanent residence until they decide to petition for U.S. citizenship.
To obtain a green card through marriage, your family, in this case, your spouse or employer, must sponsor your application. Due to the great demand, practically all green cards typically have wait durations or caps attached. Fortunately for you, marriage based green cards do not have such limitations! As a result, you can submit a green card application as soon as you wed a U.S. citizen.
The process won't necessarily be simple or quick just because there aren't any wait times or caps. The entire procedure may take months or even years to finalize, mainly if your situation is complicated or you have children.
Your spouse's sponsorship is critical in the green card application process. They must demonstrate that they are up-to-date on their taxes, have enough funds to help you or have a sponsor who will do so in their place. An Affidavit of Support is a legal document that guarantees your sponsor's financial support if you cannot work or earn a living in the U. S.
Don't worry if this all sounds difficult and confusing. You receive a free evaluation of your situation from an experienced immigration lawyer from Upcounsel Technologies, Inc. Our attorneys can address any legal concerns you may have about your application as well as provide you with a green card interview documents checklist. Find out how we can assist you in completing all the necessary forms or determine whether you qualify for a green card based on marriage.
What is the Wait Time for Getting a Marriage Green Card?
Based on whether you have a marriage to a U.S. citizen or a green card holder where you reside currently, the marriage green card timeline is between 11 and 52 months. Note that this does not include possible procedural delays. For instance, if you are a U.S. citizen who presently resides within the country, the U.S citizen spouse will have to wait anywhere between 35 to 52 months. However, if the U.S. citizen lives abroad, their spouse will only wait 11 to 17 months for the green card based on marriage.
If the application involves a U.S. green card holder who lives in the country, their alien relative or spouse has a citizenship through marriage timeline of 29 to 38 months or 27 to 46 months if the U.S. green card holder resides outside the country.
Marrying a U.S. citizen while on an F1 visa
An F-1 student who is a U.S. citizen or permanent U.S. resident can file a petition to acquire a green card based on marriage through AOS. However, U.S. immigration officers utilize unique criteria known as the "90-day rule" when assessing this application. This aids in determining whether the applicant was genuine about their initial reason for moving to the U.S.
In other words, the U.S. government will likely assume that the F-1 student "wilfully misrepresented" their intentions for coming into the country if they violate the 90-day rule. Note that the 90-day requirement only applies to the applicant's most recent arrival into the country. For more information about the 90-day rule, consult a reputable immigration law firm with adequate experience and expertise in dealing with immigration status.
Once you prove that you did not misrepresent your intention, you can proceed to adjust your status through the provided channels.
Marriage Visa Fraud
Regarding immigration laws, only civil marriages with an original court marriage certificate issued by recognized home country authorities are recognized by the U.S. government. USCIS does not recognize underage marriages, domestic partnerships, polygamous relationships, civil unions, or other similar relationships, even though they are valid where they were celebrated.
Likewise, marriage to a U.S. citizen for immigration reasons and proxy unions in which one party was not physically present is not valid in the U.S. Remember that while the USCIS office recognizes same sex marriages, proof of relationship documents must be provided by a marriage license from a nation where such unions are permitted. According to USCIS, whether a civil marriage is legally lawful under immigration laws depends on the state law where the wedding was registered.
Finally, USCIS takes marriage fraud—the intention to enter the country through marriage—seriously fraudulently. There might even be a USCIS request for evidence of a marriage bona fide as a component of your interview or application to verify that your union was celebrated and registered.
In addition, if the officer thinks you might not be in a real marriage, you might be subjected to more requests for supporting documents or questions during your application interview. Upcounsel Technologies, Inc. sticks by your side all the way through, assisting you in maintaining control of interview preparation, follow-up paperwork, and any other significant turning point. Start right away by contacting our expert online immigration lawyer. You do not even have to worry about our immigration lawyer cost since our legal fees are very affordable.
FAQs about Marrying a US Citizen
Does marrying an American citizen automatically make you a citizen?
No. The U.S citizen spouse must apply for a green card via their spouse.
Can my fiancé's Child Come with my Foreign Spouse to live in the U.S.?
A K-2 visa can be accessible to the Child if they are younger than 21 and unmarried. Through an I-129F fiancé (e) application form, make sure to list the names of the children of your foreign partner.
Can my fiancé (e) work in the United States while on a fiancé (e) visa?
Suppose your foreign partner has a fiancé visa. In that case, they can submit Form I-765, the Application for Employment Authorization, and include a USCIS Lockbox premised on your residency as soon as you are admitted to request authorization to work.
What are the basic eligibility requirements for a fiancé (e) petition?
To file a fiancé petition, you must be a U.S citizen intending to marry your partner within 90 days of entering the country. You must also be unmarried and have been in a relationship for two years before filing the petition.
What if we are engaged but have not yet decided to marry?
You can apply for a fiancé visa which enables your partner to enter the country. But it would be best if you got married within 90 days from the date of entry.
What if we do not wed in 90 days after obtaining a fiancé visa?
Fiancé visas expire after 90 days and cannot be extended. If you have not wedded within this period, your partner should leave the country, or they would be in contravention with U.S. immigration laws.