Walking down the aisle to the person you love is something thousands of people do each year. For non-U.S. citizens, though, this commitment is not only allowing someone to be with the person they love but also potentially paving the way for them to become a U.S. citizen.
Getting married is an important step towards becoming a U.S. citizen, but there are also other eligibility requirements immigrants need to keep in mind including:
- The individual must be at least 18 years old;
- Have lived in the state where you applied for citizenship at least three months;
- Have lived in the U.S. lawfully for at least three years prior to the marriage;
- Understand and demonstrate basic knowledge of the English language; and,
- Be a person of good moral character.
What Happens After Getting Married?
After the “I Dos” are exchanged, there are critical steps an individual must take if they wish to become a U.S. citizen.
Getting a Green Card
While there are various types of applications when applying for a green card, the good news is that once you are a spouse of a U.S. citizen you are automatically distinguished as an immediate relative to that person. While there are some criteria that only allow a certain amount of green cards issued each year, there is no limit to the number of green cards that can be issued for immediate relatives to U.S. citizens.
Proving the Marriage is Bona Fide
It would be easy for someone to arrange a deal with a non-U.S. citizen — they saying a marriage took place with the U.S. citizen receiving something in return. However, the U.S. does everything possible to ensure that this does not happen. This is why USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) wants to see documentation and records proving that not only the marriage is real but that the immigrant is here because they want to be with a U.S. citizen and not just for the citizenship perks. This means the couple will need to provide documentation such as an official marriage certificate, prove that they have been living together for quite some time, and are invested in each other’s future. Ways to prove that the couple is more than married on paper include:
- Taking out a credit card or bank account together;
- Making each other beneficiaries on retirement accounts;
- Being on a health insurance plan together;
- Having utilities and other bills under both names; and,
- Making a major purchase together such as a house or a car.
While USCIS is reviewing the application for U.S. citizenship, the couple will be asked to take part in an interview with an immigration officer. The interview will typically be easy if the couple is truly together and one is not using the other to obtain U.S. citizenship.
After receiving a green card, a spouse of a U.S. citizen does not have to wait the typical five-year period to apply for citizenship. Rather, a spouse of a U.S. citizen can apply to become a U.S. citizen themselves three years after their green card is approved.
Complications And Issues That Could Arise
There can be barriers for someone trying to become a U.S. citizen and issues arise.
Same-Sex Marriage With Prior Heterosexual Marriage
Same-sex marriages are recognized by USCIS. However, if someone had a previous marriage in a heterosexual relationship that could raise suspicion of fraud. It is imperative that if an immigrant is applying for U.S. citizenship after a same-sex marriage that they prove what changes occurred that led them to their new partnership. Additionally, if the couple got married outside of the U.S., that could present problems for the U.S. recognizing the marriage. Countries outside of the U.S. that currently recognize same-sex marriages include Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Ecuador, England, France, Germany, and Spain.
If the Immigrant Did Not Come to the U.S. Legally
An immigrant who marries a U.S. citizen and entered the U.S. illegally could also face an uphill battle. Not entering the U.S. legally makes it especially difficult for that person to receive any type of legal status from USCIS. Before entering into marriage, it’s important for the couple to contact an immigration expert to see what options are available to make the union beneficial for the immigrant.
After getting married, make one of your next calls to Magilligan Law. Our attorneys have personal experience of the immigration process and can walk you through the next steps. Schedule a free consultation to learn more.