A nonresident may be able to obtain U.S. citizenship through marriage. This is known as either a citizenship marriage or a green card marriage. Basically, a green card marriage refers to when a U.S. resident marries a nonresident, which enables the nonresident to become eligible to apply for a green card.
However, you cannot become a U.S. resident overnight simply by marrying a U.S. citizen. There are many legal regulations, requirements, and procedures that must be complied with beforehand, along with adhering to some specific time constraints.
For instance, after a green card marriage, a nonresident must first establish permanent residency by applying for a permanent resident card (i.e., a green card) and by filing a form to adjust their residency status. It should be noted that if you already have a green card prior to a citizenship marriage, then you may skip directly to registering as a U.S. permanent resident.
Once these steps are complete, a nonresident must wait for at least three years before they may file an application for naturalization. During this three-year period, a nonresident must be able to prove that they were living with their U.S. citizen spouse or else they may not be allowed to apply.
In addition to these primary requirements, there are some other criteria a nonresident may have to satisfy, such as they must be 18 years of age or older and they must be proficient enough in English to pass a mandatory civics test. After the entire process is complete, then the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) will decide whether or not to grant an applicant U.S. citizenship.
Finally, if you have any questions or need help with any of the steps involved in this process, you should contact a local family immigration lawyer for further guidance. A family immigration lawyer is a special type of lawyer who has experience in family law issues and immigration matters. They can assist with cases that concern green card, citizenship, or naturalization issues. They can also correspond with the USCIS on behalf of their clients and provide representation in court.
What is a “Green Card”?
A green card, also known as a permanent resident card, is a legal document that is issued by the U.S. government to immigrants or nonresidents. A green card allows nonresidents to work and live permanently in the United States. The steps that a nonresident must take to apply for a green card will vary based on the facts of a specific situation.
Some common ways that nonresidents may be able to obtain a green card include:
- Through family sponsorship by someone who is already a U.S. citizen, such as a spouse, fiancé, or an immediate family member.
- Through an employer. For instance, nonresidents with particular skills, experience, or academic credentials may ask that their employer or company sponsor them.
- There is also a category called, “Special Immigrant”. This classification applies to certain religious workers, some juvenile immigrants, international broadcasters, and so on.
- Refugees or those seeking asylum from harsh circumstances in their country may also be able to apply for a green card.
- Victims of abuse, human trafficking, and other crimes may be eligible as well.
- Nonresidents may also apply through a registry or as part of a number of other categories (e.g., foreign diplomat, diversity program, laws that apply to certain groups of immigrants, etc.).
What Other Conditions Must the Immigrant Spouse Fulfill?
First and foremost, nonresidents and their U.S. resident spouses must ensure that their marriage was not induced by fraudulent means. This is known as a sham marriage and can have serious consequences if the marital couple is exposed.
The couple can avoid this by providing evidence that demonstrates their marriage is real. They will also need to fill out forms and submit other supporting documents, such as a marriage certificate, photos, and joint bank account statements.
The USCIS will also need proof that one party to the marriage is a U.S. citizen and that the couple has not filed for divorce or been separated since they were married. In addition, the nonresident party must be able to establish that they are independently eligible to receive a green card.
Other requirements include having to pay filing fees for all of the necessary paperwork, attending any interviews requested and scheduled by the USCIS, and waiting for the allotted time periods for filing applications and proceeding to the next step. A nonresident will also be required to wait to find out whether they are approved or denied before they will be issued a green card.
If approved, the nonresident must file for permanent residency status after receiving their green card. From there and so long as they meet all other criteria, they will then have to wait at least three years until they can apply for U.S. citizenship through naturalization.
How Would Divorce Affect an Immigrant Spouse’s Permanent Residence Status?
If an immigrant spouse gets a divorce from a U.S. resident, this can have a significant impact on their permanent residence status. For example, if a nonresident spouse is waiting for a green card to be approved, filing for divorce will prevent their request from being granted.
On the other hand, if a nonresident spouse already maintains lawful permanent resident status and has been a green card holder for 10-years, then a divorce should not affect their residency status.
However, if a nonresident obtained a green card by marrying a U.S. citizen and their marriage was less than two years old at the time it was approved, filing for divorce can cause a handful of complications to arise. For instance, a nonresident who divorces less than two years after a green card marriage must submit an application to receive a “conditional” green card to the USCIS. If approved, a conditional green card will remain valid for another two years.
In order for a nonresident to eventually receive a permanent green card under such circumstances, they must file a joint statement with their U.S. resident spouse that asserts the reasons for the green card divorce, re-establishes that the green card marriage was not entered into for fraudulent purposes, and shows that the marriage is not failing due to the fault of the nonresident.
If a U.S. resident spouse refuses to file a joint statement, the nonresident spouse must submit a waiver for the filing requirement and prove all of the information mentioned for the joint filing requirements on their own. After this process is complete, they must then wait until their application is approved or denied by USCIS before they can be issued a permanent green card.
In the event that a nonresident who has lawful permanent resident status files for divorce before obtaining U.S. citizenship and before the mandatory three-year waiting period is over, they will no longer be eligible to apply to become a U.S. citizen through naturalization.
However, if a nonresident has held permanent resident status for five years or longer and then gets divorced, it should not affect their eligibility to apply for U.S. citizenship through naturalization since that is the standard timeframe.
Should I Consult a Lawyer for Help with Citizenship and Marriage Issues?
Obtaining U.S. citizenship through a marital relationship can involve many steps and a lot of paperwork. Depending on the facts of your situation and the relevant laws, some citizenship and marital issues are much more complicated than others. Therefore, if you have any questions or need assistance with an issue pertaining to U.S. citizenship through marriage, you should contact a local immigration attorney as soon as possible.
An experienced immigration attorney can guide you through the necessary procedures in a smooth and efficient manner. Your attorney can also keep you informed about any significant changes made to existing immigration laws and can help with the petitioning process. Additionally, if any issues or disputes arise in connection with your immigration and marriage matter, your attorney will be able to advocate on your behalf in court as well.