Many immigrants, legal or otherwise, mistakenly believe that if they marry a US citizen they will automatically gain citizenship. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Marrying a US citizen can, however, prevent immediate deportation if your visa has expired or you have been found living in the US illegally. These steps can stop or at least slow down the deportation process, and get you started on becoming a US citizen so you don’t have to leave your spouse behind in the future.
In order for your marriage to keep you from being deported, you must be able to prove to the courts that the marriage didn’t take place solely to keep you in the States. If you have paid someone to marry you, for example, the deportation will likely still continue. You need to be able to prove that your marriage took place with someone you were already living with, or planning to marry anyway. In most cases, if your marriage is legitimate – and particularly if there is a child involved – you should be able to stay in the US for a period of time after your marriage to start the naturalization process.
After Your Marriage
As soon as your marriage has taken place, you will be eligible to apply for a green card. Apply for your green card right away, as this will work to further prevent deportation in the near future. Unless you have a criminal record, your status as “immediate relative to a US citizen” will make your chances of being denied a green card slim. Once you have your green card, you will have to live in the US for three years with your spouse before you can apply for naturalization.
Other Eligibility Requirements
If you have to travel outside the US during the three years before you apply for naturalization, you must be physically present in the US for at least a year and a half of that time, and your permanent residence must always be within the US. If you are planning to move to a different state, make sure you are at your new home for at least three months before you apply for naturalization. You will need to be proficient in the English language and have a basic knowledge of US history and how the government works, but remember that you will have three years to study and to polish your English.
Hire an Immigration Lawyer
Even if you meet every requirement and think that you are the perfect candidate for US citizenship, you should hire an immigration lawyer to improve your chances of gaining citizenship. There are several forms you will have to fill out, as well as a thick stack of your own paperwork that you will need to provide, and an immigration attorney can make sure that your paperwork is in order and you are as ready for your interview as possible. The sooner you hire an immigration lawyer, the better your chances of successfully becoming a US citizen.