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Whether you’re planning a wedding or already married, living in the U.S. or living abroad, if you’re trying to get the spouse of a U.S. citizen their own citizenship, it can be a daunting task.
The citizenship process includes filing fees, interviews, and a lot of legal paperwork. Mistakes along the way could cause an application denial, which can cost you even more time and money in reapplication, or even prevent the citizenship at all. So, it’s important to know what to expect and get experienced counsel for everything required to complete the process.
Organizing a wedding is exciting, but it can also be overwhelming to make all the arrangements, hire the services, and the get the right paperwork taken care of. If your fiance isn’t a U.S. citizen, you have even more steps to take as you navigate the visa and later the naturalization process.
To get your fiance to the U.S., you’ll need to follow the application process of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). These steps generally include:
If your fiance has any unmarried children under 21 who are also coming to the U.S., your fiance will need to file for a K-2 visa and the children will need to apply for green cards after the wedding, too.
In order to apply for the fiance visa, you and your partner will need to meet a few qualifications:
If you don’t get married within the 90-day period, the visa will expire and your fiance will likely be required to leave the country or else face deportation, which can affect their ability to apply for citizenship in the future.
If the visa is denied, you’ll need to address the issues that led to the denial and then restart the process from the beginning.
Not every spouse of a U.S. citizen will be granted their own citizenship after they marry. First, the noncitizen spouse will need to get a green card.
Generally speaking, the USCIS has two forms you’ll both need to fill out to begin the process of adjusting your spouse’s status:
You’ll need to send supporting documentation, like your marriage certificate and birth certificates, during the application process.
If the green card is denied, you may have the option to appeal. This is not a common result, so check your denial notice to see if you’re eligible. You’ll need to pay additional fees and file by the deadline they provide. Usually you won’t be able to appeal the decision, but you can address the issues that caused your partner to be denied and then refile.
After your new spouse becomes a green card holder, you’ll have to play a bit of a waiting game before they can get citizenship through naturalization; your spouse will need to live in the country, continuously, for three years with their green card before they can be eligible for citizenship. You will also need to live together as spouses for those three years.
In addition to these marriage-specific naturalization requirements, your spouse will need to meet the general requirements for citizenship, such as:
They will also need to fill out Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, and will need to pledge an oath of allegiance to support the U.S. Constitution.
At each stage of the process, either or both of you may be asked to participate in additional interviews to prove you have a genuine, or bona fide, marriage. The U.S. government representatives working on your case will need to determine that you have a bona fide marital union for your spouse to be eligible for citizenship.
The best way to ensure your family’s security in the U.S. is to complete the citizenship process fully and accurately to save you the significant time and expense of restarting. Errors could even prevent your spouse from getting citizenship in the future. With so many technical, legal procedures to follow to get your spouse to the U.S., and then to get them citizenship, it can be very challenging to correctly follow the process alone.
Working with an experienced local immigration attorney could help you find and file your forms and documents and prepare you for the next stages of the citizenship through naturalization process. With the extra help of an immigration lawyer, you could get on track to get your spouse’s citizenship in less time.
When it comes to immigration and whether you can live and work where you want, every detail matters. When the slightest paperwork error or missed deadline can mean years of delays, it is essential to do things right the first time. An experienced immigration lawyer can address your particular needs with immigration through marriage, and put you in the best position for a positive outcome. Take the first step now and contact a local immigration attorney to discuss your rights and specific situation.