Obtaining U.S. citizenship through marriage starts off the same way most paths to naturalization start: by first getting a green card.
Once you and your U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident (green card holder) spouse have married, he or she should sponsor you for a green card. The process of applying for a green card will be different depending on whether you are already inside the U.S. or outside the U.S.
- If you are already inside the U.S., you and your spouse should file Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative and, if you’re eligible, Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.
- If you are outside the U.S., your spouse should file Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative on your behalf.
During the green card application process, you will likely be asked to have an interview either at a USCIS service center in the U.S. or at a U.S. consulate abroad. The interview is used as a way to review your application. It’s also an opportunity for the immigration officer to ask you questions about your marriage to make sure it’s real and not just a means to obtaining a green card.
If you pass the interview and your application is approved, you will be issued a green card. If your marriage is less than two years old at the time of your green card application, you will be issued a conditional green card.
If you’re issued a conditional green card, you will have to remove the conditions on the green card before it expires. Conditional green cards only last two years. You will need to apply to remove the conditions 90 days before the expiration date with Form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence.
Form I-751 is used to once again prove that your marriage is real and that you have not entered into the marriage to cheat the U.S. immigration laws. You may or may not be required to have an interview at this point. If your application is approved, you will get a regular 10-year green card.
After you’ve been living in the U.S. as a green card holder for at least three years and you’ve been married to the same U.S. citizen, you can apply for U.S. citizenship. In most cases, you will have to prove that you and your spouse have been living in a marital union (living in the same house and sharing a life together as a married couple). You will also have to prove that you meet all other requirements for U.S. citizenship, which include having good moral character (not having committed a serious crime) and being able to speak, read, write in English.