If you’re an immigrant and want to become a United States citizen or permanent resident, you can do so through marriage, but your spouse must be a United states citizen or permanent resident. To be eligible to apply for citizenship or residence, you and your partner must meet four criteria: you two are legally married, your marriage in bona-fide (more information below,) proof that your spouse is a United States citizen or has been provided a green card for permanent residence and proof that neither you or your spouse are currently married to anybody else.
The four criteria are discussed in more detail below.
Proof that you are legally married
There’s a saying out there that states “the proof is in the pudding.” In your case, “the pudding,” is the officially recorded documentation of your marriage that was made or can be gathered from a government office. The government of the state or country you were married in must officially recognize your marriage as legal. Domestic partnerships and common law marriages are tough to get approved.
The marriage must be “bona-fide”
Essentially, the marriage can’t be a sham. The marriage must have been the planned outcome, from the start, for both parties. If your plan was to get married just so the other person can obtain a green card, that will likely be sniffed out during the intensive investigation process in which you’ll be asked tons of detailed questions and will be demanded to provide numerous documents that prove you and your partner are in this marriage for the long-haul.
Your legally married partner must be a United States citizen or permanent resident
These two residence rights are the only two that can obtain U.S citizenship or green cards for their spouse. Those with only temporary rights (visas or work permits) cannot apply for their spouse’s permanent residence. The only leeway provided for those with temporary citizenship rights is to try to bring their spouse to the United States on a short-term visa.
You and your partner’s marriage is your only marriage
If you were part of another marriage, it must have ended through legal means of divorce, death or annulment. You will have to provide documents, such as a death or divorce certificate, proving that your previous marriage ended legally. If you can’t provide that documentation, it’ll be tough to gain citizenship status or a green card as the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will likely believe your previous marriage is still active and your current marriage is fraudulent.
In any circumstance, an immigration lawyer can be your greatest ally in your quest for citizenship. Most offer free initial phone discussions and flexible payment options.