Did your summer travel abroad leave you with an ongoing romance, and you’re considering an international engagement? Or perhaps you’ve met the love of your life online only to find they live in another country? No matter how the situation unfolds, it’s not unusual for U.S. citizens to find their spouses living outside of the border. If this hits home for you, here’s what you need to know about the steps you need to take to marry someone living in another country.
Many people don’t realize that marrying a non-U.S. citizen will not automatically give their spouse citizenship. There are several steps you need to follow and criteria both you and your spouse will need to meet. The U.S. government takes these situations seriously, so don’t even think about marrying someone to fast-track the citizenship process for them. Fraudulently marrying someone for the purpose of getting citizenship can land you in jail and/or assessed with a fine of $250,000.
Step 1: Obtain a Visa for your Fiance.
If your wedding will be in the United States, you will need a visa for your fiance and their children (if applicable) to enter the country before the wedding. Your fiance will need a K-1 visa and their children will need a K-2 visa. Once inside the U.S., the marriage needs to happen within 90 days. If you’re not married within 90 days, your fiance must leave the country.
You can find the K-1 and K-2 visa application at this link. Be prepared to provide:
- proof of identity,
- valid passports,
- medical examinations, and
- proof your relationship is authentic.
Step 2: Obtain Residency for your Spouse
After your marriage, your foreign spouse can apply to change their status to a permanent resident. You’ve likely heard this status referred to as “having a green card.” With permanent resident status, they will have the right to live and work in the United States permanently. However, the first two years of this status after marriage is considered conditional, so additional work will be required down the road. Also, green card status expires after ten years and must be renewed, so it’s essential to maintain a valid status.
Step 3: Complete the Naturalization Process
After your spouse has been a permanent resident for three years, they may be eligible to become full-fledged U.S. citizens through the naturalization process. This process usually takes about six months to complete and requires citizenship tests and interviews. If approved, your spouse will attend a naturalization ceremony and take the Oath of Allegiance before a judge or administrative officer. The eligibility requirements include the following:
- Must be at least 18 years old.
- Are still married and have been living in “marital union” for three years before application and continuously until after the application examination concludes.
- Live in the state where filing the application for at least three months before applying.
- Have been in the United States for at least 18 months of the last three years before applying and reside continuously in the United States from the moment of applying until naturalization.
- Read, write and speak English.
- Have a foundational understanding of U.S. civics.
Step 4: Obtain other Documents and Rights afforded to U.S. Citizens.
Once your spouse is a naturalized citizen, they are eligible to apply for a U.S. Passport–an essential form of identification for our citizens. They will also be eligible to vote but must register to vote before the next election.
If you are planning to marry someone living in another country, The Perfect Translation can help you with the documentation process.
At The Perfect Translation, our translators combine legal experience with language fluency to produce accurate legal translations efficiently and affordably. Our team understands the process the USCIS uses to review and process immigration applications, so they are positioned to best help your clients present their cases most favorably. Your documents will be translated correctly and formatted appropriately the first time to meet the USCIS requirements. Contact us today for more information and a free quote.