Marriage is a massive event in your life. And getting married outside of your native country makes it even more chaotic and stressful.
You need the right information. That’s what we’ve put together for you in this guide.
Each question you have will eventually relate to one of the following:
- What happens when you marry a foreign citizen in the U.S.?
- What happens when you marry a U.S. citizen in the U.S.?
- What happens to your immigration status after you’re married?
So, let’s learn everything worth knowing on this matter.
Marrying a U.S. Citizen in the U.S.
When you marry a U.S. citizen, you do not automatically receive U.S. citizenship.
Your spouse must fill out Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative) and file it with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This form is to establish marriage and confirm the family relationship between you and your spouse.
You can then fill out Form I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status) with the USCIS to apply for permanent residency or a marriage-based green card.
Once this is done, USCIS will conduct a thorough verification of all the details given in the above forms and then call you for an interview. This interview is meant for USCIS to learn more about your personal and background information.
As you are living in the U.S., the entire procedure until you get your marriage-based green card can take between 10 and 13 months. If you aren’t living in the U.S., the process can take anywhere from 11 to 17 months.
If you have been married for less than 2 years when you get your green card, you will notice that the physical green card includes the letters “CR1”. This stands for Conditional Resident. This green card is valid only for 2 years. It has to be renewed in the 90 days before your green card’s expiration date.
You must file Form I-751 (Petition to Remove Conditions of Residence) within this time frame to get permanent residency (a permanent green card which should be renewed in 10-year time intervals).
If you have already been married for two years or more, you will directly get permanent residency.
To be eligible to apply for citizenship in the U.S., you need to be a green card holder for a period of three years and be married to the same U.S. citizen for the same time period of three years.
Even if you are only engaged to a U.S. citizen, your fiancé (or fiancée) can request your entry by applying for a K-1 visa for the purpose of marriage in the U.S.
Marrying a Permanent Resident of the U.S.
When you marry a permanent resident (somebody who may have a green card but is not yet a citizen), you become a “preference relative” in the F-2A category of family preference visas. This is second in the priority list of all family preference visas, the first being the F-1 category, which is for granting visas to unmarried children of U.S. citizens and their children.
Your spouse must fill out Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative) with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The approved petition is sent to the National Visa Center (NVC), which gives further instructions regarding your visa interview. This interview will be conducted in the U.S. Consulate or Embassy in your country of residence.
There is a fixed annual number (87,934) of permanent residencies offered under the F-2A category, and so it might take up to several years (up to 10 years) for you to get permanent residency.
If you are only engaged to a permanent resident, they cannot request or petition for your entry into the U.S.
Marrying an Indian citizen in the U.S.
When you marry an Indian citizen in the U.S., your marriage will be recognized in India under the Foreign Marriage Act, 1969.
Your marriage, however, will not help in changing your immigration status.
Documents Required to Get Married in the U.S.
A marriage license is a mandatory legal document issued by the town hall or county clerk which states that both the parties are legally allowed to be married. The rules, requirements, and conditions for getting the marriage license differ from state to state.
Both the bride and the groom must be present at the time of applying for the marriage license. Also, be sure to apply for your marriage license in the state where you are getting married.
The validity of the marriage license lasts between one and two months. It is advisable, though, to get your marriage license a week or two before the wedding.
Other Documents You’ll Need
Different states have different regulations surrounding aspects such as:
- Legal age to get married without parental consent
- Legal age to get married with the consent of parents or guardians
- Marriage license validity
Write to the office of the town clerk to find out the details you’re interested in.
Documents issued in a foreign language must be translated into English and notarized.
Here, we list the documents that are commonly required across all states:
- Photo identification (could be a passport or driver’s license)
- Birth certificate
- Proof of residence and/or citizenship
- For applicants who have been widowed or divorced, a certified copy of the death certificate or divorce decree
- For applicants who don’t meet the minimum age requirement (depending on the age of the minor), written consent of a judge or parent/s
- Blood or medical test results
- Proof of license fee payment
Marriage is the start of something beautiful. If you start dreading the accompanying paperwork that follows, just dream of the happiness you’ll enjoy during life after marriage.
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