What’s The Process For Obtaining Citizenship After Marrying A US Citizen?

A joyful newlywed couple celebrating their marriage by throwing colorful confetti into the air.
Picture of Shawn Sedaghat, Esq.

Shawn Sedaghat, Esq.

Entering into a marriage with a U.S. citizen can present an opportunity for a fresh start in life, including the possibility of becoming a green card holder and eventually a U.S. Naturalized Citizen.

As a partner of an American citizen, you may be eligible to become a citizen within a certain period. This informative article will walk you through the entire process, from the early stages of the the green card application process to proving that your relationship is a bona fide marriage and the naturalization ceremony.

Dive in and discover everything you need to know about the marriage-based green card.

Key Takeaways

  • You must be married to a US citizen and have lived in the US for three years as a lawful permanent resident before applying for citizenship, among other requirements.

  • As a U.S. citizen spouse, you must live with your American partner and pass interviews at USCIS to prove your marriage is real, not just for immigration perks.

  • File the proper forms and pass an interview to obtain your residency, and if this is conditional, after two years as a conditional resident, apply to remove the conditional nature of your green card. Keep all records of your life together for evidence.

  • Stay physically present in the US for at least 18 months out of the three years before applying for citizenship.

  • Be truthful and follow laws throughout the process; dishonesty or legal issues can prevent you from getting citizenship.

Understanding Citizenship Through Marriage

Discovering the pathway to gaining a green card via marriage opens a unique route where love and legalities meet, creating a bond that allows non-citizens to become eligible for U.S. citizenship through their union with an American spouse.

Here, we delve into what it takes from eligibility to marital commitments—navigating through laws and life together toward achieving U.S. citizenship.

Eligibility Requirements for Spouses of U.S. Citizens

To gain U.S. citizenship through marriage, you must be married to a U.S. citizen and have been a lawful permanent resident for at least three years. Living with your spouse in a marital union during this time would be best.

Your spouse needs to have been a U.S. citizen for the entire period of all three years before you apply.

If your American spouse works abroad for specific organizations like the U.S. government, you might still qualify for naturalization even while overseas. For this process, both of you and foreign spouse must plan to move back to the United States once their job is done.

Keep your marriage strong and stay together; it helps show USCIS that your bond is real.

Ensure all your documents are correct and true – from birth certificates to tax forms! Never lie on applications or interviews; honesty is critical when dealing with USCIS offices and laws.

Marital Union Requirement

You must live with your US citizen husband or wife for at least three years before you can apply for citizenship. This is known as the marital union requirement.

Your marriage must be legal and real, not just done to get a green card or citizenship set by the USCIS — the main government agency responsible for granting U.S. citizenship.

It’s also essential that your spouse has been a US citizen for at least three years. Like most married couples and other green card holders, you two should share a life. The government checks this to ensure marriages are true and not fake just for immigration benefits.

If you don’t stay married or live together during these three years, it might hurt your chances to gain U.S. citizenship.

citizen spouse, happy married couple holding passport

The Process of Obtaining Citizenship After Marriage

Applying for U.S. citizenship post-marriage begins with satisfying strict eligibility criteria. It unfolds through a series of legally mandated steps—a path marked by petitions, interviews, and periods of conditional residence, which most marriage-based green card holders typically undergo.

Navigating this complex process is essential for those wishing to achieve U.S. citizenship.

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Filing the I-130 Visa Petition

To receive citizenship like other green card holders do, the spouse who is a U.S. citizen must file Form I-130 with USCIS. This form is called the Petition for Alien Relative. It asks for information about both spouses and their marriage. It may also be possible to file for Adjustment of Status, a work permit, and advance parole at the same time, depending on the beneficiary’s status at the time of filing. Consult with an attorney.

The couple needs to prove their marriage is real. They should include a marriage certificate, photos, joint bank accounts, or lease agreements.

USCIS looks at everything you send to make sure it all matches up. After filing Form I-130, an official receipt notice comes in the mail. This notice means USCIS has your petition and is working on it.

Keep this notice safe; you’ll need it later on!

Attending an Interview at the USCIS Office

Get ready for your USCIS office interview. All marital-based green card holders underwent this process.

This is a big step in getting your green card after marrying a US citizen. You and your spouse will go to the interview together. The officer will ask questions to ensure your marriage is genuine and not just a way to get citizenship.

Bring all essential documents, like tax returns, photos, and any other proof of your life together. Be honest with every answer.

After the interview, if everything looks good, you’ll be on track to obtain lawful permanent residence status. Then, as time passes and conditions are met, applying for U.S. citizenship could be next!

Spending Two Years as a Conditional Resident

Unless you are married for more than two years at the time your case is adjudicated you will be a conditional resident for two years. At the end of this period, in fact, between the 21st. and 24th. month is the condition that lawful permanent residents can file to make the conditional green card permanent. Even if the marriage did not survive two years, the beneficiary might still be able to obtain the permanent green card under certain conditions, but this should be something you discuss with an immigration attorney since it is very intricate, and taking a false step could prove disastrous for your residency in the U.S.

Remember, proving that your marriage is genuine and not just for U.S. residency or citizenship is critical, and if, in fact, your marriage is deemed to have been a sham marriage, the immigration consequences could forever ruin your plans to live in the U.S.

Waiting to Qualify for U.S. Citizenship

To qualify for expedited naturalization (i.e., obtaining citizenship in 3 years instead of 5) as a green card holder, also known as a lawful permanent resident (LPR), there are specific requirements set by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). These requirements typically include:

  1. Marriage to a U.S. Citizen: If you are married to and living with a U.S. citizen spouse, you may be eligible for expedited naturalization after being a lawful permanent resident for 3 years.

  2. Continuous Residence: You must have continuously resided in the United States as a lawful permanent resident for at least 3 years before applying for naturalization. Continuous residence means you have not left the United States for extended periods of time that could disrupt your eligibility.

  3. Physical Presence: You must have been physically present in the United States for at least 18 months out of the 3 years immediately preceding the filing of your naturalization application.

  4. Good Moral Character: You must demonstrate good moral character during the 3-year period leading up to your naturalization application. This includes avoiding any serious criminal offenses or immigration violations.

  5. Basic English Language Skills: You must demonstrate an ability to read, write, speak, and understand basic English. This requirement is usually assessed through an English language test as part of the naturalization process.

  6. Knowledge of U.S. Civics: You must demonstrate knowledge and understanding of U.S. history, government, and civics. This requirement is typically assessed through a civics test as part of the naturalization process.

  7. Intent to Reside in the United States: You must declare your intention to reside permanently in the United States and demonstrate an understanding of U.S. laws and principles.

It’s important to note that these requirements may vary slightly depending on individual circumstances, and it’s always a good idea to consult with an immigration attorney or accredited representative for personalized guidance on the naturalization process. Additionally, USCIS periodically updates its policies and procedures, so it’s essential to refer to their official website or contact USCIS directly for the most current information.

Newlyweds embraced in love, surrounded by confetti at their wedding celebration


In conclusion, marriage to a U.S. citizen can potentially expedite the path to citizenship. However, it necessitates meticulous adherence to legal procedures, including obtaining a green card and residing in the U.S. for at least three years while maintaining the marital relationship.

The aspiration of U.S. citizenship can materialize upon meeting eligibility criteria and passing requisite tests and interviews. It is imperative to diligently follow each procedural step for a successful outcome on this journey.


What is the initial step in pursuing citizenship after marrying a U.S. citizen?

The process commences by filing a petition for spousal sponsorship with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), substantiating the genuineness of the marital union.

What is the typical timeframe for obtaining a spouse visa?

The duration varies, but generally, securing a spouse visa and subsequently applying for citizenship may span from several months to up to two years.

When am I eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship post-marriage?

Upon maintaining lawful permanent resident status for three years and residing in a bona fide marital relationship with a U.S. citizen spouse, one may submit an application for citizenship using Form N-400.

Are same-sex marriages recognized for purposes of obtaining U.S. citizenship?

Yes, same-sex marriages hold equal standing under immigration law, affording identical rights to petition filings and pursuit of permanent residency or citizenship.

Is legal representation necessary for the citizenship process through marriage?

Though not mandatory, engaging an attorney versed in immigration law can be beneficial to navigating intricate legal requirements and mitigating potential errors that could impede or jeopardize the application process.

Does divorce impact the likelihood of attaining naturalized U.S. citizenship?

Divorce may impact eligibility, particularly if it transpires before the conclusion of conditional residency. However, after attaining lawful permanent resident status without conditions, divorce typically does not affect eligibility for naturalization.

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