It's not uncommon for U.S. citizens to fall in love with non-U.S. citizens who are visiting the country. In fact, this is such a common occurrence that there are many laws and regulations in place revolving around the non-citizen spouse filing for legal citizenship after marriage.
Below are three things that can affect the process of a non-U.S. citizen becoming a legal resident, even after they're married to a legal citizen:
The Status of the Non-U.S. Citizen Prior to the Marriage
Whether the non-citizen spouse was in the United States legally or illegally at the time of the wedding will have a bearing on the number of years it can take for them to obtain legal residency.
After marriage, you will not automatically become a legal citizen. The process to apply for a green card and later on, citizenship, can be frustrating and drawn out, but it's absolutely necessary in order to obtain legal status. The process will depend entirely on the legal status of the non-citizen spouse prior to the marriage.
This may require them to travel outside of the U.S. to apply and interview for a green card, and there may be minimum time requirements to be met before they're allowed to enter the U.S. again. If the non-citizen spouse had a visa, however, the process should not require them to leave the U.S. during the process, but it can still take several years before the process is complete.
Past Run-ins with the Law
If the non-citizen spouse currently holds a visa, they've already been screened for past criminal offenses and deemed eligible. This can change in the time between obtaining the visa and applying for a green card, however, if they have any run-ins with the law while in the country.
If the spouse is here without documentation, their past history will be thoroughly explored. Certain offenses can result in an automatic green card denial. In cases such as these, it'd be wise to speak with an immigration attorney before applying for the proper documentation. They can best advise you on your available options, and what can happen if you do apply and are not eligible for citizenship.
Certain medical conditions can automatically disqualify a non-citizen from obtaining a green card, even if they're legally married to an American citizen.
While the majority of conditions have waivers available, one condition that cannot be overridden is drug addiction. The only possible way for someone with a drug addiction to be granted a green card (and later on, citizenship), is if they meet the DSM criteria for remission.
Marriage to a U.S. citizen does not mean automatic citizenship. While the process is long and drawn out, it's necessary to be able to enjoy all of the benefits of being a legal resident of the United States. When applying for legal residence, it's always best to speak with an experienced immigration attorney.
Even if you think your request will be approved, it can't hurt to have an attorney walk you through the process and help you to anticipate the hurdles that may arise during the process. To learn more, contact a company like Ahmad Law Office PLLC with any questions you have.