If you have fallen in love with a United States citizen while visiting the U.S. on a temporary visa or crossing paths in another part of the globe, you might want to know more about the process of marrying a U.S. citizen.
In this article you’ll find an extensive guide on marrying a U.S. citizen, exploring scenarios where marriage takes place in the U.S. or in another country.
We’ll explain immigration laws and visa categories, along with your rights and the responsibilities associated with marrying a U.S. citizen.
Plus, we’ll cover commonly asked questions to help you feel prepared while embarking on the journey towards your new life in the U.S.
How To Get Married To A US Citizen In The US
If you want to get married to a U.S. citizen while you are in the U.S. on a temporary visa and plan to remain in the country, there are several steps to this process.
1. Check If You Meet Marriage Eligibility Requirements
To marry a U.S. citizen, both you and your future spouse must meet several criteria:
- Age: In most states, the legal marriage age is 18 years. However, some states allow marriage with parental consent if you are between 16 and 18 years of age, while a third group of states allows parties to get married under the age of 16 on judicial approval.
- Marital status: You must be single at the time of the marriage.
- Mental capacity: You must be able to understand the nature of the marriage contract along with the rights and responsibilities it entails.
2. Obtain A Marriage License
Visit the local county clerk’s office or courthouse to apply for a marriage license. Note that requirements and fees may vary by state.
If you live in a state that has a waiting period between obtaining the marriage license and the actual marriage ceremony, you will typically have to wait anywhere between a day and a week.
3. Perform The Marriage Ceremony
Whether a civil ceremony performed by a judge or a religious ceremony by an authorized officiant, make sure you have at least one witness present at the event.
After the ceremony, you will receive a marriage certificate as evidence of your legal union. The marriage certificate is an important document for further immigration processes.
4. Ask Your Spouse To File Form I-130
I-130 processing time for spouses of U.S. citizens in 2023 can take between 12 and 16 months.
5. Apply For An Adjustment Of Status
If you entered the U.S. on a valid visa or have lawful status, you are eligible to file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.
Adjustment of status allows you to:
- Apply for a Green Card based on your marriage to a U.S. citizen
- Stay with your spouse in the U.S.
- Work while your case processes
Marrying a U.S. citizen allows you to file Form I-130 and I-485 together, a process known as concurrent filing, since there are no visa number limitations for immediate relatives of U.S. citizens.
I-485 processing time for family applications in 2023 can take between 12 and 37 months on average.
6. Attend A Biometrics Appointment
Once you file Form I-485, you may be scheduled for a biometrics appointment where officials will take your fingerprints, photographs and other identifying information.
7. Attend An Interview
To confirm the legitimacy of your marriage, you and your U.S. citizen spouse will be scheduled for an interview where USCIS officers will ask various marriage interview questions. Those questions will typically focus on your relationship, family history, joint finances, daily activities and more.
8. Wait For Results On Your Adjustment Of Status Application
If your adjustment of status application is approved, you will receive a Green Card granting you lawful permanent residency in the U.S.
If your adjustment of status application is denied and you are in the country on a temporary visa, you will need to appeal the decision or return to your home country.
Another scenario of marrying a U.S. citizen in the U.S. includes entering the country on a fiancé visa, known as a K-1 visa and marrying your U.S. citizen partner within 90 days of your arrival.
Read more on K-1 visa requirements and the application process in our blog.
How To Get Married To A US Citizen Outside The US
To get married to a U.S. citizen outside the U.S. and later join your spouse in the U.S., you will have to go through consular processing, a procedure that allows you to apply for an immigrant visa at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy outside the U.S. and enter the country as a lawful permanent resident.
To do so:
1. Verify The Marriage Laws In Your Country
Check the marriage requirements and laws in your country or the country where you plan to marry. These can include submission of specific documentation, residency requirements and certain waiting periods.
2. Visit The US Embassy Or Consulate
Contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your country and ask about specific requirements for U.S. citizens marrying abroad. Typically, the Embassy or Consulate will provide guidance and notary services for certain documents.
3. Obtain A Marriage License
Follow the procedures for obtaining a marriage license, which might involve submitting required documents, complying with waiting periods and paying fees.
4. Attend The Marriage Ceremony
Plan and attend a marriage ceremony with an authorized officiant and witnesses.
5. Obtain A Marriage Certificate
Secure an official marriage certificate from the country where the marriage took place so that you can use it in the subsequent immigration process.
6. Apply For A Marriage-Based Visa
To apply for a marriage-based visa, ask your partner to complete and file Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative with USCIS and wait for its approval.
Once Form I-130 is approved, it will be sent to the National Visa Center (NVC) for further processing.
National Visa Center processing time may vary depending on various factors, such as completeness and accuracy of filed documents, background checks or security clearance.
After the NVC processes your petition, they will forward your case to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your country.
You will then have to file Form DS-260, Immigrant Visa Electronic Application.
7. Attend A Medical Examination
As part of the visa application process, you will need to undergo a medical examination by an authorized physician.
The medical examination ensures that you do not pose a public health risk to the U.S. community.
8. Attend A Visa Interview
Attend a visa interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate. At the interview, you will be asked questions about your relationship, shared experiences and future plans.
You will also be asked to provide evidence of your genuine marriage — this can include wedding photos, joint financial records and letters, emails or text messages with your U.S. citizen spouse.
9. Receive An Immigrant Visa
If your visa application is approved, you will receive an immigrant visa in your passport. You can then travel to the U.S. and reunite with your spouse.
10. Travel To The U.S. & Receive A Permanent Green Card
After entering the U.S. on your marriage-based visa, you will receive a:
- Conditional Green Card, if you were married for less than two years (Read more on how to remove conditions from your Green Card in our recent blog).
- Permanent green card, if you have been married for over two years
Benefits Of Marrying A US Citizen
From acquiring legal resident status and social benefits to exploring job and education opportunities, marrying a U.S. citizen has multiple benefits.
The benefits of marrying a U.S. citizen include:
- Legal resident status and path to citizenship: Marrying a U.S. citizen provides a pathway to legal resident status and, eventually, U.S. citizenship, leading to long-term security and stability.
- Access to social benefits: Marrying a U.S. citizen makes you eligible for various social benefits, including social security, healthcare and retirement benefits.
- More job and education opportunities: Becoming a spouse of a U.S. citizen opens the doors to employment and educational opportunities that may not be available to non-U.S. citizens, resulting in a better quality of life.
- Family reunification: Marrying a U.S. citizen allows you to reunite with family members more easily since you can sponsor other family members for immigration benefits.
- Easier travel: Being married to a U.S. citizen can simplify international travel, as you may be eligible for expedited visa processing and fewer travel restrictions.
- Financial benefits: Marrying a U.S. citizen allows you to benefit from tax advantages and facilitates joint financial ventures, such as property ownership and bank accounts.
- Cultural exchange and exposure: As a spouse of a U.S. citizen, you are likely to be exposed to American culture, customs and traditions, which will enrich your life with new experiences.
Planning To Get Married To A US Citizen? Contact Spar & Bernstein
With five decades of experience in immigration, including reuniting spouses in the U.S., The Law Offices of Spar & Bernstein will be your trusted legal partner if you are marrying a U.S. citizen.
Based on thorough research of your case, our experienced and compassionate immigration team will:
- Help you adjust your status, if your marriage took place in the U.S.
- Provide marriage-based visa guidance, if your marriage took place outside the U.S.
- Help you prepare for your marriage interview
- Help you remove conditions on your Green Card, if you have been granted a conditional Green Card
- Represent you before all government agencies
- Update you on the progress of your case
Contact our knowledgeable lawyers and become a part of our success stories!
FAQs About Marrying A US Citizen
If you have not found the answer to your questions above, check out our FAQ section below.
1. Can I work in the U.S. after marrying a U.S. citizen?
Yes, as a foreign spouse in the U.S. on a marriage-based visa, you can typically apply for work authorization while your immigration case is pending.
2. Do I need an immigration attorney if I’m getting married to a U.S. citizen?
While hiring an immigration attorney is not mandatory, it can be extremely helpful.
Schedule an appointment with our caring and compassionate attorneys at Spar & Bernstein who will guide you through the process, help with paperwork and ensure your application is accurate and complete.
3. Can I obtain immigration benefits after marrying a U.S. citizen of the same sex?
Yes, same-sex couples have the same rights and opportunities as opposite-sex couples regarding immigration benefits.
4. Can I marry a U.S. citizen while in the U.S. on a tourist visa?
It is possible to get married while in the U.S. on a tourist visa. However, this is likely to raise questions about your intentions. Read our recent blog on the topic and consult our experienced immigration lawyers at Spar & Bernstein.
Bradford H. Bernstein
This article was written and reviewed by Bradford H. Bernstein, a second-generation leader at Law Offices of Spar & Bernstein, P.C., who has helped over 100,000 clients with immigration and personal injury issues. Brad joined the firm in 1993, became a partner in 1997, and assumed leadership in 2000 after Harry Spar retired.View Brad's Bio