What’s Next after Marrying a Foreign National as a U.S. Citizen?

Should you find yourself in a position where you fell in love with someone from a foreign country, and now you have married, the next step you need to take to ensure that they are legally allowed to remain with you in the United States is to get them a green card.

Marrying a foreign national requires a lot of paperwork and bureaucracy, which can add a ton of stress to the already hectic process of planning a wedding. If you feel overwhelmed by it all, an immigration lawyer can mend the way towards marriage for you and your foreign fiancé(e).

Whether you get assistance or look to go it alone, this step by step guide aims to ease any stress by walking you through the entire process.

From Falling in Love to Citizenship

Meeting the love of your life is a wonderful experience. But if that person happens to be from another country, that wonderful experience may be followed by a whole lot of stressful bureaucracy.  Here are the main steps to take from proposal to citizenship:

  • Obtain a visa
  • Obtain a green card
  • Naturalization
  • Interview and Citizenship Test

Obtain a Visa

There are two paths to take in regards to marriage and the visa process if your fiancé(e) is not an American citizen. The first option is to bring your fiancé(e) into the country with a K-1 Fiancé(e) Visa and then get married in the United States within 90 days.

The other option is to get married in the home country of your fiancé(e) and then apply for a CR-1 Marriage Visa to bring your new spouse into the country.

To obtain a K-1 Fiancé(e) Visa, you will need to complete a Petition for Alien Fiancé form and provide proof of the identity of your fiancé(e) along with a valid passport, medical examinations, and evidence of your relationship.

To obtain a CR-1 Marriage Visa, you must first file form I-130, which is a petition for your spouse’s entry into the country. After approval of your petition, you will need to complete form DS-260, which is an application for an immigrant visa.

You will also need to provide several documents including form G-1145 (an e-notification of your application), a cover letter, marriage certificate, additional proof of marriage, passport photos, proof of permanent residency, proof of the end of any previous marriages, medical examination forms, and an affidavit of support (such as form I-864).

Obtain a Green Card

After you are married and in the country, the next step towards citizenship for your new spouse is to obtain a green card. A green card changes your spouse’s status to that of a permanent resident.

A green card is conditional during the first two years of marriage, but after two years, the conditional status is removed. A green card typically has a validity period of 10 years before requiring renewal.

If your spouse entered the country on a K-1 Fiancé(e) Visa, then you will need to file forms I-130 and DS-260, and they will need to have a green card interview and await approval.

If they entered under the CR-1 Marriage Visa, on the other hand, then their Passport will be stamped and serve as a temporary green card until a permanent green card is issued two to three months after arrival.


For your spouse to transition from a permanent resident into a full citizen, they must file an application and go through the naturalization process, which takes about six months to complete. To meet the requirements, your spouse must:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Have their green card for at least three years
  • Be married to you for at least three years
  • Live in the state where you file the application for at least three months
  • Have spent at least 18 months out of the previous three years in the U.S.
  • Remain in the U.S. for the duration of the application process
  • Read, write, and speak English
  • Have knowledge of U.S. history and government

Interview and Citizenship Test

At the end of the naturalization process, your spouse will have to go through an interview and pass a citizenship test. Then, after taking the “Oath of Allegiance” at a naturalization ceremony, your spouse will be a full citizen.

Jeff Campbell

Jeff Campbell is a father, martial artist, budget-master, Disney-addict, musician, and recovering foodie having spent over 2 decades as a leader for Whole Foods Market. Click to learn more about me

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