Applying for citizienship and getting married to a non-American
February 8, 2010 6:07 PM   Subscribe

I'm applying for citizenship (USA, sending in the forms in the next few days) and also possibly getting married (not to an American) in March. Does this effect my application and/or is it a bad idea?

I've been a permanent resident for about 15 years but finally want to do the citizenship thing (mostly to make travel easier). I'm also planning to get married to a non-american in March. She won't be trying to become an American anytime soon, although it would be useful at some point if she could get a green card to work.

Do I need to note any of this on my application? Could it effect my application? Should I wait to get married until my citizenship gets approved?

Bonus: What's the typical wait time from putting the n-400 form in the mail until having a passport?

If you want to contact me directly:
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (11 answers total)
I would really speak with an immigration lawyer about this type of thing. Immigration laws are complex, especially in the US, and you don't want to set yourself up for disaster.
posted by dfriedman at 6:17 PM on February 8, 2010

I would definitely consult with an immigration lawyer. It may not affect you, but the timing of your marriage could put her status in jeopardy if she is coming and going to between the US.
posted by Yorrick at 6:25 PM on February 8, 2010

If you want to consult with an immigration lawyer, use the Google or your local library to find immigration forums in your area. They're free. They're cool. They have lawyers.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 6:30 PM on February 8, 2010

Nthing the lawyer-up advice, at least for a consultation. If you're in the US already, it's likely that your state bar association or a local lawyer's group will have some sort of arrangement with local lawyers for low-cost initial consultations. Google for that as well, or ask at your local library.
posted by immlass at 6:55 PM on February 8, 2010

Lawyer up and be prepared to postpone your marriage.
posted by ged at 7:02 PM on February 8, 2010

IANAL but the best way to do this would be to become a citizen then sponsor your fiance/wife. You can do this as a permanent resident but the process seems faster and easier if you are a citizen rather than changing the info as you go along because you have changed your status (note that to sponsor a fiance you need to be a US citizen but if you are a permanent resident you need to marry first then start the sponsorship papers for a spouse). Citizenship packages are moving pretty quickly now--apply, wait for a month for your fingerprint appointment, wait for four to six more months, sometimes faster, for your interview, pass the interview, receive your naturalization certificate soon after then use the certificate to apply for a passport which takes about six weeks or so unless expedited. More info at, click on forms, check out I 129F and I 130 instructons. You don't need to mention anything that you haven't done yet so on your citizenship application you do not need to mention anything about the fiance unless you get married (see form N 400 for info you would need about your current spouse if you decide to get married first).
posted by MsKim at 8:06 PM on February 8, 2010

N-400 wait time depends upon where you're applying, as well as any special circumstances that might accompany your application. The reports here show application-to-citizenship times around 3-4 months, but the official estimate is five months.

I'd be inclined to hold off on the wedding plans until you've sworn the oath, or at least get a basic once-over from an immigration lawyer, just because the bureaucracy is better set up to deal with straightforward cases than more complicated ones.
posted by holgate at 8:30 PM on February 8, 2010

I'm about the biggest USCIS alarmist I've seen on this site, based on some interesting personal experiences + working with immigrants, and it's always a very good idea to talk to an actual qualified expert instead of random people on the internet, but I'm really having a hard time seeing how (unless there's something dubious in your fiancee's immigration status) any of this affects the other parts of this.

You'd be getting your citizenship based purely on your length of time as a permanent resident with no disqualifying factors (like treason or felonies), and all you need to demonstrate to the US government at this point is that you can pass the citizenship civics test, and haven't done anything that would get you in trouble since you became a PR.

So unless you are helping your non-citizen fiancee commit some kind of immigration fraud or otherwise committing a crime connected to your relationship with her, I just don't see how it's the slightest bit relevant or why anyone would care. Maybe other posters are reading something from the question that I'm missing?

Anyway, the whole process took me about six months start to finish in LA last year (and that included having to postpone an appointment). How long it takes you will depend on how busy the office is where you live - if it's busy it might take a while to get the appointment for the interview and test, but if it's slow they might not schedule the swearing in ceremonies very often (they're like, weekly in Southern California). You don't get a passport automatically FYI, but I was able to apply at a temporary post office set up for the purpose where they held the ceremony, and I got the passport about a month after that in the mail.

Good luck!
posted by crabintheocean at 8:48 PM on February 8, 2010

Maybe other posters are reading something from the question that I'm missing?

Well, it's the question of whether the fiancée's in the US, and if so, if her immigration status is going to change any time soon (the "green card to work" thing implies that she might be on some kind of non-immigrant visa which prohibits it, and those visas time out) and how soon she might want to apply for adjustment of status through marriage. The paperwork for spouses of permanent residence is different from that of spouses of citizens, and it's usually a good idea not to cross the streams.
posted by holgate at 9:07 PM on February 8, 2010

Ok, that makes a huge amount of sense, and reading through again I get that now from both your post and MsKim's. I wouldn't be surprised if the OP changing his status meant he had to refile for his fiancee - knowing how these things go. I think I was just a little taken aback by the sense of *danger* conferred by some other posts!
posted by crabintheocean at 9:20 PM on February 8, 2010

here is one data point:
sent in application around august 20, 2009.
had interview on november 10.
had ceremony on december 4.
applied for passport on december 7.
received passport single-digit january 2010.

note 1: at the end of the interview, officer told me (also written on the documents they give you) that if address, marital status, criminal record changes between then (the interview) and the ceremony, you must immediately contact uscis and let them know of these changes. based on the documents i was given, it is not clear how this would affect the application (i suspect, criminal record change might be detrimental). i didn't ask.

note 2: if you have valid reasons (e.g., impending trip you must take), you can ask the officer if the time between the interview and the ceremony can be shortened. i know someone who did this; he was given a ceremony date in the week after the interview date.

note 3: you can expedite the passport by paying extra. however, i was told not to waste my money as these days it doesn't make much of a difference.

best of luck to you.
posted by eebs at 9:21 PM on February 8, 2010

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