US citizenship through marriage
June 28, 2011 8:46 AM   Subscribe

What is the process for getting citizenship through marriage for an Italian on a J1 visa in the USA?

I am a US citizen who would like to marry an Italian PhD candidate who will be in the US for the next 3 years on a student J1 visa. We live together. I have looked around at some websites but am having a hard time figuring out what the requirements are for US citizenship through marriage and what hoops will need to be jumped through.

I know it will be a lot of paperwork... a number of years ago, I saw someone filling out a large stack of papers that presumably we will need to be filling out. I just need to know how to figure out which papers I need to be filling out, and what requirements we will need to fulfill.

Please advise. YANMYL. Thank you very much in advance.
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (10 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
A coworker of mine who is going through a similar process has found this website very helpful. They have forums there too, and more people may be able to answer particulars of your question. At the bottom of this page dealing with student visas, there is an email contact (fmjvisas AT state DOT gov) for queries.
posted by King Bee at 8:57 AM on June 28, 2011

The process will be complicated and expensive and will take years. There is much information on the web, but the best place to find information is on USCIS's website.
posted by Pineapplicious at 9:02 AM on June 28, 2011

When my sister married a foreign exchange student, they had to spend two years outside the U.S. before he could apply for anything, regardless of the fact that they got married while he was in the U.S.
posted by nomisxid at 9:11 AM on June 28, 2011

I am a Australian citizen who moved to the US almost 3 years ago. I was here as a tourist on a tourist visa and not a student and was not intending to stay so a some of what I had to do may not apply. I am not a lawyer etcetc.

Basically the steps for me consisted of.

Getting Married

Apply to change the status of my visa (I-485) with supporting paperwork at the same time my husband applied for an alien relative petition (I-130) and Affidavit of Support (I-864) with supporting forms Biographical information for both of us (G-325A) Employment Authorization

The Medical part sucked as you can only use certain doctors for the examination and they treat you like dirt. I did finally find a Doctor I liked but it took a few phone calls.

You will pay HUGE fees for submitting pretty much every form and for having Biometrics done.

We did not use a lawyer I filled in all the forms myself, they have the forms online and you can fill them in and print them out there. I had no problems with them at all, but I am one of those crazy anal people that like filing and organizing. I used this book and this website. It can be confusing to start with but if you sit down and are systematic about everything its not hard just repetitive.

We were the only couple in the waiting room when we went for our interview without a lawyer, we were in and out of the interview in 10 minutes and were told as we were leaving we made a cute couple and she would make a note in our files that we wouldn't have to go back for another interview when we applied to remove restrictions from my green card. (I do that next month so we'll see if that holds up).

BTW you can apply to become a citizen 3 years after being married not 10 according to the USCIS website.

Sorry this is so long, its hard to summarize just how much we went through just to get this far. Please MeMail me if you have any questions or just want moral support
posted by wwax at 9:52 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Assuming he's in the US now, the first thing you'll need to do is figure out whether his J1 subjects him to the 2-year residency requirement. If it does, there's little point in doing anything now -- after the program, he'll have to spend 2 years in Italy again before he's eligible for most US visas or LPR status.

If he's not in the US now, the formally-correct advice is probably for him to abandon his plans for US study and stay in Italy. Because you plan to marry and seek permanent residence and citizenship for him, he's no longer eligible for a J visa. Possibly nothing would come of it, but if USCIS found out somehow (in a later interview for the green card, or the removal of conditions, or citizenship), that might be grounds for them to deport him and ban him for X years. Rule One of dealing with immigration agencies is YOU DO NOT FUCK WITH THE IMMIGRATION AGENCY. Instead, in that case the probably-correct thing to do is for you to apply for a K1 fiancee visa and bring him in that way; he'll be eligible to study and work after you marry with some other paperwork.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:06 AM on June 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

Ooops sorry. Misread that. I've had a couple of people actually tell me I couldn't apply for 10 years so I just read your comment as that. My bad.
posted by wwax at 10:07 AM on June 28, 2011

argh; meant to add that if he's here now you could also pursue a waiver of the home residency requirement, but if so you should start that now
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:13 AM on June 28, 2011

What ROU_X said, plus a link to the relevant State Department page on the two-year home physical presence requirement.

This is the most significant issue you face, and it makes it one of those borderline cases where, if there are no restrictions, you can probably handle the bureaucracy yourselves, but if either a waiver or a change of non-immigrant visa status is necessary, it may be worth getting an immigration lawyer on board.
posted by holgate at 11:51 AM on June 28, 2011

I did it. I will give you my personal opinion, but remember this is advice from a stranger on the internet.

Marrying an American person and becoming a citizen is not difficult at all (you just have to read the guides and follow the intructions) and you should get a lawyer only if there are any irregularities in the case ( he has been here illegaly in the past, you have been previously married to another non US citizen, he has been married to an american citizen, the difference in ages is too big, etc) I must say, this is not only my opinion, but also the opinion of the immigration counselor I work with.

Otherwise, you just have to sit down, read up and then gather your own paperwork. It's pretty much tax returns of the previous years, photocopies of passports, evidence of the relationship (pics, tickets, etc. - not too much, just a couple of pics is enough) an affidavit of support (stating that yuou are willing to be financially responsible for him so he won't be on SNAP or any assistance) and then the forms with you bio information. I assure you it's not hard at all. You already have everything you need. You just eed to photocopy some stuff, fill up some forms and put everything in an envelope. Visitting a lawyer will result in them scaring you into giving them business.

He will be a conditonal resident for 2 years, then a resident without conditions for one, and finally a citizen. You just have to take notes of dates in order to keep up with the paperwork. I did it on my own, and many of my friends have (it was a fashionable thing to do in my cirlcle of friends to come here on a J1 visa as part of the work and travel program in our 20s and several of us ended up meeting our future husbands/wives here, some of them American, some of them from Europe/Australia. Which as a side note resulted in my having friends living all over the world)

as recommended above, go to, specially the part that has the guides and the diagrams with timelines. He sounds smart enough for this to be a piece of cake, seriously.

Otherwise, I work at a refugee resettlement office and we have an immigration counseling service with very, very good fees, that regularly works with people from all over the US. Send me a private message if you want the info. But I highly recommend that you look into it and do it without a lawyer. You can also write to me if you want any info on how to do it on your own.
posted by Tarumba at 11:22 AM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Also, about the J1, the two year home presence requirement may not apply (read what it says on his passport) even if it does, you can apply for a waiver. I know two people who have done this succesfully and stayed here as residents even though their visas had the 2 year requirement thingy. The rest (including me) didn't have that requirement. It's just one more form (and fee!) to take care of.
posted by Tarumba at 11:25 AM on July 5, 2011

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