How to Gain Citizenship Through Marriage

by | Jun 10, 2021 | Immigration Law

Ready to adopt the American Dream?

Here’s how to apply for U.S. citizenship through marriage.


It’s a tale as old as history itself: two people meet, fall in love, get married…and apply for U.S. citizenship.

Okay, maybe this exact scenario doesn’t happen to everyone, but it did happen to you. And because you don’t know anyone who has ever been in your shoes, it’s normal to feel confused about what to do next.

In this article, we’ll discuss the steps you need to take when applying for citizenship through marriage and how ProPrudence can help.


What is Citizenship?

The United States Government describes citizenship as “a unique bond that unites people around civic ideals” but it is far more than a nebulous concept. In fact, our very government considers citizenship to be a legal definition, with its own set of rights and privileges.

You can become a U.S. citizen in one of two ways: naturalization or acquisition.

Acquisition of U.S. citizenship occurs when a person is born to parents who are also American citizens. Naturalization occurs when a person is granted citizenship by the U.S. government.

Happy interracial couple over American flag

Step 1: Apply For Lawful Permanent Residence

Movies and television have given many people the mistaken impression that gaining citizenship through marriage is as simple as…well, getting married. The reality is far more complicated.

Before you can file for U.S. citizenship through marriage, you will need to apply for lawful permanent residence, also known as your green card.

First, you or your spouse must file Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative and Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.

After you submit your paperwork, you will receive a notice to attend a biometric services appointment, where you will give your fingerprints, photograph, and/or signature. You will also need to have a medical exam completed by a doctor authorized by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Once all information has been reviewed, you may be called in for an interview. If so, you and your spouse must attend and bring all original documents submitted with your I-485 application.

You will receive written notice of the final decision once it has been made.

If you are granted a green card, you are now considered a permanent resident of the United States, however, you must still renew your card every 10 years.


Step 2: Apply For Citizenship Through Marriage

Once you have your green card, you can apply to become a U.S. citizen.

Those hoping to obtain citizenship through marriage need to meet a laundry list of requirements:

  • At least 18 years old;
  • The ability to read, write, and speak basic English;
  • Able to pass a civics exam;
  • “Good moral character”;
  • A lawful permanent resident for three years immediately before filing;
  • Married to (and living with) a U.S. citizen for at least three years;
  • Physically living in the U.S. (or a U.S. jurisdiction) for at least 18 months out of those three years.

If your spouse lives overseas, the “three-year rule” may not apply to you. Consult with an immigration attorney for more information.

Provided you meet all requirements, you must then file Form N-400, Application for Naturalization.

The first step to applying for citizenship through marriage is getting your green card.

How Much Does Citizenship Cost?

On average, it costs around $2,400 to file for citizenship through marriage (not including attorney fees or the cost of the medical exam).

Here is a breakdown of the average filing fees:

  • Form I-130: $535
  • Form I-485: $1,225
  • Form N-400: $640

This is something you’ll want to consider before filing for citizenship through marriage.


What If My Spouse Is Undocumented?

For many couples, marriage seems like the easiest way for an undocumented spouse to remain in the United States. However, please note that this is also one of the most difficult paths to citizenship through marriage.

If you manage to secure one, your spouse’s green card can be revoked if it was acquired through fraud. The U.S. Government is so strict against all forms of immigration fraud that deception is simply not worth the hassle.

On the other hand, if the two of you are in a legitimate marriage, there are still ways of applying for a green card.

If your spouse entered into the United States legally, but let their visa expire, the process of applying for a green card is the same as if their status were still active (as long as the two of you are legally married).

However, if they entered the country illegally, they will have to leave the country before applying. If the undocumented spouse lived in the U.S. for more than six months, they may be barred from entering the U.S. for a period of 3-10 years.

It sounds drastic, but this doesn’t mean your relationship is over! You can apply for a “provisional waiver” to get around the re-entry restrictions.



We congratulate you on making the decision to immigrate to the United States, settle down, and gain citizenship through marriage. While the process may be long and stressful, the end result will be well worth it!

Here at ProPrudence, we support you on your path to citizenship…whatever that path looks like to you.

Allow our chat bot, Prudence, to match you with a Georgia immigration lawyer who can assist you with the entire citizenship process, from start to finish. Within minutes, you’ll be connected to a licensed attorney via secure video chat to discuss the details of your case.