You just celebrated your Big Day – marrying the love of your life, who happens to be a U.S. citizen. So now do you automatically become a U.S. citizen? The answer is “it depends.”
If your spouse is a U.S. citizen and you have been married to him or her for less than 2 years then you must prove to USCIS that you have a real, or “bona fide”, marriage, and the USCIS will issue you a Conditional Green Card valid for 2 years. You will only receive a Permanent Green Card if, after 3 years, your spouse sponsors your petition to remove conditions and you can prove to USCIS that you still have a valid bona fide marriage. If your relationship has not survived and you are divorced, or, your spouse refuses to sponsor your petition to remove your conditions, you may request that USCIS grant you a waiver of your spouse applying for you.
It is only after you’ve been a green card holder for 3 years, if receiving your green card through your spouse, that you can apply to become a citizen.
However, there are quite a few things that can bar you from becoming a citizen. Getting arrested or having convictions for serious crimes can definitely make things worse and may even, under certain circumstances, make you ineligible to ever become a U.S. citizen.
On a lighter note, it’s a recent victory and step towards equality so lest we forget, same sex couples can now petition for their spouses as well! We were thrilled when DOMA was struck down because now we can help all couples happily live their married life by helping them petition for their spouses. We can be reached at 212-248-7907 if you have any questions.