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A.H.Black
06-17-2012, 04:29 AM
My next door neighbor became a citizen last year. He lives with his girlfriend and they have a baby about 18 months old. This week they are getting married.

My question is about her citizenship. How does she become a citizen? Is it easier for her once she marries a citizen? Does she still have to go through the whole citizenship process? Where could I find some information for him (preferably in Spanish)

I also need to help him get registered to vote, but that is a local thing.

numbers123
06-17-2012, 04:47 AM
My next door neighbor became a citizen last year. He lives with his girlfriend and they have a baby about 18 months old. This week they are getting married.

My question is about her citizenship. How does she become a citizen? Is it easier for her once she marries a citizen? Does she still have to go through the whole citizenship process? Where could I find some information for him (preferably in Spanish)

I also need to help him get registered to vote, but that is a local thing.

I am not sure if there is a service in your area like Centro Latino in my area - it is an office with people and resources to answer questions.

I can't help you much but just to say I have been arguing with my sister on Facebook about bigotry comments regarding non-English speaking persons in the US. My son told me to take a break and calm down, but I asked him if not me then who will speak out.

From what I understand citizenship process is very involved is not just granted because of marriage. Not much help I am afraid.

Gazpacho
06-17-2012, 04:54 AM
Yes, it is easier and quicker for her once they are married. It is important that they get married in the US.

She will apply for her green card first and go to a green card interview. This should take about 6 months. At the interview, they want to make sure that the marriage is real, so they should bring documentation such as joint accounts, wedding photos, etc. The fact that they have a baby together also dispels doubts that the marriage is fake.

The green card she gets will be for two years. If the marriage ends before the two years, she's out of luck and will need to make a special application stating why she should be allowed to keep her green card. In the three months before the green card expires, they need to apply to make her green card permanent.

Once she gets her green card, she will be eligible for citizenship in three years.

Two more bits of information. First, the process is quite expensive, so be prepared for those costs. Second, she shouldn't leave the country between the time she mails the application and the time she gets the green card. If she does, she may not be able to re-enter the country. If there is an emergency situation in which she must leave, she has to apply for permission and ask that her application be expedited. If this situation arises (green card application pending and emergency travel outside US required), it's probably best to consult a lawyer.

The USCIS website has most information you'll need in both English (http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis) and Spanish (http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis-es).

A.H.Black
06-17-2012, 05:24 AM
Yes, it is easier and quicker for her once they are married. It is important that they get married in the US.

She will apply for her green card first and go to a green card interview. This should take about 6 months. At the interview, they want to make sure that the marriage is real, so they should bring documentation such as joint accounts, wedding photos, etc. The fact that they have a baby together also dispels doubts that the marriage is fake.

The green card she gets will be for two years. If the marriage ends before the two years, she's out of luck and will need to make a special application stating why she should be allowed to keep her green card. In the three months before the green card expires, they need to apply to make her green card permanent.

Once she gets her green card, she will be eligible for citizenship in three years.

Two more bits of information. First, the process is quite expensive, so be prepared for those costs. Second, she shouldn't leave the country between the time she mails the application and the time she gets the green card. If she does, she may not be able to re-enter the country. If there is an emergency situation in which she must leave, she has to apply for permission and ask that her application be expedited. If this situation arises (green card application pending and emergency travel outside US required), it's probably best to consult a lawyer.

The USCIS website has most information you'll need in both English (http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis) and Spanish (http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis-es).

Thanks for the valuable information. Apparently a friend of his told him it would easier to get married in Mexico. I said "You're a citizen. Get married here". He was able to gain his citizenship through work. He had had a green card for years. I think his limited english made it difficult for him to get it on his own. He keeps trying, but english is very hard for him. The sites were really helpful. I used the english site to figure out the links on the Spanish site. I hope I printed out some helpful information for him.

ballettmaus
06-17-2012, 05:34 AM
I would recommend involving someone who is familiar with the process and/or a lawyer. While the site Gazpacho provided the link to does contain all the information, it can be very confusing and it might not be as easy as it seems at first glance. It's easy to take a wrong step when you think it's the right one and there are so many forms that it can be very confusing.
Also, the visa she is having now (which I suppose is a non-immigrant kind) may require a certain follow up application (change of status) and they don't want to file the wrong forms.
My parents got a Green Card last year, so we've been through the maze of forms and at one point almost would have filed the wrong forms. Luckily they listened to me and contacted the lawyer for advice first.

As far as emergency travel is concerned, there are forms which can be filed granting an exception but I'm with Gazpacho, a lawyer would be the safest bet.

taf2002
06-17-2012, 05:56 AM
My husband is Canadian & we have been married 27 years. He had to renew his green card last year & we couldn't believe the hoops he had to jump thru. And yes, it is expensive. I wish he would get his citizenship which is actually a much bigger hassle but at least we'd only have to go thru it once.

TheGirlCanSkate
06-17-2012, 06:31 AM
It also depends on how his sig other came to the country. It's a very murky process. He needs to hire a lawyer, I would not attempt this on his own.

My spouse had a green card for about 30 years before becoming a citizen. The process was much easier for us because I am a citizen and we had been married for over 15 years (and had kids) before he applied.

kwanfan1818
06-17-2012, 09:42 AM
If his girlfriend did not come into the country legally and amnesty/humanitarian provisions don't apply to her, marrying him most likely will not help her get citizenship and could get her deported. If she came in legally and overstayed her visa, then it's a different story. If she's in the US legally, then a lawyer can give the best advice about how to change status.

barbk
06-17-2012, 03:40 PM
This is really, really a case where a consult with an immigration lawyer is important.

Gazpacho
06-17-2012, 06:56 PM
An immigration lawyer is generally unnecessary if all of the following are true:

--It's a straightforward case. No illegal immigration.

--No criminal or dodgy activities while in the US. I'm not just referring to major crimes. A DUI incident or slightly fibbing taxes complicates things.

--The neighbor is well-educated enough to understand the complicated language on some of the forms. It needn't be in English, but I imagine the Spanish versions require a high level of literacy too.

--The neighbor is careful and detail-oriented. When the forms say ____, he will do exactly that.

If all this is true, then an immigration lawyer isn't worth the money in most cases. However, it seems he's not savvy enough to find this information on the internet. He also didn't know that getting married outside the US is a major no-no if he wants the case to go smoothly. So perhaps handling the whole process himself is unwise.

I gather his girlfriend is from Mexico? If so, and she entered the country legally and has no criminal record, I'd actually recommend against an immigration lawyer specializing in Mexican immigrants. Those lawyers deal with many complicated cases, and chances are, they won't give his case careful attention and may procrastinate on it because they are constantly faced with urgent (intervene or the guy's deported tomorrow) circumstances.

Instead, I'd look for a lawyer who handles cases from South America or Spain, or ones specializing in other geographical areas who have Spanish-speaking paralegals. Lawyers specializing in Canadians may be helpful, as Canada and Mexico may have different immigration treaties with the US. I'd avoid ones specializing in cases from Asia or Africa because those cases are often complicated or involve political asylum, which wouldn't apply to him.

numbers123
06-17-2012, 07:02 PM
An immigration lawyer is generally unnecessary if all of the following are true:

I will respectfully disagree. My church has a service specifically designed to help those seeking citizenship. green cards or any other access to legal residency in the US (usually at no charge due to the outreach programs and funding). Many of their clients are well versed in what they thought the processes would be and spoke fairly fluent English and still needed help with the whole process.

Gazpacho
06-17-2012, 07:05 PM
I will respectfully disagree. My church has a service specifically designed to help those seeking citizenship. green cards or any other access to legal residency in the US (usually at no charge due to the outreach programs and funding). Many of their clients are well versed in what they thought the processes would be and spoke fairly fluent English and still needed help with the whole process.That may be true. I have some colleagues who entered the US for graduate school and were able to do everything themselves, including bringing a fiance(e) with them. But these are exceptionally educated and detail-oriented people.

numbers123
06-17-2012, 07:42 PM
I heard first hand from a professor at a major university whose home country was France who tried all the avenues and still encounter great difficulties. Missed the birth of his daughter and her first year of life (his wife is an American citizen - born here). It was not until the church stepped in with an immigration lawyer that things could move along to return to the US, it will still be at least 2 years for citizenship.

kwanfan1818
06-18-2012, 05:39 PM
Two links from an article (http://www.salon.com/2012/06/18/the_conservatives_guide_to_ending_immigration_fore ver/) about immigration in salon.com:

http://reason.com/assets/db/07cf533ddb1d06350cf1ddb5942ef5ad.jpg

http://www.cracked.com/article_18552_so-you-want-to-be-american-5-circles-immigration-hell.html

PRlady
06-18-2012, 09:04 PM
My colleague in New York -- born in South Africa, raised in Israel, in the US for ten years working for us-- has had unbelievable issues with green card stuff. She married, last year, another Israeli with American citizenship, and reports that the hoops are somewhat easier but that she will be an American citizen roughly coincidental with becoming a grandmom.

She's not even pregnant yet.