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  1. #1
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    Question about citizenship

    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.

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    Quote Originally Posted by A.H.Black View Post
    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.

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    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 and Spanish.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gazpacho View Post
    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 and Spanish.
    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

  8. #8
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    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.
    "'Is this new BMW-designed sled the ultimate sledding machine for Langdon and Holcomb?' Leigh Diffey asked before the pair cruised to victory. I don’t know, but I know that sled is the ultimate Olympic Games product placement.." -- Jen Chaney

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    This is really, really a case where a consult with an immigration lawyer is important.

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    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.
    Last edited by Gazpacho; 06-17-2012 at 07:02 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gazpacho View Post
    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.

  12. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by numbers123 View Post
    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.

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    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.

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    Last edited by kwanfan1818; 06-18-2012 at 09:09 PM.
    "'Is this new BMW-designed sled the ultimate sledding machine for Langdon and Holcomb?' Leigh Diffey asked before the pair cruised to victory. I don’t know, but I know that sled is the ultimate Olympic Games product placement.." -- Jen Chaney

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    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.
    "Youth and vigor is no match for age and deceit." -- Prancer

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    Quote Originally Posted by numbers123 View Post
    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.
    This.

    Additionally, I know someone who spent a few years working at a company that was contracted to process immigration paperwork. There are two piles. Those submitted with/by lawyers and those without. Guess which ones don't get thrown out (forcing the immigrant to start over) if a form is out of order? And they really were instructed to throw the entire pile of forms out if one tiny thing was wrong.

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    I appreciate all the comments. Thanks, especially, for sticking to the subject.

    I find myself wondering how my neighbor got his citizenship with comparative ease. Of course, he had been here a long time, owned his own home, and had a green card. Still, after reading all the experiences here, I can only think the people at his work really helped.

    I think his wife is here legally, She is from Salvador (as they say) and has been married here before and divorced and has other children. I have suggested they check at the Spanish church congregation nearby. I also suggested he talk to the same people who helped him. He's a good neighbor so I wish him well.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by PDilemma View Post
    I know someone who spent a few years working at a company that was contracted to process immigration paperwork. There are two piles. Those submitted with/by lawyers and those without. Guess which ones don't get thrown out (forcing the immigrant to start over) if a form is out of order?.
    Interesting

    On their website, they explicitly say that is not the case, and there is no preference nor expedition associated with obtaining a lawyer. They actually warn people about relying upon immigration assistance for applying for things since many times those are scams that take people for money or otherwise get people into immigration trouble.
    Last edited by agalisgv; 06-18-2012 at 10:31 PM.

  19. #19
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    I have have a Canandian co-worker with a US wife, he got his citizenship with relative ease. However, he already had a green card.

    Does she have a green card?
    It seems that getting a green card is step one, and should be smooth if they are married and he is a citizen (and she has no criminal/illegal activities).

    It is still A LOT of paper work. My husband and I got ours through work, and they had lawyers filling out the whole thing. It was all very complicated - lots of forms (Americans do love thier forms!), lots of things like marriage certificates, birth certificates, exam papers, statements from manager (since this was a work visa)

    Actually, step one should be for her to make sure she has a valid birth certificate, that will help in every thing.

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    Quote Originally Posted by agalisgv View Post
    Interesting

    On their website, they explicitly say that is not the case, and there is no preference nor expedition associated with obtaining a lawyer. They actually discourage using immigration lawyers for applying for things since they say there's no tangible benefit for doing so, and too many times the lawyers are scamming people for money when they get no different results than if you had filled out the forms (properly) yourself.
    Let's just say the person I know who worked there went from having a super conservative "can't they just come here legally?" view of immigration to being adamantly in favor of comprehensive immigration reform and disgusted by the process. This paperwork gets shuffled to contracted private companies all over the country, lost in transit, and a lot of the stuff INS says about it isn't actually true. And they are all classified employees and get threatened to keep them quiet about how it all works. He was not supposed to tell us anything about what he did.

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