Immigration and legalization question

Ok, so an American citizen (a male) gets married to someone (non citizen) from Mexico, that makes her an American citizen right?

Well, what if they’re married for say…ten years and live in Maryland, but then they get divorced. Is she not an American citizen any longer? I would think that once you become one, then you remain one. What’s the legalities of this issue? Also, do they have to remain married for a certain amount of time before citizenship is allowed or is it automatic?

Being married to an American citizen does not AFAIK make one an automatic citizen.

That’s correct. It allows the non-citizen spouse to apply for permanent residence and then she can become naturalized. (The process takes a while and is rife with bureaucratic shenanigans.)

After you become naturalized, you’re a citizen for as long as you want to be.

A former BIL married a Korean woman and brought her to the US. A few months later she left him and he divorced her despite her objections. A few days after the divorce was granted, she was picked up by the INS and sent back to Korea. Her plan to get to the US did not work.

If anyone gets married to a LPR (Legal permanent Resident) or an American citien, that makes them eligible to apply for residency pending a claim to citzenship. They have the choice to adjust status to resident in the States or apply for a fiance visa overseas if the marriage has not yet occured. Applying overseas means that your immigration petition must be issued in the U.S. and approved by the Department of Homeland Security (formerly INS). Anyone travelling on a one -entry fiancee (or K-type) visa must become married within 90 days of issuance, or in the case of minors, the principal applicant must become married with consummation of the relationship. After becoming legally married and divorcing all other previous spouses, the resident alien must remain married for a period of 24 continuous months, after which she/he may apply for citizenship through examination. If they don’t get married (in the case of fiancee visas) or do not consummate the relationship expeditiously, they may then be subject to deportation proceedings. Prety clear, no?

False_God, about to become Immigrant Visa Officer, Lima, Peru.

A couple of clarifications:

Hopefully in the opposite order - upon marying the US citizen, one must be free to marry; if you’ve been married before, any previous marriages must have ended by divorce, annulment, or death of the previous spouse.

Here is some more procedural detail on the green card application procedures for the spouse of a U.S. citizen.

No, within the 3-month period before the end of the person’s second year of conditional permanent residence, based on marriage to a U.S. citizen, he/she must apply again to have the conditions on his/her permanent residence removed. He/she doesn’t need to still be married to the U.S. citizen; however, he/she will have to prove to the satisfaction of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services that the marriage was not for the purpose of evading immigration laws.

After the permanent resident has been a permanent resident based on marriage to a U.S. citizen, and has remained married to that U.S. citizen for at least 3 years, he/she will be eligible to apply for naturalization (citizenship). More details here. Naturalization isn’t by any means automatic; in addition to the waiting period as a U.S. citizen, the applicant has to pass an English exam, a civics exam, and a criminal background check, among other things. But you are correct that once a person has gained permanent residence through a valid marriage to a U.S. citizen, he/she will not automatically lose that permanent residence (or citizenship, if he/she has naturalized) simply by getting divorced.

Eva Luna, Immigration Paralegal and veteran of numerous marriage fraud hearings (as the court interpreter, not as the person engaging in marriage fraud!)

Aaand the lady says it much better and more correctly than I have. In my defense, I have a 103 fever and the flu, if that makes a difference.
** Eva**, why haven’t you joined the Foreign Service yet? I seem to recall you’ve passed the exam a couple times and you speak all kinds of neat languages. Moral issues?

Sending virtual chicken soup, stat!

** Eva**, why haven’t you joined the Foreign Service yet? I seem to recall you’ve passed the exam a couple times and you speak all kinds of neat languages. Moral issues?

Well, the reason I left government service to begin with was that I was having a hard time keeping the appearance of objectivity on issues that are important to me. And let’s just say I think I’d have an even harder time of that at the moment. Thanks for the (implied) compliment, though!

thanks guys, not ever having dealt or even known of anyone dealing with this issue, I just learned something new.

One other scenario: both my wife and I are green-card holders (permanent residents of the US). In a few years, we can both apply for US citizenship, or either of us can apply. If one of us becomes a US citizen, that does not make the other a US citizen.

Interesting. Another question, have these laws always been like this? In other words, was there ever a time when getting married automatically made one a citizen?

It used to be the norm that a woman automatically acquired the nationality of her husband.

And, in many countries, lost her own. I don’t know the US history on this.

I know someone who entered a “marriage of convenience” in order to immigrate to the US. They did live together, although they did not “know” each other (or so they claimed). After a decent interval they divorced. Since then he has married, has had children, etc. But things have probably tightened a lot since then.

Here you go. (This article was on the old INS website before INS became part of Homeland Security and changed its name 73 times, but it seems to have, erm, migrated.)