One of the most common ways that citizens of other nations become lawful permanent residents (LPR)  here in the United States is through marriage.   Unfortunately, the process isn’t as easy as most people expect.  As a result many people have misconceptions on about the process and the rights conferred once they are married to a USC.  Below are five of the most common misconceptions I have heard.

1. Once I marry a United States Citizen (USC), I automatically become a United States Citizen.
Unfortunately, once someone marries a USC, they are NOT automatically a USC.  In fact they are not even classified automatically as a lawful permanent resident.  While it is true that anyone may marry a US Citizen, given it is properly recognized by the state in which you marry and not in violation of any state or federal laws, whenever and where-ever you please, the mere act of marrying a USC does not confer lawful immigration status let alone citizenship.  All persons attempting to immigrate by way of marriage must apply through either their local United States consulate or the appropriate USCIS office with the appropriate paperwork and documentation.  Nevertheless, if the spouse of a USC is qualified and satisfies all the requirements of the immigration petition, they will be able to receive their immigrant visa as soon as they are approved.

2. I can get married to a United States Citizen and all of my immigration issues will be solved.

As discussed in misconception #1, immigrants seeking to become LPRs or USCs are required to submit proper applications and documentation.  While there are a few issues that may be overcome by waivers or explanations, certain events in a person’s history may keep them from becoming a LPR or USC, despite the fact they are legally married to a USC.

3. The process for applying for extended family (not immediate family) will be short.

Unlike applying for an immediate relative spouse or minor children, the application process for extended family, including siblings and cousins, is not as quick. Siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, and in some cases parents must apply through the preference system.   This process takes considerably more time than an immediate spouse petition.  Under the preference system, some preference categories are allowed to receive their immigrant visas more quickly than others.  For more information on the preference system please click here or to view preference category wait times please click here.

4. Once I get married to a United States Citizen, I can stay in the United States.  

Unless you have properly filed or are filing for adjustment of status or an immigrant petition, it may be unwise to stay past your visa period without properly adjusting.   Even though USCIS may allow a visa overstay to adjust once they are married to a USC, it is still prudent to follow the rules and attempt to do things as USCIS has prescribed.  Alternatively, those who entered the US without inspection or have been convicted of certain crimes may not be able to stay in the US lawfully.  Even after marriage.  If this is the case you may still have some options, but it is of the utmost importance that you seek out legal counsel to help guide you through the process.

5. Once I get married to a United States Citizen, I can not be deported from the United States.

Even if you are married to a USC, if you have not property adjusted your status, if you have entered illegally, if you have committed certain crimes, or if you have have committed immigration fraud you may be subject to deportation despite being married to a USC.

The immigration process is long and confusing.  Even some of the smartest people I know have underestimated the process and held one or all of these misconceptions.   Please know that you are not alone, and you do not have to go through the process by yourself.  If you have any questions or would like to retain my services please feel free to contact me by e-mail and let me know your issue or submit a question here.  In any event, please if you have any questions regarding your immigration status, please seek either my help or the assistance of a qualified immigration attorney.  Do not take chances with your immigration status.

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