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Some countries have laws that allow a person to gain full citizenship if he or she marries a citizen. The process for gaining citizenship by marriage is often a lengthy one, and can be quite frustrating for some people. To find out specific information about whether citizenship by marriage is permitted in a particular country, contact an immigration lawyer or immigration department in the target region.
Getting married to a citizen does not automatically guarantee citizenship in most regions. For people that wish to retain their original citizenship, it may be possible to become a permanent legal resident of a spouse's country instead of becoming a full citizen. In countries where citizenship by marriage is permitted, the process usually begins with submitting an application for citizenship to the proper authorities. In the United States, this initial submission is usually the first step in a process that can take more than a year in some cases.
Some countries require a person seeking citizenship by marriage to undergo a process similar to any immigrant attempting to gain citizenship through naturalization. This may include requirements such as a period of legal residence, civics and language examinations, no evidence of a criminal history, and proof of employment or skills. In some countries, the naturalization process may be somewhat simplified in cases of marriage to a citizen; in Ireland, for example, the residency requirement is reduced from five to three years for those who are married to a citizen.
In some regions, it is a crime to get married solely for the purpose of obtaining citizenship. This is considered a form of fraud, and may result in jail time, fines, and permanent deportation if discovered. In order to determine if a marriage is a truly legal union, regions with marriage fraud laws usually make spouses go through a lengthy interview and review process to establish legitimacy. This process may include examining marriage documentation, visiting the couple's residence, interviewing family members, and having oral interviews with both spouses. Getting through a marriage fraud review can be very stressful for couples that feel their marriage is under attack or suspicion, but it is often a deciding factor in obtaining citizenship by marriage.
If a couple completes all requirements and meets all conditions, the non-citizen spouse may be granted naturalized citizenship on the grounds of marriage. He or she may have to swear an oath of citizenship that includes a renunciation of previous loyalty, or may be permitted to maintain dual citizenship, depending on the region. Once sworn, the spouse is now considered a legal citizen and is usually given all rights and responsibilities pertaining to the status.
I don't know if I could participate in a green card marriage or not. I think there are plenty of women whose lives would be greatly improved if they could become US citizens, but I don't know if I would be willing to stick my neck out legally to help someone gain citizenship. I don't think I could survive one of those immigration interviews proving the marriage was legitimate.
On the other hand, I could imagine a situation where I met and fell in love with a woman from another country. If I felt the relationship had some longevity and mutual commitment, then I would do everything I could to help her gain citizenship through marriage. A green card or permanent residency are still good things to have, but I'd want her to have all the opportunities US citizenship can provide.
I knew one girl from Germany who I'm convinced was trying to gain citizenship through marriage. She met an American serviceman near an Army base in her hometown, and they dated casually for a few months. He found out he was going to be reassigned to a US base in a few months, so he was supposed to get all of his things together and fly out of Germany. She didn't want to leave him, so he agreed to a civil marriage after he got settled in the US again.
A few months later, she became pregnant. His family grew concerned that she wasn't fully prepared to be a mother, and they were also concerned that the relationship was
a green card marriage. She started spending less and less time with her husband, then decided to run away to another state with a man she had just met. The husband's family gained custody of the daughter and he agreed to the separation. Once Immigration Services found out she was no longer legally married, however, her days in the United States were numbered. She was deported a year later.
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