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Mary Jo

People have no idea how difficult and time-consuming it is for a spouse of an American citizen to become a citizen. Having married an Englishman December 2001, I know exactly how difficult it is.l I could hang out a shingle as an immigration lawyer after jumping through Immigration's hoops for almost 6 years..

Here is the way they want you to do it. Theoretically you can skip the fiance visa process and get married when the noncitizen is here on a visa and immediately apply for a green card, but they will look at you with far more suspicion. You have to prove your marriage was an impulsive decision and not preplanned.

In September 2001 I applied for an fiance visa. We had to do it at both ends--me at the Vermont Service Center, Paul at the American Embassy in London. We had to provide all sorts of information and documentation--birth certificates, prior marriage certificates, divorce certificates, proof of each of our visits over a period of six years, pictures of him with my family, me with his family. He had to produce police records from everyplace he had ever lived, undergo a thorough physical, with all sorts of blood tests. I had to provide three years of tax returns, copies of my deed, bank accounts, salary stubs to prove I could support him for 10 years.

He was given the fiance visa in late November 2001; we married two weeks later. The fiance visa is only good for 90 days. Then he applied for adjustment for status which leads to a green card. We had to submit all the documentation again, along with our marriage certificate. Anytime he left the country he had to apply for an Advance Patrol, which would let him back into the country without jeopardizing his green card application. Twenty-five months after applying, we had the interview for the green card and he was approved. It took them a year before actually sending him the green card; all he had was a passport stamp. That meant everytime we came back into the country, he was taken to a separate room and they checked his status.

Three months before the third anniversary of his green card approval, he applied for citizenship, which he was awarded in May 2007. We had to provide abundant proof that we were living together in a valid marriage, submit tax returns, etc. The whole process took almost 6 years. Paul has been fingerprinted and checked out by the FBI and CIA three separate times.

Throughout the almost 6 years, the only way we could communicate with the NY Immigration office was to wait in line at Federal Plaza in all sorts of weather possibly for several hours. Supposedly they have streamlined the process. It all depends what immigration office you are assigned to. In some places you are given a green card immediately after entering the country on a fiance visa. All the separate applications are quite expensive; they are extremely tedious. If you aren't meticulous (submit a picture with your hair covering your hair, for example), your applications are invalid.


I'm another such -- foreign spouse of an American citizen, came here on a fiance visa. I still don't have citizenship although I'm now eligible to apply.

We went through everything that Mary Jo detailed and jumped through all the hoops, did everything by the book, and things have gone swimmingly, even though we couldn't provide any kind of a family-approval proof (since I was eloping).

Frankly, that article? Those people are pretty stupid. The immigration rules are tedious, but they are clear. If supposedly educated people can't read instructions and rules, they need to get themselves a lawyer. Me and my husband managed to do it without a lawyer, and I'm from a pretty suspicious country (Pakistan) with a passport issued in another pretty suspicious country (Saudi Arabia).

Doug K

the citizenship is guaranteed but not automatic, bureaucracy will have its due.
The rules are quite clear - don't leave the country while your green card is in process. We spent a year hoping nothing would happen to our parents in Africa, while the green card wound its slow way across a hundred desks.
The couple in the news story weren't paying attention, or they would have known not to leave the country..


Techinally, the article is about problems applying for a green card -- residence -- not citizenship.

And yes, the people did something stupid. But some rules and government worker bees are stupid too. You wonder why people just over the river....

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