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.