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Should You Get U.S. Citizenship if You Marry an American Citizen?

Updated on September 22, 2012

This is an Individual Decision

The simple answer to this question is that it depends upon the needs and desires of each individual in question.

There can be both advantages and disadvantages to becoming an American citizen depending upon a person's individual situation.

With this in mind, I will present some of my observations and opinions on this subject based upon my reading and talks with people.

As I have stated in the past when writing about tax and immigration issues, I am presenting general information here and not advice for specific individual circumstances.

The act of getting married itself requires a certain leap of faith in that each partner is tying their future to that of the other and trusting that the marriage will last and the dreams they each share will be realized.

In addition, one partner is also legally cutting some of their ties to their native land which means that they stand to lose even more should the marriage fail.  

This, of course, assumes that the non-American's objective is love and not simply a desire to live in the United States.

Some of the Advantages of Applying for American Citizenship

If the couple plans to live in the United States, there are a number of advantages in obtaining U.S. citizenship by the non-American spouse.

First of all, since the couple is residing in the U.S., citizenship allows the non-American spouse the opportunity to participate fully in American life and society.

In most cases, it also ensures that the non-American spouse will not be forced to leave the country at some point in the future.

A person can live in the U.S. as a legal non-citizen resident and does not have to become a citizen in order to stay here.

However, laws can change and a future administration could decide not to renew a non-citizen's legal residence status when it expires.

While such a situation is unlikely, it should be remembered that laws and administrative processes can be changed with greater ease than can rights guaranteed by the Constitution.

Another, and more serious, concern is the possibility of being deported for breaking the law.

Most people are law abiding, however, given that we have a Congress that routinely passes thousand page laws without reading, let alone understanding, them it is not surprising that people can break the law without knowing it.

Take our current Secretary of the Treasury, Timothy Geitner, who, supposedly out of ignorance, failed to pay his Social Security and Medicare taxes (which I believe is a felony and therefore grounds for deportation in the case of a legal resident).

Also in has capacity as the employer of a nanny for his children, he failed to pay the employer's portion of the nanny's Social Security and Medicare taxes.

If the person in charge of enforcing U.S. tax laws can supposedly innocently (as he claimed) violate the tax laws what are the odds of the average citizen running afoul of some obscure law?

If you have children born to you after your marriage they will, under current law, more than likely automatically be U.S. citizens.

If your children are born on U.S. soil they will automatically be citizens regardless of whether or not you are a citizen and if they are born outside of the U.S. while you are legally married to a U.S. citizen they will, under most circumstances, automatically be U.S. citizens.

This being the case, your family will be citizens and the children will more than likely continue to reside in the U.S. if they are raised here.

Tax Considerations

Then there are tax considerations. Anyone, citizen or not, who earns money in the U.S. has to pay income taxes on that money as well as Medicare and Social Security taxes if it is wage income. U.S. citizens also have to pay income taxes on all money they earn anywhere in the world.

From what I understand, our infamous Federal death tax treats non-citizen surviving spouses of citizens differently than citizen spouses.

For citizen spouses the first million dollars or so of property is exempt from the Federal death tax (a few states have a similar death tax and I don't know what their rules are).

But in the case of a non-citizen surviving spouse of a citizen, from everything I have read, it appears that the Federal death tax applies to all property left by the citizen spouse (including overseas property) without any exemption.

As to Social Security and Medicare, both of which are on the verge of financial collapse, there is the possibility that Congress could in the future try to keep these programs going a little longer by denying benefits to non-citizens even though the non-citizen has paid into the program.

Possible Disadvantages of Applying for American Citizenship

The first possible disadvantage would be if the marriage didn't work and you decide to return to your homeland you may have problems returning if you have become and American and renounced your native citizenship.

The U.S. does require you to renounce your native citizenship when you become and American citizen. Some nations recognize this renunciation and others don't.

Taxes can also be a problem because if a citizen leaves the country and keeps their U.S. citizenship they have to continue to pay U.S. income taxes on their world wide income.

It is a felony to ignore your U.S. tax obligations and the U.S. has treaties with many nations that allows the U.S. authorities to extradite to the U.S. for prosecution, citizens who don't pay their taxes.

Finally, in the case of wealthy people it can sometimes be difficult to easily renounce U.S. citizenship and move abroad as the authorities can refuse to accept such a renunciation for up to ten years during which the people are forced to continue paying U.S. income taxes despite having left the country.

America is a Great Nation But Decision to Become a Citizen is an Individual One

America is a wonderful nation and throughout its history has attracted many people by offering them freedom and opportunity. Despite taxes and the continuing avalanche of new laws, America is still a land of freedom and opportunity.

For the most part, for those who choose to marry an American citizen and move here, it makes sense to become a citizen.

It can also make sense to become an American citizen if one marries a U.S. citizen who is living abroad and both decide to continue living abroad although in that case you may want to seek financial guidance from a good lawyer who is an expert on U.S. tax law.

Either way the final decision on whether to seek U.S. citizenship or not is an individual decision which you and your spouse will have to make based upon your individual circumstances and desires.


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    • Levertis Steele profile image

      Levertis Steele 

      6 years ago from Southern Clime

      Great information!

    • Megan Coxe profile image

      Megan Coxe 

      7 years ago from somewhere between here and there

      Interesting hub. Very relevant for many people I know. I always forget that they make you renounce your other citizenship/s. It seems a bit silly to me, but I understand why they do that. Voted up!

    • Susan S Spencer profile image

      Susan S Spencer 

      7 years ago from UK

      Great hub! It will definitely come in useful if I ever decide to marry an American. :)

    • mojefballa profile image

      Ikeji Chinweuba 

      7 years ago from Nigeria

      Interesting hub,thanks for sharing,

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Stick to information and don't interject your political

      views about the head of the treasury. No one cares!

    • AutumnLockwood profile image


      7 years ago from Northern California

      Excellent hub. Highly informative.

    • Rismayanti profile image


      8 years ago from Tropical Island

      Very informative... change citizenship need a deeply consideration, becouse it will inpact for the future live, we dont what happen in the future... so consider and consider again all the law inpack for all in future in good or bad live condition

    • lender3212000 profile image


      8 years ago from Beverly Hills, CA

      Excellent hub, very interesting topic. I look forward to reading more of your work!

    • kami khan profile image

      kami khan 

      8 years ago

      chat with me bcoz i have a lot of comments which are about ur advantages.

    • Chuck profile imageAUTHOR

      Chuck Nugent 

      8 years ago from Tucson, Arizona

      EasyGrantion - Welcome to HubPages and thanks for the comment and link.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      You can find the required list of forms to apply for a green card through marriage here:

    • DevinG profile image


      8 years ago from Redlands

      Very interesting; it may come in handy to some friends. :)

    • joyceann0129 profile image


      8 years ago from philippines

      great it^^

    • hossamreffat profile image


      8 years ago

      thanks for sharing ,greatest hub

    • Paradise7 profile image


      8 years ago from Upstate New York

      I know a couple that got married (he was Irish, she American) for him to get a green card, and believe me, that DIDN'T work out. I liked the emphasis you placed on a lasting relationship as the priority, not American citizenship, on the part of the non-American. Thanks for an interesting hub!

    • Chuck profile imageAUTHOR

      Chuck Nugent 

      8 years ago from Tucson, Arizona

      emievil - you make a good point here and owning property (real estate or a business) in a country is often restricted to citizens.

      The reasons you cite would be good ones to consider in deciding whether or not to apply for U.S. citizenship.

      As I said in the Hub individual situations vary and the is no one answer for everyone here.

      Thanks again.


    • Chuck profile imageAUTHOR

      Chuck Nugent 

      8 years ago from Tucson, Arizona

      ocbill - thanks for pointing out the $84,000 income tax deduction for Americans living abroad.

      I, too, am not sure if this is the current figure as it changes periodically. I believe that citizens living abroad also have until, I think, some time in June rather than April 15th, to file their taxes without having to file for an extension.

      This extra exemption probably was included in part in recognition of expenses incurred from living abroad that are not included in the normal range of Federal Income tax deductions.

      However, I suspect that a larger reason may be the fact that there are a lot of foreign nationals who were born and raised abroad but are also U.S. citizens due to one parent having been a U.S. citizen. These people are also subject to U.S. income taxes. It is one thing to seek extradition of a person who is born in the U.S. and moves abroad and then fails to pay U.S. income taxes due. But to demand extradition of large numbers of people who may not even know they are a U.S. citizens for U.S. taxes would probably result in other nations excluding non-payment of taxes as a crime in their extradition treaties with the U.S. (the U.S. is the only or one of the very few nations where it is a felony level crime not to pay taxes - in most other nations it is simply a civil matter like defaulting on your credit card amount due). This large exclusion solves the problem as the majority of the people in the world make less than this amount.

      All U.S. citizens, living both here and abroad, can also generally take a tax credit (i.e., deduct from U.S. Federal Income taxes owed rather than a deduction which is monies deducted from the income on which the Federal Income tax is based) on most foreign income taxes paid. People living in the U.S. (citizens and non-citizens) who invest in foreign stocks will often get a statement showing foreign taxes withheld from their dividends and they can usually deduct these amounts from their U.S. Income taxes owed.

      Again, as I stated in the Hub itself, all comments and information here is general and may or may not apply to individual situations so consult with a tax adviser or attorney before acting on any of this information.

      Thanks again for your comment.

    • Ralph Deeds profile image

      Ralph Deeds 

      8 years ago from Birmingham, Michigan

      Interesting and informative. Thanks. I've forwarded it to a couple of people who may be facing the issues you covered.

    • emievil profile image


      8 years ago from Philippines

      When I read your title, I immediately thought about my client, who is an American married to a Filipina. Although she wants to, he doesn't want her to become a US citizen. Why? For the simple reason that she will lose the right to own land here in my country. And since my American client has a business here, he wants to be able to have the privilege to buy land under his wife's name. Plus, if something happens to him, his wife can come back here and manage their properties. It's like having the best of both worlds for him.

    • ocbill profile image


      8 years ago from hopefully somewhere peaceful and nice

      pay taxes anywhere you are if a US citizen. I believe the 1st $84,00 is exempt though when working overseas or was that changed. very nice good hub. Thanks

    • Darlene Sabella profile image

      Darlene Sabella 

      8 years ago from Hello, my name is Toast and Jam, I live in the forest with my dog named Sam ...

      I really like this article, many years ago a couple from Canada befriended me and after a while she asked me to marry her boyfriend, and offered me a large sum of money. Once, he because a citizen she then wanted to marry her boy friend, I said no way, this is too complicated for me LOL great subject for many Thanks for sharing


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