You entered legally as a student. The problem is that you overstayed and have been accruing unlawful presence.
Nevertheless, you can become a legal permanent resident through marriage to a U.S. citizen. The work permit will arrive within 90 days after filing for that benefit. You take the work permit to the Social Security Administration and they issue you a card. As far as the green card, you can be approved in as little as 4 months or as long as several years. It depends on the complexity of your case. If it is very complex, you should hire a professional.
And no, you do not have to return to your home country to become a resident.
All the best.
It appears as though you entered the U.S. legally. Assuming this marriage is for love and not for the Green Card, it is possible to adjust your status in the U.S. and to relatively quickly get a work-permit and Social Security Card. Please see below for more information.
Brian D. Lerner
Attorney at Law
In addition to the information supplied in the previous responses, note that the USCIS reports a five-month processing time for such cases: see: https://egov.uscis.gov/cris/Dashboard/ProcTimes.do
[Note: Consistent with Avvo policy, this communication is intended as general information and not specific legal advice, and this communication does not create an attorney-client relationship.]
David N. Soloway
Frazier, Soloway & Poorak, P.C.
1800 Century Place, Suite 100
Atlanta, Georgia 30345 www.fspklaw.com
404-320-7000 * 1-877-232-5352 * firstname.lastname@example.org
You are considered an overstay. The law does not preclude you from obtaining status (assuming all other eligibility). However, the overstay can be used against you in the negative exercise of discretion. I always recommend retaining counsel to prepare and file the paperwork and attend the interview with you. Generally speaking, your EAD should arrive within 90 days after you make the initial filing. The EAD allows you to apply for your SSN. Your green card is dependent on the outcome of the interview and CIS's determination on your marriage. Generally speaking, cards for North Carolina cases are arriving within two weeks of the interview.
You absolutely should not leave the country without discussing this matter with counsel.