my girlfriend is an illegal immigrant, who is 18 and about to graduate high school. she is very intelligent and works hard. she was brought here at the age of 4 but has no citizenship. I really love her and would like to help her as much as possible so she can build a better future. so I have been thinking about marrying her so that she can receive citizenship, that way she can go to school, without the increase in payment for applying, and get benefit, like financial aid, be able to work with a social security number and receive a license. how hard and how long is it to do this, and is it possible, judging from our age? THANK YOU
U.S. citizenship is not conveyed through marriage, so your marriage to your girlfriend would not make her a citizen. In fact, it would not automatically convey any immigration status at all.
Whether your girlfriend would be eligible to receive lawful permanent resident status based on your marriage depends on many circumstances, including whether she has departed the U.S. and returned unlawfully at any time since her original entry, whether she has adverse immigration or criminal history, whether the two of you can prove that you married because you intended to establish a life together (and not just for immigration reasons), etc.
The process involved is going to depend on how she entered the United States (with or without lawful documentation) and whether anyone filed certain immigration paperwork for her or for her immediate family members by April 30, 2001 or prior. It would be best to consult a licensed, experienced immigration attorney for verification of eligibility and the process involved in obtaining residency based on marriage.
For assistance locating immigration attorneys or non-profit organizations in your area, you can look here on Avvo, at www.aila.org, www.ImmigrationLawHelp.org, or http://www.justice.gov/eoir/probono/states.htm.
By the way, she currently can attend public colleges in California at in-state rates, even without lawful immigration status. That law is called AB540 if you want to look up more information about it.
No lawyer will recommend getting married for the purpose of giving anyone an immigration benefit. Having said that, if you do marry her and she is less than 180 days past her 18th birthday then she should leave right away. Any unlawful presence in the US before the age of 18 and up to 180 days after her 18th birthday will not trigger the mandatory bar on her re-entry to the US. Then you simply hire a lawyer who can file for her immigration and prepare a brief to the USCIS in such a way that it does not cause her any issues. Then she would enter the US with a green card and three years later she could apply for citizenship.
Talk to a lawyer ASAP!!!
Khaja M. Din, Esq.
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