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Monthly Wrap: Getting married to a foreign citizen outside the UK

currency-newsMonthly Wrap: Getting married to a foreign citizen outside the UK
If you’re a British expat marrying a citizen of another country, you may desire to become a national citizen of that country yourself. This article will address how, and whether, this can be achieved and via what means.

Where to?

The rules around naturalisation vary depending upon which country your future spouse is from.

In some countries, it is possible to obtain expediated citizenship by marrying a national citizen of that country – included in this category are Brazil, Spain, Portugal, Switzerland and Colombia.

In other destinations, like the USA and Canada, as well as parts of Asia, the naturalisation process is more drawn out. Marrying a citizen of these countries may grant you residency but doesn’t necessarily make the citizenship application process any easier.

Firstly – is the marriage legal?

Before making any plans, it’s worth finding out whether the marriage is legally recognised in the country of your intended spouse. Some countries, for example, don’t recognise same-sex marriages, while others have different minimum ages at which a person may legally wed.

There are currently only 31 countries in which same-sex marriage is legal, including Chile, Switzerland and Costa Rica, which passed legislation in support of marriage equality only recently. While same-sex marriage may be illegal in certain countries, however, existing partnerships may be recognised for immigration purposes.

In 2018, for example, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) determined that all EU countries were required to recognize the same-sex marriages of EU and non-EU citizens for purposes of immigration, regardless of whether same-sex marriage is legal in those countries.

Countries in which marriage grants expediated citizenship

In those countries where marriage to a national citizen expediates naturalisation, the terms can vary significantly.

In Brazil, those who have a Brazilian spouse can apply for dual citizenship after just one year of uninterrupted residency in the country. This is contrast with four years of residency as required for those without a Brazilian husband or wife.

In Spain, those married to a Spanish person can likewise apply for citizenship after one year – in this case, the residency period otherwise required for naturalisation is ten years. While there’s no requirement for would-be-citizens to invest in the country, the tax burden for the necessary ten years of residency can be quite high.

In Portugal, the terms differ once again. Unmarried, those seeking a Portuguese passport must live in the country for at least six years before applying, whereas the duration narrows to three years if the applicant is married to a Portuguese citizen. Those seeking Portuguese citizenship may also apply after three years if they are co-habiting with – but not married to – a Portuguese national.

The USA – obtaining a green card

In the United States of America, the process to becoming a citizen via marriage is more complex than those outlined in the previous section.

Before the marriage takes place, the non-US partner must obtain a fiancé visa. The application for one of these requires proof of identity, valid passports, medical examinations and evidence of your relationship - such as photos, communications and joint travel itineraries.

Having been approved, this visa grants the applicant immigration rights for a window of 90 days, in which the marriage must take place.

Once married, the non-US party can apply for permanent resident status – otherwise known as a ‘green card’. This gives someone the ability to live and work in the United States permanently but is conditional upon the application being made within two years of the marriage.

Green cards are typically valid for 10 years and must be renewed; permanent resident status may be lost due to non-residency or failure to file taxes.

Obtaining full US Citizenship

Not all applicants for citizenship will meet the eligibility requirements to become full US citizens, even if married to a US national.

Terms include being at least 18 years old, having a green card for at least three years, living in ‘marital union’ with a US citizen for at least three years before application, living for three months in the US state where the application is being filed, and having been in the United States for at least 18 months of the past three years before applying.

Applicants must also reside continuously in America from the point of application to naturalisation and must have a knowledge of the history and government of the USA as well as being able to read, write and speak English.

Once an application has been made, the naturalisation takes approximately six months to complete; an interview and citizenship test are also required.

Further considerations

The naturalisation process differs further still for countries such as Australia, New Zealand and Japan and in others is extremely difficult – in Qatar, for example, applicants for citizenship must speak fluent Arabic, while would-be citizens of Vatican City must have a significant role within the country in order to apply and are not any more eligible for their parents’ being citizens.

Another consideration is finance. In most countries, regardless of whether you’re a citizen or not, you will have to pay taxes if you are a resident there. The taxes in your new country of residence may cost more than you are used to, and this must be budgeted for – furthermore, if you don’t notify UK authorities that you’re leaving you may end up being taxed twice.

Being successful in achieving foreign naturalisation is a great achievement, but it does not guarantee personal and financial harmony. If you will continue to receive wages or invoices from another country once you’ve moved away, consider transferring your money with Currencies Direct.

Not only do we offer highly competitive exchange rates and don’t charge any additional transfer fees we also offer additional services like Limit Orders and Forward Contracts which can help maximise the returns on your transfer. For more information, find us online or get in touch with one of our friendly currency specialists on +44 (0) 20 7847 9400.
Currencies Direct

Currencies Direct

Currencies Direct is one of Europe's leading non-bank providers of currency exchange and international payment services. Since we were formed in 1996, we've maintained our focus on providing innovative foreign exchange and international currency transfer services to corporations of all sizes, online sellers and private individuals. We have also expanded our services to provide dynamic and pioneering "business to business" solutions to help companies, tier 2/3 banks and other non-bank financial institutions to process their international payments. Our headquarters are in the City of London (United Kingdom) and we have operations in continental Europe, Africa, Asia, and the United States. Currencies Direct is jointly owned by private equity firms Palamon Capital Partners and Corsair Capital.

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