Many steps that you must take are the same for you, as a United States citizen, to marry a non-U.S. citizen, whether you’re in the military or not. A couple will still need to obtain a marriage license and that application process may vary by state or country. Married military couples share property the same way as do married civilian couples, and many of the other criteria hold also. The biggest difference, though, is that depending on the circumstances, you, as a service member, may also need to get permission from your commanding officers.

If you are a military member stationed overseas and want to marry a foreign national, then there are additional steps you need to take.

These steps usually include:

  • Completing all the necessary military forms
  • Obtaining counseling
  • Securing your commander’s permission
  • Possibly having your spouse undergo a security background check and pass a medical exam
  • Have your marriage recognized by the U.S. Embassy

Serving your country is an honorable, rewarding, but challenging profession. Your spouse also must have the will and maturity to realize the true nature of the profession you have chosen.

Having a strong spouse at home (no matter where you reside) is a must for any military marriage to work and is the reason for some of the special steps you have to take in this process.

Regardless of where you reside once you are married, if your spouse is non-military, you (as a military member) can bring a copy of the certified marriage certificate to the personnel headquarters on the base to receive a dependent ID card for your spouse. This will allow you to enroll your spouse in DEERS (Defense Eligibility Enrollment Reporting System), to qualify for military benefits, such as medical coverage and commissary and base exchange privileges.

The prospect of marriage is daunting, and although many military personnel do marry foreign nationals, you don’t want to go through this process on your own. Obtaining the advice of a Lake County military law attorney will help you answer most all of your questions. Even after you pass all the internal military hurdles, there are other serious matters to consider for your future. Your family law attorney can professionally navigate your legal path regarding citizenship for your spouse, etc.

As a U.S. Citizen in the Military, Will my Non-U.S. Citizen Spouse Receive Citizenship Automatically?

Many people in this position feel that due to your marriage, your spouse will receive automatic U.S. citizenship. This assumption is false.

Any foreign national who marries a U.S. citizen must apply for a green card for permanent U.S. residency. This can be a long process, involving numerous forms and documents. The foreign national can be refused entry if he or she is found inadmissible, or perhaps because of a medical problem. Also, a criminal history, past immigration violations, or the U.S. immigration authorities’ belief that the marriage is for the sole purpose of obtaining a green card, may cause issues.

As a military member though, your spouse will most likely already be vetted using background checks, etc. and this—in some cases—may expedite the process.

After your spouse obtains a green card, your spouse can then apply for U.S. citizenship after three years of permanent residency in the States. Once you are married (and in the U.S. or not), the legal path to citizenship starts to mirror the path that any non-military personnel may take.

Once again, though, your military family law attorney should be consulted throughout the entire process. In that way, any upcoming obstacles you may not have even considered can be overcome before they become a serious issue.

When Can My Non-U.S. Spouse and I Return to the U.S. to Live?

As a military member stationed out of the U.S. you and your spouse may still consider or want to return to the U.S. to live when your military service allows you to. The simple truth is you certainly can do that, but there is also a legal process you must follow.

You and your military family law attorney may have already started the process to obtain a green card for your non-citizen spouse. Depending on certain details, there are other legal ways of entering the country to begin your lives here, but they may be temporary. Pursuing a green card for your spouse would still be the final objective. If you want to get into the U.S. immediately, then discuss all the various details with your attorney so a legally valid plan can be formulated for you to attain your goal.

Your spouse’s application process may differ a bit, and consider the following, if applicable:

  • If you’re in the U.S., but your spouse is not
  • If you and your spouse are already in the U.S.
  • If you both are still out of the country
  • Any special considerations

Love may have no bounds, but U.S. Immigration and the military do. This all may seem very confusing and detailed, and it is. A professional military family lawyer is invaluable during and possibly even after this entire process.

What Else Do I Need to Know?

Some other details and facts that can affect this process are:

  • Facing a PCS (Permanent Change of Station)
  • Getting married on base
  • Desiring a military formal wedding
  • Getting leave for a Honeymoon
  • Various other military law and civilian issues

Some of these details may come up before, during, or even after the marriage. From the very beginning of this complex legal process, your civilian military family law attorney can assist you in making the legally correct and proper decisions that will help you and your spouse have the future you both are dreaming of.